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Accessibility and Usability Forum

    
site structure - accessibility and SEO
how to structure according to hierarchy
victory speed




msg:4501504
 8:03 am on Sep 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

First of all hello to you all, I'm Victor on the West coast of Australia.

I am not what you would call an experienced "web-master" but I know enough to be dangerous having done some sites before intially in HTML and then for a couple of years migrated to trying some in Joomla which I will never use again and so have come back to build another site in what is now HTML5.

I'm hopeful you folks can assist me make some decisions about the hierarchical structure of pages and folders within my site before I upload this structure and the content I have written.

Essentially what I'm endeavouring to do is "put out there" for sale, many parts for machines and motorcycles I have collected over the years.

What I have written is many pages that essentially form a catalogue broken up into sections by machine type, further sub-sections of aspects of those machines and then individual items within these sub-section.

My main two concerns are:

1) to create an easily accessible, easily understandable structure and unproblematic experience for the site visitor,

AND

2) to have the both the items and all the components of the URL's indexable by search engines.

The site I am writing is very simple in it's intent and structure. Nothing fancy, no flash, a content first layout that is very fluid and adapts easily to mobile device screens, very code efficient, fast loading, easy on the eye and non-confusing. It is meant to read just like a parts book/catalogue and with a solid internal linking structure so items and sections are SEO'd and easily indexable I'm confident I have almost enough knowledge to achieve that.

How I think about the hierarchical structure and therefore how I've set this catalogue up in folders on my computer is shown below. The notes beside are how I'm figuring I need to set it up on the server.

site-name.net
/yamaha-xjr1300.html + same name folder residing in top level directory. Page is an index of links to sub-sections below.
./engine-parts.html + same name folder residing in yamaha-xjr1300 folder above. Page is an index of links to item pages below.
./item 1 (item 1 page.html in engine-parts folder?)
./item 2
./item 3
./brake-parts
./item 1
./item 2

/Caterpillar-D11-tractor (follow same logic as above)
./engine-parts
./item 1
./item 2
./transmission-parts
./item 1
./item 2
./track-frame-parts
./etc.

(Excuse the dots, u/l tags or spaces didn't format too well so dots are only for spacing)

So with above structure of folders I get the following URL examples.

1) site-name.net/yamaha-xjr1300/engine-parts/item1-page.html

2) site-name.net/yamaha-xjr1300/engine-parts/item2-page.html

I'm figuring that in the above example where /yamaha-xjr1300 is a page with a list view of brief descriptions and links to individual items but also may require a same name folder into which the item pages are placed?

Would anyone care to comment on this ideology please?

 

g1smd




msg:4501666
 5:34 pm on Sep 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

The days of
example.com/parts/bike-parts/motor-cycle-parts/acme-corp/pro-range/pedals/model-3012.html
should be over.

Put the product on
example.com/p775634-acme-corp-pro-pedal-3012
and link to it from
example.com/motorcycle-parts/acme-corp/
example.com/motorcycle-parts/pedals/
example.com/pedals/motorcycle/acme-corp/
etc.

ergophobe




msg:4501680
 6:07 pm on Sep 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld Victor!

While Luibokoretti's ideas might help with promotion, they have little to do with your actual question.

I don't think URL structure is that important for usability - most studies I've seen show that the vast majority of users never attempt to edit a URL. All of us geeks here do it every day, but studies of regular users show that in most studies they don't see a single user navigate by editing URLs.

That said, I do think of it as an added breadcrumb for the savviest users, and of course it supplies a relevancy signal for the search engines, so I think it still has value to get it right, just that its *usability* value is limited. So I would think of that more in terms of SEO than usability, though others might differ in that opinion.

Sort of an aside and it also doesn't really make a difference, but if you're thinking about URL structure from the ground up, I'd drop the .html - serves no purpose and just complicates things if you change technologies.

Back to the question at hand, there are a couple of things that I might think about.

1. Include some type of search. This looks like it could be a large catalog and, users these days expect some sort of site search. It's a primary navigation on mega sites like Amazon. The simplest thing is to include a Google custom search widget.

2. Search is fine, but search forms are, of course, not crawlable and some users will want to drill down. So clearly you need a good navigational structure that is usable to both search engine spiders and users. So the "solid internal linking structure" you mention is key for the SE, but search engines and users still have somewhat different needs (e.g. SEs can digest larger sets of randomly ordered links than a human can).

Old rules of thumb, taken out of original context and applied too mechanically, commonly resulted in advice that said for human users you needed to keep things within two hops of the front page and present lists of no more than seven items, but these old rules are poor guidelines to apply too broadly for several reasons.

- most users won't land on your home page anyway, so it's key to think about how they'll get from the page they land on to the page they want - it sounds like you have a plan there already with the solid internal linking

- the size list that a human will digest will depend on a lot of factors. For example, if we're looking for something specific and are presented with an alphabetical list, the number of choices can grow dramatically beyond seven without negatively affecting usability.

- most importantly, it has been demonstrated that you can take users through many clicks - far, far more than two - as long as the "information scent" is strong. They just need to know they are getting closer to their goal at a reasonable pace.

So you have to balance the size of your link listings with the strength of information scent when you're building out navigation for a large number of items that you want hard-linked through your navigation structure.

I'm sort of rambling, but I guess what I'm trying to say is to think not just in terms of URL structure and link structure in the abstract, but to also pay attention to the visual presentation of that internal link structure and making sure that your navigation lists are digestible (using logical and immediately obvious organization principle on longer lists, such as alphabetizing) and provide scent (for example breadcrumbs, so that when someone lands on an internal page, she can see immediately where she is in the hierarchy, how far along the path she is and so forth).

I don't know if that's helpful in any way, or just obvious, but perhaps it will at least get some discussion rolling.

tbear




msg:4501731
 8:12 pm on Sep 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

All good so far......

I recently looked for a silencer box for my car and what I found most helpful was only present on 1 or 2 of hundreds of sites, an exploded view diagram.
Unless the part description or number is known it can be very difficult, without drilling down, to find what you want.
Just a thought. Welcome and good luck, victor!

ergophobe




msg:4501744
 9:04 pm on Sep 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

"exploded view diagram." - brilliant - I have had to resort to the same many times when trying to buy a replacement part.

victory speed




msg:4501883
 3:21 am on Sep 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all your replies, your advice has nicely filled in some gaps in my knowledge and slightly altered my approach to the matters at hand.

make a study more on link building. Utilize the uniqueness in you. Refer link building oriented articles in net. Press release, classifieds, bookmarking, article submissions are some of them.


I appreciate your answer, but as someone else stated, this is somewhat not really my question. In regards to my target market, they are very much like me: they either know what they want, usually already know the part number, or they do a general category search that encompases/surrounds the parts they are looking for. Hence I'm looking to become indexed for both the specific part description/part number and common search phrases related to that.

My experience is that when these parts are out there in online shops, the items are not catalogued or indexed well and so are very hard to find. Mainly from what I can see it is about poor site layout AND a technical structure that would not SEO well. In this regard I believe my competitors are easily beatable to the top spots in organic search engine ranking for given items and categories my focus is on.

Take this following example... I have an acquaintance in Holland who makes specifically only custom motorcycle parts for yamaha xjr1300. His website is not technically structured correctly and he does not rank on the first four pages of google for the phrase "xjr1300 custom parts" and yet his website is about nothing else but that AND he has virtually no competition for his product. Indeed many less relevant websites rank above him. Something I could not tolerate if I were him. All his business has to come through word of mouth, no-one would find his site in organic search results. Crazy but true.

The days of example.com/parts/bike-parts/motor-cycle-parts/acme-corp/pro-range/pedals/model-3012.html
should be over.

Put the product on
example.com/p775634-acme-corp-pro-pedal-3012
and link to it from
example.com/motorcycle-parts/acme-corp/
example.com/motorcycle-parts/pedals/
example.com/pedals/motorcycle/acme-corp/
etc.


I could accept that perspective except for one minor matter which is that I want to be ranked for certain sub category search phrases such as "Yamaha xjr1300 engine parts" is a very common phrase that I search for so do other customers I have both market and keyword researched.

A page name such as Yamaha-xjr1300-engine-parts-another-ten-words-in-the-url-plus-the-part-number.html makes no logical sense to me HOWEVER, I am trying to get my head around maybe that doing it that way could be better, I need to think about that a little more.

Welcome to WebmasterWorld Victor!

While Luibokoretti's ideas might help with promotion, they have little to do with your actual question.


Thanks for the welcome and true perhaps of those PP comments but I still welcome input from all perspectives.

Now that I have joined this forum I hope I can contribute valuable input for others too.

I don't think URL structure is that important for usability - most studies I've seen show that the vast majority of users never attempt to edit a URL. All of us geeks here do it every day, but studies of regular users show that in most studies they don't see a single user navigate by editing URLs.

That said, I do think of it as an added breadcrumb for the savviest users, and of course it supplies a relevancy signal for the search engines, so I think it still has value to get it right, just that its *usability* value is limited. So I would think of that more in terms of SEO than usability, though others might differ in that opinion.


The bread crumb idea and the linking and file/folder hierarchical structure is primary in my thought. We organize folders and files like that on our computer (at least I think most of us do?) and I believe Windows has has trained our minds to carry that same relevance over into expectation of our web browsing experience, but I have not seen research to back this up, it is only summation on my behalf. FURTHER COMMENT SOUGHT.

Sort of an aside and it also doesn't really make a difference, but if you're thinking about URL structure from the ground up, I'd drop the .html - serves no purpose and just complicates things if you change technologies.


Considering that a lot of my pages are structured from an assembly of various .shtml files, I need to get my head around how that would become affected.

Back to the question at hand, there are a couple of things that I might think about.

1. Include some type of search. This looks like it could be a large catalog and, users these days expect some sort of site search. It's a primary navigation on mega sites like Amazon. The simplest thing is to include a Google custom search widget.

2. Search is fine, but search forms are, of course, not crawlable and some users will want to drill down. So clearly you need a good navigational structure that is usable to both search engine spiders and users. So the "solid internal linking structure" you mention is key for the SE, but search engines and users still have somewhat different needs (e.g. SEs can digest larger sets of randomly ordered links than a human can).


I will include the search function now you mention it, have used it before and will add it in.

My site has no fancy java scripted bouncy drop down menus. Like a true parts book, the index page to each sub-section has a vertical list of clickable links in the main content area as the index to what is on the next level down. Each sub-category index page follows the same theme. Links at the bottom of the page can easily return the user from where they came. Part of this philosophy comes from what I believe my potential customers are used to - parts books (who like me are mechanic types).

Also I've tried to make it as easy as possible for mobile device users. The template fluidly collapses into a single column vertical layout on small screens devices such as smart phones.

Old rules of thumb, taken out of original context and applied too mechanically, commonly resulted in advice that said for human users you needed to keep things within two hops of the front page and present lists of no more than seven items, but these old rules are poor guidelines to apply too broadly for several reasons.

- most users won't land on your home page anyway, so it's key to think about how they'll get from the page they land on to the page they want - it sounds like you have a plan there already with the solid internal linking

- the size list that a human will digest will depend on a lot of factors. For example, if we're looking for something specific and are presented with an alphabetical list, the number of choices can grow dramatically beyond seven without negatively affecting usability.

- most importantly, it has been demonstrated that you can take users through many clicks - far, far more than two - as long as the "information scent" is strong. They just need to know they are getting closer to their goal at a reasonable pace.

So you have to balance the size of your link listings with the strength of information scent when you're building out navigation for a large number of items that you want hard-linked through your navigation structure.

....I guess what I'm trying to say is to think not just in terms of URL structure and link structure in the abstract, but to also pay attention to the visual presentation of that internal link structure and making sure that your navigation lists are digestible (using logical and immediately obvious organization principle on longer lists, such as alphabetizing) and provide scent (for example breadcrumbs, so that when someone lands on an internal page, she can see immediately where she is in the hierarchy, how far along the path she is and so forth).


Agreed, that's why I've kept the "parts book" structure firmly in my focus - logical and pragmatic. I just think it doesn't get any simpler or easy to follow than that.

I don't know if that's helpful in any way, or just obvious, but perhaps it will at least get some discussion rolling.


Thanks for so much of your time and advice to a first time poster to this forum.

I recently looked for a silencer box for my car and what I found most helpful was only present on 1 or 2 of hundreds of sites, an exploded view diagram.
Unless the part description or number is known it can be very difficult, without drilling down, to find what you want.
Just a thought. Welcome and good luck, victor!


"exploded view diagram." - brilliant - I have had to resort to the same many times when trying to buy a replacement part.


Great idea, I have PDF exploded views of pretty much everything I have to list so I will move forward on that idea, I just need to work on my technical ability to include them into the site.

Thanks to all of you for your insight, help and advice.

Cheers,

Victor.

ergophobe




msg:4501906
 5:04 am on Sep 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Now that I have joined this forum I hope I can contribute valuable input for others too.


Well thanks! We'll look forward to it, whether answering questions with the obvious expertise you have or just throwing some good questions out there to get us all thinking!

g1smd




msg:4501933
 7:40 am on Sep 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

my pages are structured from an assembly of various .shtml files

Long term, you can add a lot of functionality very easily by swapping to PHP includes.

As there are often multiple ways to reach a particular product, having all the categories in the URL would lead to duplicate content issues. I have sites with quite deep folder structures (as seen from a URL perspective) of (dynamically generated) categories. Those folders point to product pages in the root or in a single products folder. The URLs for products are short with basic product identifying words. Each product page links back to ALL of the category trees that link to it, so there's multiple breadcrumb trails per product. There's multiple tree structures of categories to reach a product and these are crosslinked on the single product page per product.

Site structure does not have to be the same as URL structure. :)

phranque




msg:4501949
 9:40 am on Sep 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

welcome to WebmasterWorld, victor!

just like some old engines that keep on ticking, there's an old thread here that you should read.

Themes - SEM Research Topics forum at WebmasterWorld:
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum34/68.htm?highlight=msg818645 [webmasterworld.com]

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