Website Structure – What is Best?

The structure of your website effects the behaviour of your visitors and search engine rankings. If your visitors can’t access your content in 3 clicks they’ll leave and go elsewhere. If your site is not theme-based the search engines won’t view it as an authority site and rank it accordingly.

Decide on your website’s purpose

If you want to build an authority site it needs to have theme-based content, be search engine friendly and load fast. If you wish to build an interactive website consider building a blog.

website structure

Website hierarchy

For most web sites build a 3-tiered structure so visitors can access your content in 3 clicks. For example if your site is about dog gifts, your home page is the first tier that clearly describes the purpose of your content. The second tier content may consist of dog clothes, dog kennels, dog training. The third tier content will expand on each of these catagories. For example dog clothes may expand to dog jackets, shoes, collars.

When a person visits your website they’e able to find dog collars within 3 clicks e.g.home-dog clothes-dog collars. If you have a drop down navigation on the home page they could quickly select “dog collars.”

If you have a sitemap that clearly shows the hierarchy of your entire web site the visitor will also be able to find your content (keep in mind not all visitors know what a sitemap is).

The further your web pages are from the root folder the harder it is for the search engines and visitors to find them. Make sure your content is never more than 3 clicks from the home page.

Create subdirectories

Subdirectories keep your website organized. For example create an images folder (subdirectory) so all your images are in one location instead of mixed up with your html files. If you have an articles section create a separate directory for all your article files. This is especially helpful for a large site. If the files are scatttered everywhere on the server it will take a long time to find and update them.

Use server side includes (SSI) for easy website maintenance

If you build an html website consisting of 100s of web pages it becomes a long and difficult task to update or edit all of the pages. An SSI file enables you to store the footer, navigation code or any other content that repeats itself on all pages into one file. When you need to update this content sitewide you just need to edit one file.

Content management system (CMS)

If you don’t want to deal with html files or uploading files to the server every time you want to add or edit new content consider creating a CMS website. These are database-driven websites that use software such as Joomla or WordPress to build them.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a content management system. This primarily refers to blogs because they have become so popular.


  • No need to learn html
  • Easy to update
  • Multiple users can add content
  • Includes RSS feeds
  • Allows visitor interaction
  • Automatically pings search engines


  • Structure not theme-based: content is stacked on top of each other
  • Unclear navigation: content is not interlinked
  • 100s of files stored on the server
  • Slow loading (each file must be fetched by the server)
  • Only new content is displayed on the home page, old content is buried in the archives
  • Duplicate content e.g. home page, post page, archives page contain the same content
  • Software needs to be continously upgraded to repair security holes
  • All content stored on the server (unless owner creates regular database backups)
  • Content rapidly loses rankings unless backlinks are built to it.

Before deciding on the type of website you want to build, define the purpose of your website first (e.g. informational, e-commerce, interactive blog) then draw your site’s hierarchical structure on paper. Doing this beforehand will prevent a lot of headaches in the future.

Related Articles
Content Management System Benefits
How to Plan a Website
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