the internet ideas blog

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blueprint Before Building

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting (virutally), Sacred Healing Light based in Madison, Wisconsin. During our initial conversation and review of her website I noticed that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason behind the site structure. Not from a visual standpoint but from a construction standpoint. The architecture behind the site did little in the way of organization.

Why is this important? After all, no one sees the architecture, right? Wrong. The people who see the architecture of the site are the developers who are hired to maintain the site and the search engines. You may even want to update or add to your site on your own and having an organized site structure behind the fancy stuff is important for your own sanity.

The first, most important step to any website design or redesign is to sketch out the blueprint on paper in advance. If your site has hundreds of pages (as many sites do) then you'll especially appreciate this step in the end.

As you add each page to the diagram, remember that each will need to be optimized separately with correct meta tags, title etc.

(note: I prefer round diagrams to denote the multi-dimensional aspect of a website, not flat like a book)

Each section should have it's own folder and index page. Everything stays neatly tucked in it's own area which makes updating a specific page easier - because you'll know right where that page should be in the hierarchy.

When you are naming the pages, use the a file name that reflects the title. This will give additional ease in updating and helps search engines know about the page content.

If you are redesigning a site take care to either use the same file names or use an htaccess file to let the search engines know the page has moved and take people to the content they were expecting. Doing this will assure that you do not lose any traffic in the redesign.

Once you are done with the physical website development create an xml site map and submit the new structure to Google & Yahoo via webmaster tools.

Worth the extra effort? You bet! The sites I've restructured not only make sense from a development angle, they also make sense to people visiting the site because the diagram assists in creating a logical navigation scheme. Try it - I know you'll be happy you did!

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