Site Design and Structure

A Web page’s structural elements are the basic parts that Internet users often expect to see when they visit a website. Understanding the location and purpose of the main structures can help you relay information about your small business and products or services in ways that attract visitors and retain their interest.

Page Header

The header is the area that runs horizontally across the top of a page and is commonly the same on most every page in the site. It helps make a website visually identifiable to visitors. Similar to a letter heading or letterhead at the top of stationery, the page header displays information about the person or company controlling the website via title text, logo, background images, tagline or a combination of these elements. Other elements often placed in the header include a site-search box, shopping cart link, site-access link and navigation tools.

Navigation Tools

Web-page navigation tools are located in several areas outside of the header including the right or left sides, center or bottom of the page. They offer page-to-page navigation or instant jump to the top of the current page. Designs feature text- or image-based one-click links organized standalone or in tab, drop-down or pop-up menu and list layouts. Some sites also feature breadcrumb trails — links to every page you would visit to reach the current page organized left-to-right on a horizontal line in the header or top center of the page in the order of your movement through the site, if you were to follow the site’s organizational hierarchy.

Sidebar Columns

Sidebar columns, also known as sidebars, run vertically along the left or right side of Web pages. They usually provide primary or secondary site-navigation links and information you want to emphasize such as contact details or important updates about the site operator or the topic of the site. Other elements often placed in sidebars include personal or partner advertising, a site search box and search filter tools. Sidebars usually display information as an unbroken column or a column divided into sections or boxes.

Primary Content

The primary content area on a page is traditionally located to the left or right of a sidebar or between two sidebars. It provides main page information you want a visitor to focus on. The primary content area features a main title and content formatted into concise text paragraphs, images, videos or combination elements divided by spaces or subheadings. It also often features elements previously mentioned such as a breadcrumb trail and jump navigation links, as well as update information such as content publication or update dates and links to websites relevant to the content or that you think would interest visitors.

Page Footer

The footer runs horizontally across the bottom of pages. It provides navigation links visitors might find useful, as well as details about a page or website such as a logo, copyright date, website operator’s name, page author name, legal statements and links to the site terms of use and privacy policies. Other elements often placed in the footer include links to the site operator’s contact page or email address, job postings page, feedback-form page, support page and frequently asked questions page.

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