Organize Your Website Structure to Engage Visitors

I’ll show you how you can organize your website structure so that you engage your visitors rather than confusing them and running them off.

Site Organization Issue

Many of the web projects I work on are redesigns of current sites. Business owners who tried the DIY approach and are ready to put together a more professional site. One very common problem I see across all types of sites is poor organization. When your site isn’t organized in a way that visitors expect or want to see it, they can be frustrated while trying to find what they need (at best), or they can be confused enough to leave your site (at worst).

Even more of a challenge is that your site likely makes perfect sense to you and others in your industry or sphere, because you live and breathe the content that’s on your site. It’s so hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who thinks about your site topic just once in a blue moon.

Think Like Your Site Visitors

You might think that since you’re the expert in your own business, you know best how to layout the pages and organize the information you’re presenting. That’s just not true – you’re much too close to the information. Unless you can think like your visitors.

If you’re thinking like an expert, then you’re much more likely to use vocabulary and jargon that your visitors won’t understand. No one likes to feel dumb, or like they should know what’s going on, but don’t. And, if you put your visitor in that position, they probably won’t have the best feeling about you and your business.

And, since you *love* everything you do and everything your business offers, you’re likely to throw out every option that’s even remotely possibly available in the interest of giving people choices. The trouble is that most visitors are going to be overwhelmed with choices, confused about what to do next. They may even start (again with this) to feel dumb, like they should already know something they don’t. When folks are overwhelmed like this – they either abandon ship and go find an easier to use competitor or they analyze choices and get paralyzed in the decision-making process.

Tips to Organize Your Site Effectively

ID most important message front and center

Most people have trouble with focus – they’re looking at your site while watching the news and helping their kids with homework. If your website structure isn’t organized well, visitors will click away and never remember you. That’s not what you want! Instead, try to grab the 2 or 3 seconds of attention a visitor is willing to give you.

Figure out what action would be most beneficial for both you and your visitor. Put that in the “hero” area, the large front and center area at the top of the home page. Use color, images, and compelling words to tell your visitor: who you are, how you can help them, and what you want them to do.

Group related content pages

Instead of having one home page with 42 top-level links (meaning links listed in the first view of the main navigation menu), think about organizing your website’s content pages into logical groupings. And remember, logical specifically for your visitors, and how they want to find information. Some common groupings would be services, guides, exercises, courses, blog posts.

Often, I’m asked to pull out specific course titles or guides and link to those in the main navigation or in a prominent place on the home page. That’s perfectly fine, especially if it’s a flagship course or product. (I would also recommend still including it in the list of “products” or “courses” too.) What you want to avoid doing is having many courses across your top navigation – too many will confuse your visitors.

To determine the best groups for your situation, think about your main site visitor. What do they want to do when they pull up your website?

Remove irrelevant content

Yes, I know the Internet loves cats and is insane over cat memes. But really, as cute as that animated cat falling into a fish tank is, it doesn’t help your visitors find the info about your online accounting services. If you must keep it, bless your heart. At least put it in a blog post and make it relevant somehow!

But really, keep your site content focused on the main purpose of your site. Very few small business sites should include personal blog posts or info about your weekend. I don’t want to read about what my exterminator does on Saturday night – that feels weird. Only include this sort of content if it is a feature of your brand or your service, such as a travel blog. In that case, what you do on the weekend is directly relevant.

Use visitor-friendly language

Clearly organized navigation means easy to read and use. Don’t try to be clever with your navigation unless you are certain your audience is going to immediately understand and appreciate your cleverness (If they will – awesome, go for it but sure!).

Be as clear and as concise as you possibly can. Please don’t call your blog “Roger’s Ramblings” or “Musings” if you have a business site and want visitors to read your blog. Call it “blog” or “articles” or “notes” so that visitors can quickly identify how to read your blog.

People’s attention span is embarrassingly short these days, and seems to be declining as we speak. If you make visitors think too hard, sadly they won’t, and they’ll leave.

And as I mentioned above, don’t use jargon and industry vocabulary that visitors won’t understand. You may think that using insider language makes you look smart, but it doesn’t. Instead, it makes visitors feel a bit like they don’t know something they should, and gives them a bad feeling. If you must use vocab that is industry-specific to explain a point, then explain those words at a level your visitors will understand.

Next Steps

Go and take a look at your own website right now. If I were to come check it out, would I know right away what you do, how I would benefit, and how to easily get to the information I want to see?