An aspect of website architecture and web design that you may have never heard about is called organizational structure. This is basically organizing your content on your website based on their relationships with each other. By structuring it in an intuitive way, users will be able to get an idea of where to look to find the information they’re looking for. This concept requires you to understand the user and use a method of organization that is best suited for your audience. There are three different types of structures which are Hierarchical, Sequential, and Matrix.
Which Structure Should You Choose?
There is no be-all, end-all formula for which structure to use. It really depends on the situation which structure to choose for your website. But in many cases, using all three in the right contexts can be the best method. Here is a brief description of each structure to help you get an idea of how they work.
Hierarchical structures work just like how they sound. It is organized in a top down manner. The top is the broadest category towards multiple sub-topics or is the main idea behind many of the pieces of content. From there other sub categories can be the parent category and lead into narrower pieces of content in the same sub category.
A perfect example of a hierarchical structure can be a business directory where it starts with very broad categories but starts to become more narrowly targeted as the user starts to explore the category to find the type of business on the user’s mind.
Sequential structures are broken down in a linear path that goes from one step to another. An example of a sequential structure is a piece of content that is broken down into multiple pieces. The user has to follow a specific path and cannot jump from the first page to the last.
Matrix structures are organized in a manner in a way that the user can choose how to find the desired content. A perfect example of this is how the search engine Google allows users to search content based on the type of content, the date, by topic, and other personal preferences.
The Database Model
A less common approach that you can see being used is the database model. A database is built based on the metadata and allows the users to find content based on the search parameters they have entered. This is pretty much how search engines do their job in helping you find what you’re looking for.
The Impact of Properly Designing Site Infrastructure
How you set up your site infrastructure has a long term impact on the website. If it is designed too compact, it would lead to having to go through redesign to accommodate for growth. That’s why you need to think about how future content will be added to your website over time. At the same time, having too broad of a structure can lead to decreased engagement, so it still needs focus.
For those reasons, structure should be planned ahead of time. It should not be thought of at the last minute of the design or development project. Keep in mind that structure isn’t just about the UI design either. UX design also comes into play because the structures you use sets the mood for how the user feels about using your website.