What exactly is website design architecture? How does it differ from website design or are they both similar?
Fact is that website design and website architecture design are similar and exhibit similar goals. Both exhibit similar and pivotal roles in the presentation of a business or a brand to the people online, website development process, conversion strategies, popularity, and others. Moreover, the main focus revolves around the end users. While these similarities exist, they are widely apart owing to the number of differences that they hold.
Let us take a look at what makes them different from one another.
Before we take a deeper look into how website design and website architecture design differs from one another, it is important to understand each of these concepts well. So, let us first understand what exactly each of them is capable of doing.
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Website design needs no explanation. But, still, website design comprises some important steps such as planning, strategizing, creating graphic designs, designing great user interface, layouts, effects, components, and even experience, while also optimizing the main website and each of the web pages for the search engine. Though the design is considered to be just the appearance aspect of a website, it is much more than that. A website design also includes the brand image, which plays an important role in taking the website’s message far and wide, the usability factors and user experience, and others.
A website architecture design revolves around processes, such as usability, user interface, user experience – much like that of a website design. But – as the name suggests website architecture moreover deals with the concept or the architecture of a website rather than the technical aspects, which is what website design mainly focuses on. Apart from the conceptual aspects, website architecture also covers content, business goals of a website, factors that drive user engagement (such as signing up a newsletter, clicking through ads or even making a purchase decision) etc. All this means that a website architecture is quite a complex aspect, which needs some unique skills to be accomplished.
So, the basic difference between a website design and website architecture lies in the fact that one is conceptually similar to that of building engineering, while the other is similar to traditional engineering. Website architecture encompasses strategies for creation and presentation of a website, which ultimately comprises website design.
While a website design is handled by a website designer, the website architecture is taken care of by a website architect.
By now, you might be clear with the fact that just as website design requires unique skills, similarly the website architecture design also calls for a unique set of skills and knowledge – as in traditional and building architecture. So, always get a website architect to work on the architecture part, while a website designer to work on the website design part to yield better results.
So, website design is quite a clear and existing concept, unlike website architecture. If you are looking for some help with website architecture, we are taking you across some insights with planning, developing and testing your architecture.
The way a website is structured or arranged in order to meet the business goals while ensuring a great user experience is what we refer to website architecture (in simple words). If you think of information architecture, it actually covers a little more space, including the structure of a shared system of information, including the online paradigm, whereas website architecture mainly revolves around websites. Any website comprises of information architecture, but let us find out what exactly is a website architecture. It comprises interaction design, information design, user interface design, graphic design, content strategy, web design, usability, user experience, etc.
So, how do we create a plan for website architecture?
As it suggests, the plan is the foundation for any website to stand upon, it clearly means that you have to develop an architecture for your website that will be the strength of the web design process. This requires a lot of consideration. So as you proceed with the structure, you need a perfect plan strategized incorporating business requirements as well as the user needs.
What approach are we going to follow: You need to think of this as the first step. Are you creating a website from the scratch or just renovating an existing website? Either way, if it is a new website or an existing website, you will have to invest in a lot of your time to gain a better understanding of what you need to do.
The clear understanding of business goals: Once you are clear of the approach, regardless of whether you are creating a new website or redesigning the existing one, there are certain factors such as the goals of the business, intention and driving factors that you need to be clear about. This will help you to make fair decisions while keeping your project align with your business goals.
Understanding your users is one of the most important parts of your website design process. This you can do by engaging with your users, conducting researches, which will help you to gain a better understanding of their needs, what drives their decisions and behaviors. Once you conduct user research, you will get some foundation or base upon which you can build the project architecture further. If you are renovating your existing website, you can maybe run a usability test upon the present state, which will give you a clear idea of what exactly your users need and what your site lacks, and where you have to concentrate going forward.
Now that you have done some research (if you think you have collected sufficient data, then it is time to move on to the next step) – let us move ahead. Here it is time to fit or migrate your research data in the form of personas, which should be in a usable format. User personas are stories, which comprise fictional users that represent the real-time data you gathered from users in the real world during your research. You have to provide a background story, photos, names and most importantly human structure to the people in your story, as it will help your team to easily relate all these factors with the people for whom your design is meant for. Take printouts and you can always use these as references as you proceed with your structure.
So now you have data, people (fictional or personas) all ready for your website architecture, the next most important factor for designing or redesigning your website architecture is to gather all content that you need. But this content is required to be accurate, appropriate, consistent and up-to-date. In fact, you need this to be structured in place to realize what kind of a website architecture structure you are planning. So unless your content is ready, you will end up wasting a lot of time deciding on how the structure has to be wired in and later on when the content arrives, you might have to restructure the entire project to fit in the content you have found. And remember this not only is a waste of time and effort but also you actually end up tampering the purpose of your website in the first place.
Card sorting is the next step: Now that you have all the required content for your website, next it is required that you run a card sort for your website to help your users to actually sort the content as per the groups. You can refer our articles on card sorting for help with how an open card sort provides your people to sort the content according to the labels they carry. You can actually use the optimal sort technique for card sorting, this will help you to touch a larger category of the audience – as it takes up a lot of work on its shoulders.
Now that we have insights into planning and development of a website architecture, next we have to take a look at how the testing happens.
Treejack or a site architecture tool is the most commonly preferred website architecture testing tool. This remote website architecture tool implements tree testing procedure to test the structure that you have in place. It tests the structure with your users – this will give you a plain understanding of where exactly people engage or lose it within your content. With Treejack, a simple, text-based version of this website architecture is implemented to get rid of all the design elements that are distractive. This helps you to test your ideas against the task-based scenarios in real time. With Treejack, you can track and record all these results with the comprehensive pathway diagrams otherwise referred to as pie trees.
Pie trees give an insight into the stories of your participants’ journeys as they were testing your structure, which will help you to track and fix any bugs in your system. If you take a closer look at each point in your diagram – it would present those themes in the pathway through which a participant or user clicked through. The pie chart displays a statistical breakdown of any activity that the user was indulged in. The points and pathway lines come in various colors and size that sheds light on how your design has been tested.
Now you know how exactly your users proceeded through the structure, the points or pathways they traversed and where exactly their journey was released.
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