Business Website Information Architecture: Components, User behaviour and Searchability
A good business website architecture requires topic specificity and proper sub-categorizations. Any business website architecture is generally comprised of the following:
- Top (or primary) level navigation:You select these by what topics are most important to your users and what paths you need to bring in revenues or path users to site goals. These aren't always mutually exclusive. Redundancy is good, though repetition is not. When using redundancy, don't use the same terminology. Don't combine categories unless this is how they are always used outside of your website. A category shouldn't be generalized to where you're covering two separate topics under one top-level item.
- Secondary level navigation: Each top-level navigation item should be specific enough that they can't be duplicated, but broad enough that subtopics, or secondary navigational items can easily fit within the topic in a logical manner.
- Tertiary level navigation: Only large sites have a need for tertiary (or third level) navigation. If you have a small site and are using a tertiary level navigation, then you probably want to re-examine your top level navigation and make sure you made each category specific enough.
- Fourth level navigation: There is almost no reason a site, except a very large one that has been properly outlined, should have a fourth level navigation. If you have a fourth level navigation in more than one or two sections of your site, re-examine your architecture and see where you can make adjustments.
- Business website user perspective: Keep each category set as similar as possible (i.e., if you do it for one, you do it for the next) and do your best to make sure you have all content within four clicks of the home page. Does this mean users have to be to the end of the content by the fourth click? No. The user just had to have found the content path by the fourth click. If not, then you're likely to lose the user, but as long as you have them in the path by this point you will be OK. The quicker you get them to their information, the better your chances for retention and/or conversion. So whenever you can shorten the path without sacrificing content, do!
- Search Engine Optimization / Searchability perspective: Your navigation contains the site path for the user, but also the search engine spider. So make sure before you do your site architecture you have done your keyword research. Hone in on those words and use those in your architecture, your URLs and your linking structures. No architecture should be rendered complete before the keyword research has been finalized and incorporated into the site plan.