Most websites consist of a hierarchical navigation structure which is tree-like in its nature. The homepage is at the top and then underneath it splits into categories which can be further broken into different sub-categories and pages. These are called sitemaps and there are some great sitemap design tools to helping you design one for your website.
These visual hierarchical sitemaps are not to be confused with XML sitemaps.
Hierarchically structured websites can be many levels deep but 2-4 levels are most common.
Other websites, often smaller sites that use a sales funnel, take on a linear structure where the user can only move from page to page in a linear fashion.
Other types of website structure include; hub & spoke structures (like a wheel with homepage in the center), web structures (where there is no structured content hierarchy), and composite structures (which can be a combination of linear and hierarchical), but all of these are less common.
Planning a website structure
When planning a new website you should plan the navigation structure and ideally create a sitemap diagram. A well researched and thought out website structure can actually enhance the website’s position in search engines results pages (SERPs). A good website structure helps take visitors on a journey (pathway) through your content and encourage them to click through to other pages and read the content.
Researching your website structure
When planning your website structure and particularly the category and page names, it’s great to do some research first. This research should look at:
- Competitors websites that rank highly in search engines – evaluate their website structure and page naming conventions
- Keyword/phrase research – plan page names, site structure, and content around words and phrases people are actually searching for
Planning a comprehensive internal linking structure
When planning a websites’ page structure, think about how the pages can link together to enhance a customer journey. Well designed internal cross-linking strategies can really help with SEO and links to other pages within your website don’t have to be as per the page hierarchy within the sitemap, as it’s common to cross-link to other sections that relate to the topic or product, which could be anywhere on your website.
Sitemap Design Tools
Slickplan is an incredibly intuitive tool that’s our absolute favorite for creating sitemaps. It uses a drag and drop interface and consists of 4 tools: Sitemap Builder, Diagram Maker, Content Planner, and Design Mockups. It is ideal for teams and professional website developers and comes with a 30-day free trial.
Writemaps lets you build 3 sitemaps for free with up to 50 pages per sitemap, then has paid plans for professional use. It has a slick and simple user interface.
Diagrams done right. Lucidchart is a fantastic alternative for organizations that need far more than just a website mapping tool. Whilst Lucidchart does have a sitemap creator, it’s actually a general online diagram application that makes it easy to sketch and share professional diagrams of many types including, UMP diagrams, network diagrams, database designs, workflow diagrams, flowcharts, org charts, business process maps, wireframes, sitemaps, floor plans, Venn diagrams, mind maps, and many more.