Providing users with the right information at the right time is critical to improve your conversion rates. Taking an example of e-commerce, the rate of cart abandonment is a sizeable 70.19% across industries. How path-to-purchase flow is structured on a website is one of the most important factors involved in this decision.
This article will talk about what a well-structured website consists of and how you can use user research to improve your website structure.
What is Website Structure?
Take a simple example of two bookstores standing side by side. One is arranged according to genres, titles, and authors while the other is a mishmash pile stacked together. For a better shopping experience, it’s clear most people would prefer the first store.
A website structure is essentially the same thing. It is how different elements and pages are organized and connected within your website. It should be designed in a way that makes it easy for users to access content and navigate the site in the intended way. This includes links between pages, navigation menu, placement of banners and ads, etc.
So, why is it important to have a well-structured website?
• Improved User Experience: Seamless experiences make it easy for users to find what they are looking for. This increases user engagements with the website and brand. This leads to increased traffic and ultimately to better conversions.
• Easier Content Management: Website structures are important to identify and group content in a way that is more accessible and findable for the brand as well. It can help identify the content that is doing well and optimize the ones that aren’t.
• Scalability: Once the structure of the website is well- established, it becomes easier to cut down or add content in a way befitting the changing company directives.
• SEO: A well-structured website also means it’s easier for search engines to find and index content. This will lead your website to improve and move up the ranks.
How does user research impact Website Structure?
You understand conscious and subconscious preferences of users through research. Same can be applied while conceptualizing and designing a website as well. User data can be collected at different points of creating a website structure. This helps to determine friction points as well as high points of user interaction and aids in designing a website structure that is in line with what a user wants when they are on your site.
Hence, user research needs to be incorporated at different stages of designing a website structure.
For example, if your set test gives you the insight that users are unable to find a certain product they are looking for, you can restructure the website so that the product is easier to find, hence reducing friction.
Different types of Website Structures
Depending on the type of business you are in and its objectives, there are several types of website structure. Below you will find few of the most preferred ones:
Sequential structure: This works best for a product or service with minimal content. Here, the pages are arranged in a linear manner, and you want to take your users through a designated set of steps when exploring your website. This helps to present information in a sequence that best highlights features and benefits according to how you would want it consumed by users. Smaller businesses with a limited number of offerings can benefit from this sort of website structure.
Hierarchical structure: Hierarchical or tree model is one of the most used website structures. It starts off with general information on the homepage and branches off to more specific categories and subcategories. This model works well when there are a lot of products and content to be segregated, added, or removed. Hence, you will see bigger e-commerce websites using this kind of a structure with a lot of interlinking pages.
Matrix structure: This is a type of website structure where each page is accessible from almost every other page. The homepage is interlinked to several other pages. Once you move to a new page you can still access all the pages through links present. Often, you will find these links at the top of every page to make navigation easier. Online newspapers commonly have this type of website structure.
So, the important question here is- how do you choose the right structure for your website?
There are pros and cons to the different types of website structures available as discussed above. Additionally, the kind of websites to be built depends largely on the business objectives, the content and what the target users are looking for. You need to understand the pain points and challenges the users today face with respect to your products or services. Once you figure that out, a website structure can be created in a way that can best suit your users’ needs and preferences.
Using user research to validate Website Structure
Sometimes, it might not be clear how content for a website structure is to be placed within a website or how we could combine different structure types on one website. There are several user research platforms focused on collecting and analyzing user data to help structure a website accordingly.
Tests can be carried out by focusing on data required for creating a seamless website experience. Qualitative data in the form of in-depth interviews and Focus Group Discussions can be done to find pain points users usually face during an online journey. Other research like tree testing, card sorting, etc. can help provide insights on how best to put offerings under different categories and improve information architecture. This feedback can then be taken to form a structure which works well to retain as well as create new users.
Entropik's Qatalyst is an AI powered platform which supports card sorting, among other user research methods. Let’s take an example of card sorting on Qatalyst.
The images represent how information can be classified into different categories- with conditions put in by the researcher based on existing and new categories. This exercise is done to understand how users perceive content and how user flow can be improved within a website structure. Deep diving into the results we can see how different information is perceived by different users. This data helps to create content in the most optimal way for the consumption of the user.
The benefits of having a well-structured website
Once you have a well-structured website in place, you can start seeing some of the benefits to it. This includes:
Increased traffic: To increase your website visibility and page rankings, it needs to perform well in your SEO initiatives. Well-structured websites for relevant keywords rank higher since it becomes easier for search engines to index and understand. This makes them stand out in searches leading to increased traffic to your website.
Increased conversion rates: Users find a well-structured website easier to use. In this case they tend to stay longer on the site which means they are more likely to find what they are looking for. This leads to better conversions.
Improved user satisfaction: Well-structured websites are designed in a way that ensures users have the most seamless experience as compared to a website which might have more friction points leading to dropouts and unhappy users. A satisfied user in addition to becoming a customer, can also become an advocate for your brand leading to a loyal customer base.
Websites are an extension to how your brand is perceived. A website structure is the foundation on which you build your website. In addition to products or services, a website with good user experience keeps users coming back to your website to engage, interact and build a stronger brand.
A great website structure makes navigation more intuitive and helps users keep a track of their web pages. It improves site interaction with all relevant parties involved- whether it be someone building, managing, or using the website.
While building a website-structure is usually done before creating a website, it can always be relooked and reworked. So, if your business already uses a website which is old and neglected, it is time to strategize and think of ways it can be revamped to best reflect the needs of the company and its customers. Working on improving its rankings and user experience through improving website structure is one of the easiest ways to solidify your online presence.