Part 2: Structuring Your Content
Now that you understand how to plan out a website redesign, you can start thinking about the meat and potatoes of the site: the content.
Keeping vs. Cutting Content
A common issue many website owners face is whether to keep, merge or cut content on their websites.
Some people will cut a large portion of their content because they think it makes their website too busy or it doesn’t apply to their business anymore. A reason to do this would be if products or services are discontinued. The problem is, these pages are often never analyzed to determine their value to the business. What if you’re removing pages from your site that bring in qualified sales calls?
Or maybe you cut a bunch of pages from the site and notice your search traffic visits drop like a rock shortly after launching the redesign. This has nothing to do with the colors, fonts and layout - it’s all about losing the context that you’ve built over the years with Google.
It’s important to think about your site’s content from a greater scope than just, “We like this” or, “We don’t like this” or, “We don’t think this applies to us anymore.” In general, you shouldn’t cut content without really thinking it through.
Here are alternatives to cutting content:
- Keep it, don’t do anything to it
- Keep it, update outdated information
- Keep it, make it clear that you no longer offer the product or service and let people know what you’ve replaced it with
- Merge multiple weak pages into one stronger page
Deciding What’s Important on the Page
When you’re planning out new pages on the site, you need to think about what information is most important on each page. Every page on the website should have a goal and it should be clear what the visitor should do after experiencing the current page. Let’s look at a few examples.
What’s important on a service page?
If you have a service page that describes a service you offer, the goals could be to let people know:
- That you do what they need (explain the service, relate to their problem)
- Your service area (map)
- That you’re good (show customer testimonials)
- How to reach you (contact form, phone number)
If you get a ton of phone calls from people who don’t want to pay your rates, then you may want to include estimated pricing as well.
What’s important on a product page?
The goal of a product page is to encourage the visitor to purchase the product. This is done through meeting their product and pricing expectations. Think about a product page on Amazon (they’re doing pretty well). You should include:
- Photos showing the product
- Product pricing
- Product description including sizing if applicable (furniture, clothing, etc)
- Reviews / ratings
- Add to cart / buy now button
That’s really it. They might dig into the details, but the most important things for customers are price, images, and answering whether or not other people had a good experience with a product. If all of those things match their expectations, they’ll likely buy.
Click Depth vs. Importance
Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for on your website. Use as little clicks as possible to get people to the right information. Improving the usability of your website has a wide range of benefits from improving search rankings to improving the number of leads you get from your contact methods.
Put your most important pages or categories into your top navigation header. This is going to be the first place a visitor looks. Don’t make them dig for your phone number and contact page, put it right up there in the top of the site.
It can help to map out your pages and create a user flow chart for your site. There should be a planned out journey that your users take, don’t just throw together pages and call it a website.
Top navigation should include links to your most important content and it should really build on that content in a silo-like fashion.
For example, if you’re a photographer and you have a “Services” link in your top navigation bar, you might have a drop-down menu that includes the following options:
Or you might have a “Weddings” link with a submenu like this:
- Wedding Photography
- Wedding Videography
- Photo Albums
- Wedding Website
Whatever your different categories of services are, they should be organized in the top navigation menu in a logical fashion.
As you’re structuring your content, think about how your web pages relate to each other. This is the starting point for building your sitemap, which is a table of contents for all the content on a website.
Think about how the information in a Wikipedia entry is nested under a parent topic; there’s the title of the entry, and then there’s the “Contents” box below it that links to several different related subtopics.
A sitemap works in a similar way. You’ll have a few main categories but then you’ll organize each specific page under those categories.
Here are a couple examples:
- Our History
- About the Owner
- Our Team
Each of those items listed is a separate page. The “Handyman Services” page will include blurbs about the bullet items underneath and will link to them. Each bullet item is its own page specifically about that subject matter.
Write out the different pages that are going to be on your site and determine which topics each page falls under. You don’t need to get too fancy here; you could do this just with bullet points in a Word document. What’s important is that you start thinking about how to organize the information on your website on a basic level.
From there, what you can do is begin wireframing the content structure of your site to create a more visual layout of how your content is connected. There are a ton of tools you can use to create your sitemap. I like to use a program called Simplemind. You could also get by using Excel just fine.
If you’ve ever used mind mapping software, you should be familiar with the wireframing process. If you haven’t, it essentially boils down to this:
- Create rectangles with the names of pages inside and lay them out visually.
- Start assigning connections between different pages.
This is a really important part of your content structuring because it allows you to see which pages are connected and gives you a feel for what’s required to structure the content visually on the web. This helps you connect relevant topics between silos.
This step is easier with a small website. The more pages you have, the more complicated your wireframe will become.
Counting Design Templates
Now that you have a clear idea of your content and its structure, you can start thinking about design. In this phase, you want to assign design layouts to each page. The reason you’re doing this is because each unique layout will be designed by a designer and developed by a web developer. The number of layouts has a direct impact on the cost and completion time of your website.
To understand when you need a different layout ask yourself “does this page include different features or information?”
For example, you may have an “About Our Team” page that shows a grid of images for every employee. When a user clicks on the employee, they will go to a new profile page for that user.
You have two layouts:
- Our Team Page
- Employee Profile Page
Think through all your web pages and develop an outline of page templates. A lot of pages may use the same layout. For example, each blog post can likely use a similar template that displays content and has a sidebar with similar information.
During the content structuring process, there are a few common problems you may encounter.
Cutting Content That’s Helping Your Business
You really want to be careful about removing content that could be driving sales for your business. In the process of determining which content you want to keep and which content you want to get rid of or you may throw out pages that are generating leads.
If you don’t have someone on your team who understands website analytics, bring in a consultant to help you understand what impact a redesign will have on your business.
Not Knowing What’s Important On a Page
What’s considered the most important content varies from page to page. For example, on your “contact” page the most important piece of content is likely a contact form or phone number.
But on your “about us” page, you may not have a form because it’s more important for users to be learning about your business than hard selling them to contact you.
In general, you always want to have most of your call to actions (CTAs) and sales content on a page that’s closer to the selling point on your site.
Not Mapping Out the Content
You want a very clear and intuitive web experience. Failing to create a sitemap or map out the pages on your site is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. It can add a lot of costs, confusion and it can stall the development of a website.
That’s why it’s important to have a good idea of the number of pages on your site, how they relate to each other and what kind of layout each is going to use before you hire a designer or a developer.