Anatomy of a Web Page: What is Website Architecture?
User Research

Published on October 5, 2022

Anatomy of a Web Page: What is Website Architecture?

Can you remember the last time you visited a website and you spent time looking for a particular product or information? You may have clicked through all available links and still couldn’t find what you were looking for.

You probably got so overwhelmed with so much information/content that you gave up and left the website in frustration. We have all been there. This article will help you learn how to structure the content on your website with practical guides, helpful tips, and a look at UXtweak’s tree testing tool.

It’s very important to structure your website in an intuitive and easy-to-navigate way because it helps your customers find the information and products they need easily. This automatically translates into customer retention and loyalty, making your website a “go-to” for that particular service or product you offer.

However, this can only happen if you understand the anatomy of a website and thus design its architecture diagram with the user in mind. To be able to understand how to structure the website, it’s important to first define the anatomy of a website and how it lives on the web.

In simple terms, anatomy is the study of the structure or internal workings of something; however, we will be looking at the anatomy of a website as a user case here.

website anatomy, architecture diagram

What is website architecture?

Website architecture is a branch of information architecture  that focuses solely on the structure of websites and web apps. It is the structure of web pages in a hierarchical form, which is reflected through categories and subcategories of different web pages and how they successfully link to each other.

An effective website architecture should encourage users to find information easily, as well as help search engine crawlers understand how each web page relates and interacts with each other. 

In order to design a standout website architecture, it is important to have a working knowledge of the anatomy of a website and what it’s really made up of. Let’s look at the anatomy of a website in detail.

The anatomy of a website

Anatomy comprises a building block and when arranged properly, gives a unique visual appearance. The anatomy of a website is primarily concerned with the bodily structure and internal workings that makes up a website. 

These are the main blocks that make up the anatomy of a website:

  • Schemas
  • Structural markup of a website
  • Components and scripting
  • The web browser
  • Content
  • Information Architecture
  • Visual and web design

Schemas and Document type definition

Schemas are primarily structured data in the form of semantic code created through collaborative efforts by search engines in order for a website to be recognized on the web as well as across all search engine platforms. 

The schemas are essentially the building block of your website.

Structural markup of a website

The key element of an electronic device is its semiconductor; the same is true of web documents in the sense that they are shaped from various interlinking elements that form the backbone of the Web. 

Most web documents are formed through languages which describe the skeletal structure of the document, such as HTML and XML. RSS is also a classic example of a markup that structures a website’s content.

Without these core markup languages, your website would not be able to maintain its layout.

website anatomy, architecture diagram

Components and scripting

You get your users to interact with your website by using client-side scripting which serves as the programming language on which your website is built on. Languages like Javascript allow interaction when visitors click, move their mouse, press a key on their keyboard, or make any other noticeable gesture.

Your website will therefore react based on the functions implemented. The Javascript and other client-side scripting languages can interact based on their own input function e.g., touch, speech, automated actions, and movement.

The web browser

The web browser is primarily responsible for the transfer of information and signals of your website. The server or user-agent therefore handles the request of users and in turn reflects the desired request to the end user.

Content

Content is basically information on a website. The content of a website is enclosed within a structure and it is shown when and where it needs to appear. The stronger the information on your web page is, the better your website will be, as it will become more usable for your users.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is a system by which information (which can represent basically anything) is organized. Not only on the internet, but also in the real world. Take for example, a store or library; the system by which the librarian or the store manager places books or goods on a shelf is also a non-digital form of IA.

Stuff needs to be well-organized, otherwise, people will face problems with finding what they need. IA should be based on the real human mental models and aimed at a certain target audience in order to be the most effective.

The best way to organize your information architecture is by implementing card sorting and tree testing in your user research process. These methods will help you come up with potential IA models, find out how users expect the website to be organized, and minimize any confusion.

Visual and web design

The visual appearance of your website plays a vital role in how your website will be perceived by users. The css is responsible for the styling of your website. It attaches itself to your structure and layers on elements of style, which give the visible physical appearance you desire.

Consider these building blocks when starting your next web project. They will help you understand how and why a website behaves the way it does.

website anatomy

Website Architecture Diagram

If the information on your website isn’t organized in a way your users expect it to be, they will tend to get lost and struggle to find the desired information. Once this happens, they’ll get frustrated, leave the page, and probably seek out your competitors. If you take good care of your website architecture, however, it will in turn create loyal customers and improve your company’s image.

Having your content organized in a clear, user-friendly way is also crucial to keeping your bounce rate as low as possible. Below is a diagram of a website architecture.

an example of information architecture structure

Source.

Importance of website architecture

The function of a website architecture primarily is to strengthen your website’s user experience. 

Here are some of the main benefits of a good website architecture:

  1. Helps search engines effectively crawl your website.
  2. Helps to distribute “page authority” more equitably, so that a page isn’t left out.
  3. Increases conversions by making it easier for users to find products. 
  4. Helps to strengthen topical authority because of the strong internal linking structure between related or similar topics.
  5. Makes sure users won’t get confused or irritated when trying to browse through your pages

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Website architecture best practices

Here’s a few best practices for creating a website architecture diagram:

1. Create a simple top-level navigation menu

Don’t make your users think too hard. A hard-to-navigate website will have a high bounce rate. Users don’t want to waste time trying to find information on your site. If they do, they’ll just leave. 

Always provide information based on the menu item’s name. Conduct a card sort with your target users to find more ideas for labeling categories.

2. Keep your URLs simple and user friendly

It’s important to create user-friendly URLs. We have all come across URLs that look like this:

“example.com/store/rackets/default.aspx?lang=en&category=98a20”.

No user wants to see that because it can be easily misleading and doesn’t provide any type of information about a page you’re on.

Internal linkings are often more important than the URL structure itself. It will be helpful for both you and your users to structure the URLs as “example.com/topic”.

3. Model your website architecture after the top players in your industry.

Your customers are used to the website architecture of major brands in your industry, so if you run an ecommerce store, analyze how Amazon structures their website and emulate them. Your website will seem more familiar and, in turn, easier to navigate.

4. Add breadcrumb navigation

This tip does not ultimately apply to all websites. However, for example, if you have an ecommerce store with tons of pages and subcategories, it would be helpful to provide visitors with breadcrumb navigation bars so that they know exactly how they got to the target page.

5. Keep your website consistent.

Your website’s navigation format, design principles, and link displays should all follow a consistent pattern. Keeping these elements the same will keep your users on your site longer because it’ll be easier for them to quickly navigate to new pages and click on links.

Keep in mind that your website’s architecture is important for both UX and SEO. With a solid website structure and architecture, you’ll improve dwell time and keep your users engaged to consume more of your content. This means more conversions down the line, improving your ROI, and increasing revenue at your company.

Tree testing: UXtweak’s remote testing tool

To test whether your website structure corresponds to what users expect it to be, try running a tree test with your target audience. It’s a simple exercise based on giving testers specific tasks, asking them to click through your website’s architecture (a tree) and choose categories where they think they’ll find the answers.

website anatomy, architecture diagram

Think of the tree as a branching structure (e.g., navigation menu). It’s a list of categories and subcategories. You can create it with our handy editor, import it from a spreadsheet, or load it from an existing site. The tasks test the categories and labels in your tree structure by asking testers to find something contained within the tree. 

With tree testing you are able to quickly evaluate the findability of topics in your navigation menu, as well as understand where users get lost or confused.

Engage your users with your website architecture

After learning about website anatomy, its components, website architecture diagram, and best practices for creating one, it is important for you to be able to evaluate any proposed menu structure and see how easy or difficult it will be for users to find desired information, as well as identify confusing labels and overlapping categories. 

Remember, you want your website to guide the user through products, services, and information that can help them solve their problem effectively. Register for your free account at UXtweak and run as many tests as you like!

Exon Nkemchor
October 5, 2022
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A User Experience Designer who values design thinking, transparency & collaboration with the capability to bring a product from conceptual stage to launch

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