Just how a house isn’t built until an architect layouts out the plan and the foundations are built, websites should be strategically planned with a site map. A site map is a hierarchical structure of a website’s pages. In addition to a listing of the pages, site maps also typically include details regarding the purpose, intent, content, and functionality of each page. A site map will also help to determine the overall architecture of your site and ensure all necessary items are present and accounted for before actual development is done. Learning how to make a sitemap before beginning anything else will guarantee your whole web development experience, either solo or with a team like us, going much smoother.
Having a clear plan on what pages will be needed, how they will be organized, and what the site map is will dramatically speed up web development time, lower cost, and reduce the amount of time making back-and-forth edits and reorganizations.
Following these steps will help ensure your site mapping process yields great results and explain how to make a sitemap.
Step 1: Set your goals
You should set an overall goal for what your website will be and will do. This an important first step in the site map creation process.
Think about the information you want to demonstrate to visitors and what actions you want them to take. How will visitors go about achieving that set goal by using your site? Once the goal has been determined, it should be kept in mind as you plan out the rest of your site. Before beginning this phase, you might want to take a look at our free eBook that covers more on this first but important step.
Step 2: Consider Your Site’s Architecture
Once the plans and metrics are laid out, the next step in the site mapping process is to consider your site’s architecture. The architecture of a site defines the structure and correlation between all areas and pages on a site. It takes into consideration how visitors will navigate their way from page to page.
Think about the goal you’ve set and what the most effective and efficient way for a visitor to achieve that goal will be. Put yourself in the user’s shoes to gain perspective on what makes the most logical sense as they click through your site.
It is helpful to bucket or group pages in an organized order so that it will be intuitive for the user. Visitors want to be able to easily navigate a site and quickly access the pages they need to get to.
Step 3: Start Your Site Map
Now it is time to take this information and build your site map. There are several ways to go about building this document out. Flow charts, diagrams, spreadsheets, or visual mapping tools can be used to create your site map.
Some things to keep in mind are consistent (or static) page elements like the navigation bar (typically found on the top of every website) and the links that will be on the top and also the footer, which often also contains links and other calls to action.
- Navigation menu —Based on the information from the site audit, the navigation items are outlined and listed first. For SEO purposes, consider the name of each navigation item and where on the navigation bar it should be located. These navigation items will have prime real estate on the homepage, so it is important to make sure they are working hard for you. As you begin listing out each page, remember to think about the user’s experience as they navigate through your site. Keep pages and their content defined to ensure each page has a useful purpose.
- Footer — Following the interior pages, your footer should seamlessly fall into place by mimicking your main navigation in a listed format. The footer navigation is an important place where visitors often search for contact information or details about the company. It is crucial to keep this nav clean and well organized, so information can quickly be found.
While a site map may seem like an overwhelming task, it is important to take the time to think about your site page-by-page. A site map will determine how visitors view your content and think about your business as a whole.
Understanding what navigation items are needed, where content will live, and how the pages will interrelate will keep your website project organized and focused. A site map allows you to drive all future website decisions with strategy, ultimately setting your website up for success.
Looking for a new website for your brand or company and want to experience a creative kickoff process that focuses heavily on the site mapping phase? We would love to help! Feel free to reach out to us today to start the conversation.