How to effectively plan your website's architecture

Last Edited April 16, 2015 by Super User in UX

Website Architecture Planning

Planning and creating a website’s structure is not an easy job for a large website. There are some specific steps that should be followed. This article will provide you with the main steps to make sure that the website architecture achieves your client’s expectations.

The very first step is to make a plan during the discovery phase of the website development project. If you do not make a detailed plan then you will most likely end up with a scope creep, unpredicted increases to the project’s scope. They call it project creep because it often sneeks up on you and it is hard to get compensated for the extra work that did not go through the approval process. You will have no base on which to defend yourself against and could waste lots of your time and money. It will help you avoid possible disagreements about the final product; if you follow the plan that was accepted by the client, then it is much easier to finalize a project and get paid. 

The client must submit a request for proposal (RFP) with enough information on how the client’s company or organization wants the website to look like and the features that they expect from the website.

Failure to make a plan can and will result in expectations by the web designer and developer that might not be in-line with the clients expectations resulting in an unhappy client. Neither the developer or client will be satisfied with the final product because of the lack of direction. 

Assessing the scope of work. Always remember that final decisions about the website should be made by the client. To do so, get everyone together and access the project requirements. Assign the appropriate tasks to team members using a calendar or gantt chart. Make sure tasks are achievable withing the proposed time-frame. The typical team members in a large web development project are stakeholders, project managers, copywriters and content editors, web designers, web developers, and IT. 

Take stock of your content inventory. The entire website content must be reviewed and documented with a detailed content inventory. After completing you content inventory, perform a website content audit and plan your content strategy to fulfill the expectations of your client and website visitors.

One mistake some clients make is using only text based content. Unless your client wants the website to be very technical and boring, content must not only consist of plain text. Other types of media should be included like images, documents, audio, video, Adobe Flash files, Social media streams, and news feeds. In addition, the written content must not contain any grammatical errors which requires a content writer with exceptional writing skills. If you or the person writing the content is not a great writer, consider hiring an expert to edit, polish, and restructure the content in order to make it easier to read and more concise. If you want to do it by yourself, then involve an individual to proof-read the content that you create.

Determine the website’s structure.

In order to plan a great website architecture, there are some key elements that must be created for organization.

  • Sitemap. Create an html sitemap representing the website before the project starts and also create another one representing the changes that you would like to make to the website hierarchy. Get your client to sign off on your plan and make sure to document this. With the DYNO Mapper visual sitemap generator, you can create sitemaps quickly and share them with ease. 
  • Define Content Types. Content types vary throughout a website. A great way to assist you in understanding how to define the content is by observing websites that might be similar to yours. Typically, there are similarities between the content used within websites and they should all be grouped together based on these similarities by content types . The most popular types of content are articles, blog posts, banners, forums, docs, contact forms, newsletter, search bar, and social media connection. Make sure that every article provides useful and interesting content. Simply having valid content is not enough; the content must be arranged, organized, and presented in a way that is easy to understand for visitors of the site.
  • Meta Data. Include Meta Data on every page and document. Meta Data will help search engines index your website correctly and effectively. They also present a brief explanation on what the page is about so that visitors can determine whether the content will be useful or not. Meta Data must include the title, description, and keywords.

If you follow all of these steps, you will be well on your way to displaying great website structure for any users or search engines interested in your website. But this is not a one-time event; it is something that must be done every time major changes are made in the site and the architecture must be updated for optimal performance.

Author: Super User

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