Properly Structuring Your Website Layout
As you begin to structure your website layout, it is important to remember that you have two audiences that you are trying to please -
- Your Visitors
- Search Engines
Which is more important? Hard to say, but your understanding of what you want from your site will help you decide how to answer that question.
First Impressions - "Look and Feel"
As the saying goes, "you only get one chance to make a first impression". This is also very true when talking about website layout and structure.
When your visitor arrives, they immediately form an opinion of your site based on colors, layout, flashy graphics, and your advertisements. This is referred to as your site's "look and feel". You don't want them hitting the back button before they've even had a chance to visit your site.
You will see there is a balance between flashy and boring, colors for emphasis vs. a kaleidoscope. You'll need to show professionalism, while not turning off your visitor.
Of course your website's theme or concept will also determine what "look and feel" should be delivered. A site about online gaming will have more flash and graphics than a site about trading stock options.
Generally speaking, your site should be:
- Well Organized - your visitor should be able to maneuver and find things very easily
- Clean - not too many popups, flash elements, ad boxes, etc.
- Professional - don't use too many colors, font types, etc. This screams of amateurism.
- Concise - say it in as few words as possible which still conveys your message, sales pitch, etc.
How to Structure Your Website
Structuring your website layout is important again for both audiences. If you structure your site correctly, your visitor will be able find their way around, and the Search Engines will be able to index your website more easily.
Think of your website as a pyramid, with your home page being at the pinnacle. Next you have Tier 2 topics, which link from your Home Page. And lastly, you have Tier 3 topics which link from your Tier 2 topics. (See Diagram - with examples from this website)
Your Home Page, or Tier 1 should be a general introduction to your site, with links to all of your Tier 2 topics. These links should be on a menu or toolbar.
Your Tier 2 pages all link back to the Home Page, and will have contextual links to your Tier 3 pages. Contextual links are text links which are part of your content.
This "Hierarchical Design" allows easy navigation for your visitor, and creates logical linking which helps SEO your website for the Search Engines.
Your Website Funnel
You should have a goal for each visitor to achieve something, or get to a certain point, or to get a "conversion". A conversion is when your visitor performs a desired action such as a purchase, provides their name and email, or clicks on an advertiser's link.
Your website layout should be designed with that goal in mind. All things need to lead your visitor to that conversion. If they start on your Home Page, they should be led through your site (via enticing and exciting content) to your conversion points.
Think of this process as a funnel. Your visitor is presented with more and more concise information, or you create more and more desire to purchase as they "drill down" through your pages.
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