Many sites start off small and slowly expand over time, adding more items to the navigation, adding drop-downs, sub-pages, and more. This will often lead to a site structure and navigation that has grown naturally instead of being constructed deliberately. Sort of like when you neglect a garden and it becomes overgrown with weeds. Spending some time planning out your information architecture helps you plan how your site will grow as you add content. In addition to improving usability, well-planned information architecture can augment your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Information architecture should be part of any long-term SEO strategy.
Information architecture can be thought of as a branch of web design or usability design. The most common representation of information architecture on the web is a sitemap.
My strategy for planning a site’s information architecture follows 3 basic steps:
- Use your understanding of your site and your audience through research and analytics to draft your site structure. You can accomplish this by using one of the tools listed below.
- Apply common sense. Does the structure make sense? Grab a few people who have not been involved in the project up to this point and ask them to review the sitemap to help weed out any logic issues.
- Does the language in your structure align with your SEO strategy? Use the keywords you feel will be most effective to describe sections of your site in a logical way.
Planning out your site’s structure is as simple as drawing it out on a piece of paper, but there are other tools that make it easier for rearranging, editing, and group collaboration. I like to use three tools: notecards, whiteboards, and PowerPoint, choosing one depending on how many people are involved and where they’re located.
They’re simple. They’re cheap. In my opinion, this is the best tool for planning a site. The only downside is that collaboration can be a challenge for large groups or remote groups. As much as video conferencing technology has come along, for quick group collaboration, it’s still a little clunky.
- Online Whiteboards
Similar to a physical whiteboard, an online whiteboard (like scriblink.com) allows you to draw and erase quickly on a collaborative space. This is great for working with groups of people in remote locations in real-time.
Because most people are familiar with MS Office’s tools already, PowerPoint measures up as a great collaboration tool. While real-time collaboration is not a possibility, its drag-and-drop interface is the easiest way to rearrange “cards” and setup relationships between sections of your site.
Clearly this post just scrapes the surface of getting your website organized with SEO in mind. Check back for more in-depth articles on website optimization, writing content for the web, and WordPress SEO.