How to Approach Enterprise Website Design Strategy & Development
Enterprise websites have thousands or even millions of URLs. To successfully pull off a website project at this scale – whether it’s a new site, a migration or a redesign – companies need:
- Heavy up-front planning
- All-teams collaboration
- A good timeline
- Technical knowledge
- The right enterprise website solutions (technologies + vendors)
Below, the Oneupweb team has some practical guidance for your project.
If you have a question about enterprise website development, design, content, SEO or project management, give us a shout. We like problem-solving.
Be Efficient with Design, Development and Content
Let’s start simple with project management, technology and efficiency tips for your enterprise website project:
- Communicate between teams constantly.
- Have one designated project manager.
- Follow a timeline, but be a little flexible with due dates. Quality matters above all, and it’s impossible to plan for everything.
- Select a CMS with the right integrations.
- Plan all other technologies up-front too, such as your analytics and event tracking platform(s), design mock-up and review software, project management software, etc.
- Make a data-informed, visual sitemap. For effective SEO planning, we suggest mapping out keyword groups on this sitemap for your top 10 to 30 core pages. This will help you prevent keyword cannibalization between pages.
- Decide on your post categories and tags up front – and stick with them! Document the correct nomenclature so your site stays organized, no matter how many cooks are in the kitchen.
Here are key focuses and tips for your enterprise website design strategy:
- Focus your enterprise website design strategy on conversions, but never sacrifice user-friendliness!
- Make custom page templates and create a design system. Create many reusable block styles for flexibility and scalability. Enterprise web design is not an event – it’s a never-ending effort.
- If it’s a redesign, avoid adding too many new pages initially. Bulk additions can send low quality signals to search engines.
- Plan to add a site search function.
- Prioritize accessibility. Large and global enterprises must do this!
- Show social proof of your business’s value, such as testimonials and statistics.
- If you can, avoid having more than one layer of sub-navigation and long lists of navigation links. Very large menus flatten out a site’s link structure – basically, every page links to every page. This makes it difficult for search engines and humans to understand which information is most important.
- On blog and resource archives, use SEO-friendly pagination.
Need deeper details about planning? Read our meticulous website planning guide.
9 Technical Tips for Enterprise Website Development
Creating a huge website calls for huge technical knowledge. This section covers the technical tips you need for successful enterprise website development. It’s time to communicate authority and clarity to all who visit your site!
1. Make the URL structure logical.
Use a folder structure that’s logical and organized, not overly complex. This makes analytics simpler, helps search engines understand content relationships and makes navigation easier for visitors.
When it comes to your internal link architecture – or how many “layers” deep your page hierarchy goes – you want to strike a balance between too deep and too flat. This promotes both a good user experience and search engine optimization (SEO). If it takes 10 clicks to get to some of your pages, they may be too deep for a search engine to prioritize and for a person to find. Just use your best judgment: Above all, what works best for users?
Here are some other considerations for URLs:
- Use real, relevant words that users can understand – not just a string of random numbers!
- Today, it’s not that important to use SEO keywords in URLs. However, if you do keyword research up-front and base URLs on page titles, you’ll be set up for success.
- Use hyphens instead of underscores. (In bare links, underscores are invisible.)
- Keep URLs short and simple when possible. This can increase clickthrough from search results.
- Consider not including years (e.g., 2021) in your URLs, especially for content that has long-term value.
- Avoid using capital letters in URLs.
2. Optimize your XML sitemap for SEO.
Enterprise websites need dynamically updated, well-optimized XML sitemaps contained in a sitemap index file. Large sites undergo frequent changes and expansions. The XML sitemap tells search engines to track and index all revisions to SEO-relevant content. It’s also a tool for giving poor little orphan pages some visibility – though it’s best to just fix those instead.
If your website is multilingual, sitemaps are also a great spot to put your hreflang attributes. (Skip down to the hreflang section for more information.)
XML sitemaps can have up to 50,000 URLs, but many SEO professionals recommend limiting each sitemap to about 10,000 URLs instead. This encourages better organization and compliance with the file size limit.
If you’re looking for more reading about XML sitemaps, we recommend checking out Search Engine Journal’s guide.
3. Choose the right hosting.
Quality web hosting is one of the most important enterprise website solutions. Without the right hosting, your website may run into issues with loading speed, security and more. Here’s what to look for when choosing a service:
- Excellent uptime
- A CDN
- Tons of disk space/storage
- Large, scalable server load capacity (It can handle spikes in traffic.)
- An unshared server (e.g., dedicated or VPS)
- Frequent backups and robust security
- Customer support services
- Compatibility with your CMS
4. Limit your plug-ins.
Having fewer plugins means less maintenance, fewer security problems, better speed and more. Oneupweb lives by the “as few plugins as possible” rule, as we have a lot of experience with making large sites manageable, not breakable. We’d be happy to provide plugin consultation, maintenance or even custom development of certain functionality on your enterprise website.
Want some help with enterprise website development?
5. Map 301s the moment URLs are final.
Well, the heading says most of it … Mapping out 301 redirects is an immensely important step of any website redesign, migration or reorganization project. By taking this step right after your web development team finalizes the URLs for your new site, you’ll be future-proofing your audience’s experience with your business.
All too often, we see teams that forget to – or simply delay – mapping their 301s until right before or right after site launch. Those are the most stressful and time-crunched times to do it, which can lead to mistakes and delays. Do it early, and you can be confident that your audience won’t run into annoying 404s after you launch the website. It’ll be good for your SEO performance too, as users are more likely to engage with your pages if they actually reach them!
6. Use hreflang properly.
Many enterprise websites are multinational. This means they need the proper language tags (hreflang HTML attributes) for pages that exist in many languages. Here’s an example of a single attribute in source code:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”en-us” />
Why is hreflang important?
Short answer: SEO and UX! Less short answer: These tags tell search engines which version of content to serve to the person who’s searching for it, based on language and region. They also pass search ranking signals between pages in an hreflang cluster. Finally, they prevent your website from having gobs of duplicate content!
How do you implement hreflang on enterprise websites?
You can implement hreflang in one of three places: (1) on-page HTML tags, (2) the HTTP header, or (3) the XML sitemap. Many businesses choose method #1 and use a plugin to automate the tags. However, if your enterprise website is translated in more than a dozen languages, you may consider using method #3 (the XML sitemap) instead, which will conserve crawl budget and promote better page speed. For non-HTML pages like PDFs, you must use the HTTP header method, #2.
Apply these hreflang best practices during your enterprise website development project:
- Use ISO-639.1 standard language codes.
- Ideally, get more specific by applying ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 region codes too.
- Give each hreflang attribute a self-reference and references to all other versions of the page.
- Tell search engines which version of a page is the fallback when no appropriate version is found. (Google recommends this but doesn’t require it.)
- If you’re dealing with many languages, automate hreflang generation/implementation at least partially. Ahrefs shares one method of doing this.
Hreflang is like a thousand-directional handshake. Everyone shakes everyone’s hand, and if one page doesn’t, it messes up the ecosystem. When there’s an error, users may see the wrong version of a page – or multiple versions – in search results for their query. That’s why it’s one of the most difficult aspects of international website development.
7. Do extra backups and security monitoring.
While a good web hosting service will automatically provide ample website backups and security services, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As part of routine website maintenance, periodically make an offline copy of your website to avoid losses in case of a billing problem or security breach.
Another tool to consider is an enterprise website security and uptime monitoring plugin with customizable alerts – especially if your web hosting provider is weak in this area of service. Here are some options for WordPress sites. Finally, ensure you’re doing all you can to ensure Safe Browsing and HTTPS, which are big ranking factors from Google’s mid-2021 algorithm update.
8. Customize event tracking.
At Oneupweb, we believe that websites of all sizes should have custom event tracking to provide marketing and business development insights.
Useful custom event tracking for an enterprise site includes:
- Clicks, clicks and other clicks (auto-downloads, calls, buttons, ads, etc.)
- Form completions
- Form abandonment / errors
- Tool, map and web app interactions
- Detailed ecommerce insights
- Scroll tracking
- Cross-domain tracking
We recommend using Google Tag Manager to configure custom events for our enterprise website, as you can manage it without applying development resources. However, there are many other options, including marketing automation software with out-of-the-box event tracking.
Are you using GA4 yet?
GA4 is the new Google Analytics, eventually meant to replace Google Universal Analytics.
If your event tracking is sending data to Google Analytics, now’s the time to create your GA4 property (to run alongside your Universal Analytics property). Then set up necessary custom events so you can start collecting data there now! It’s possible that GA4 will become the new normal – i.e., the only option for GA – as early as Q4 2022, though it’s unclear at the time of writing this post. Prepare now!
9. Prioritize technical SEO.
For many companies, organic search is the top channel for lead generation. Take full advantage of SEO to stay competitive in your market. While we could write a whole book about technical SEO, you don’t want this guide to last forever! We’ll keep it simple and provide a few tips for enterprises:
- Utilize all the schema markup that makes sense for your content.
- Confidently launch your site by using our SEO-focused site launch checklist.
- Refine your content planning process to protect the future of your website.
- Get familiar with Core Web Vitals and other ranking factors after Google’s Page Experience algorithm update. (If you need support, consider Oneupweb’s exclusive Page Experience Audit service.)
Enterprise Website Solutions to Make It Easier
What tools do you need to get your website over the finish line and ahead of your competitors?
Here are some enterprise website solutions that may help you automate and streamline your website processes:
- An hreflang generator like this
- A robust SEO spider tool like Screaming Frog
- An SEO research and marketing platform like Semrush
- A speed optimization and caching solution like WP Rocket
- Design mockup and review software, such as Adobe XD
- A strong internal team and/or vendors to reinforce your digital presence
- An omnichannel marketing strategy to bring people to your website
Are you worried you don’t have enough enterprise website designers, developers and other experts you need to make this project happen? Rely on Oneupweb’s 20+ years of inventiveness and technical wisdom. We’ve helped enterprise clients like Tangoe overhaul their websites to nail their biggest business objectives.