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Steps to Consider in Assessing Website Architecture

Whether you are designing a new website for your brand or are evaluating needed updates to your company’s current one, web architecture is crucial to success.  When strategizing and deploying successful WCM integration, there are many steps that need to take place.  Recently Gary Eisenstein the Principle Analyst at CMS-Connected wrote and released our 2018 Fair Review of Top Web CMS Platforms.  He mentioned using his 5 phased approach will help your WCM integration project be successful. Below are the steps:

  1. Assessing your current website architecture and environment

  2. Strategize and assisting with the requirements and planning

  3. Provide expert advice and evaluation on a shortlist of best-fit platforms

  4. Help prepare, write and submit a request for proposal (RFP) to the vendors and implementation partners

  5. Review the feasibility of each vendor’s response, assuring they can deliver on the requirements, timeline and budget.

Selecting the best fit solution for your organizations can seem like a daunting task. Creating a strategy plan from the get-go is the best option to help you in selecting the suitable solution for your needs.

Today, I will be addressing the first point - Assessing your current website architecture. So let’s first start off with the definition of Website Architecture: Website architecture refers to the way we structure a website to ensure we meet our business goals while delivering a great experience for our users. Where information architecture (IA) which refers to the structure of any shared system of information, online or otherwise, website architecture relates specifically to websites.

The assessment process are used by companies to help clients build complex software systems and, in an early stages of the development, use of the architecture assessment  is to validate the decisions being taken in regards to the architecture of the system.

A strong website needs to have a good balance between attractive visual components and an easy-to-execute call to action. In most cases, the design is the easy part. Your website architecture defines your entire strategy, and we think you should start with that for two reasons:

  • Your strategic intent is defined by your website architecture – You can’t design a great website without first being clear on what actions you want your users to complete on your site.

  • Your website design is simply for aesthetic – Users expects professional websites to be clean-looking, information-rich, and intuitive.

So they're not two different entities, in fact web design includes the element of architecture - the architecture simply comes first. Think of this analogy, when you build a new house, you start with the architect who creates the blueprints for building, then you hire a designer to help you with the interior. Website architecture is the planning and design of the technical, functional and visual components of a website - before it is designed, developed and deployed. It is used by website designers and developers as a means to design and develop a website.

Developing the architecture for a website is an essential part of the web design process and there’s a lot to be considered. Before you develop your structure, you need to have a strategic plan in place that fulfills all of your requirements.

Here are some steps you should consider when you are creating your website architecture plan.

  1. Establish and understand your business goals: Whether you’re redesigning or designing something new, you need to fully understand the intent, what drives it and what the goals of the business are. Knowing these will enable you to make sound design decisions, keeping your project on track.

  2. Identify your audience: Engage with your audience and conduct research to understand their needs, behaviors, and motivations. You may have completed some user research recently, so this is an opportunity to build upon and validate those findings. If you’re redesigning, you might consider running a usability test on the current state for benchmarking purposes.

  3. Content Gathering: Before designing a website architecture, assemble all your content and ensure it is current, accurate, and consistent. You can only decide upon a website architecture structure if you know what it is you’re structuring in the first place. If you attempt to do this before you have your content, you will most likely spend a lot of time updating and reworking it over the course of your project. Not only is this a waste of time and resources, but you run the risk of losing sight of the original purpose of the website, which can derail the entire project and result in even more work.   

  4. Test: Before you launch your new website or its updated version, find a few members of your target audience again and watch them navigate through it. Do they run into issues? Can they find what they’re looking for? How do they respond to your calls-to-action? Do they think something’s missing? Is the design too much? Skip the painful process of launching a website that your target audience doesn’t want to use and get these updates out of the way before it goes public, you can also gain insights into how your users might expect your content to be labelled.

  5. SEO Basics: Keep search engine optimization in mind during this entire process. Pay attention to title and header tags, prioritization of pages within navigation and more. Early in the web architecture process is a good time to update your keyword strategies and plan for content optimization on the new site. Remember, as far as SEO is concerned, a website is never finished. 

Ending Notes:

Website architecture is essentially the blueprint that pulls it all together, it's the foundation for creating an outstanding user experience.  By taking the time and getting the information architecture of your site right will ensure a great user experience, which in turn leads to a higher retention rate and improved conversions. If you have any questions our team of expert advisors here at CMS-Connected would be more than happy to help.

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans has over 16-years in the tech industry and currently works as the event coordinator and tech reporter for CMS-Connected, keeping up-to-date on what's happening in and around the Content Management industry.