Basic Site Structure – Pre-Website Planning

February 20th, 2009 by Barry

Now you’ll need to work out how to present the content in such a way as to drive user towards your end goals. Partially this will be done from the design stage and partially from creating a plan of your site.

This can be done using a storyboard; often called a site map but as we will use that term for two other aspects of website development I believe storyboard to be more appropriate.

An example of a storyboard would be like this one.

storyboard Basic Site Structure   Pre Website Planning

The boxes represent pages and the lines are links between those pages on your website. This example is very condensed although sometimes only a few pages are needed. Spending some time on this stage is recommended.

*Top Tip* – One page can have multiple purposes for several user groups and there should always be a way for that group to get there.

*Top Tip* – Remember that visitors could arrive at any page from a search engine so you have to be able to tell a story from wherever they start and have them reach the end.

There are several tools that allow you do plan this out in detail but usually all you need is a pen and paper, at least for a first draught. More complicated sites may benefit from the ability to edit and move planned pages as your view of user needs changes.

The most common way to plan a storyboard is to work from the top down. As your homepage is your shop window most users will see that page first. The homepage should cater to all of your user groups allowing them to find the channel of content most appropriate to them.

When you have defined the channels you must then plan out in which order to present the content to enable users to complete your goal.

*Top Tip* – Users rarely engage with a site for more than 3 clicks. Make sure your site structure allows them to get to a sales page within those 3 clicks.

We’ll look more at web usability and user psychology later on to help refine the structure of your site.

When planning out the storyboard always ask for each page -

Who is this page for?
What do I need to tell my visitors here?
What do I want them to do here?
If this page doesn’t convert them where do I need them to go next to get another chance?

Once you have pages for every group and have a way for them to reach the goal regardless of which page they start at you can begin to consider the design of your site.

In future posts we’ll look at ways of using analytics and data capture to allow users to tell you their needs and help refine your site structure.

Posted in Usability

One Response

  1. Paris

    Thanks for writing about this. I’ve been designing blogs for a while, but never thought about structuring a website. Planning a website appropriately is critical for getting the traffic that you want.

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