What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is one of the first steps of designing your website. It is the basic structure of what your final website will be. What is important to remember is this is not set in stone. It can always change later but getting a rough set up is a great way to get started. You can get all fancy with it but the easiest and most time efficient is just good ole pen and paper. You want your website to make sense and flow easily.
Why Do I Need a Sitemap?
Whether you are hiring someone else to make your website or you're doing it yourself, knowing the basic framework will save a LOT of time. Having a plan and the site's bones, will keep everyone on the same page and
What does a Sitemap Look Like?
Here is an image of my website update (coming soon! yay!). It's simple and straight forward. I wrote out the four main menu options with some content and sub pages. I also have a lot of direct link pages. These are pages you don't want in the menu, but you will want to be able to send people to or have links on other pages. For example, I will most likely have my Terms and FAQ in a link on multiple other pages for easy reference, but the are not important enough to have a dropdown on the menu. Also questionnaires are important and i have an easy URL to send to my clients, but they don't need their own spot on the menu either. I also create custom pages for my branding design clients and they are "secret" pages so obviously having those pages on the menu would be strange.
Heres a few tips to get you started:
- SKETCH: Start with a piece of paper and pencil. Write down all of the must have pages you want.
- PRIORITIZE: What pages are necessary for your viewers to see immediately. Maybe your blog, services, contact, important pages like that.
- CATEGORIZE: What pages on your list fall under a certain category?
- SIMPLIFY: There is nothing worse than a menu with 27 different options with a dozen sub menus. You can have 100 different pages but as long as you simplify to the main important pages and then add subpages and then links to third tier pages.
- FINALIZE: Again, it's important to remember, even if your sitemap is "done" pages can always change later. It's easy to add a new page or rearrange pages, so don't stress out about the sitemap. It's not set in stone.
Other ideas for creating your sitemap:
- POST IT NOTES: I saw this recently when a friend had no clue where to start. She grabbed a bunch of post it notes and wrote down different pages on different post it notes. She then just started sticking them on the wall. That way she was able to play with different options and move things around until it worked for her.
- WHITEBOARD: This is a good option if you have a lot of pages and need a lot of space. I am working with a client that has HUNDREDS of pages. They just wouldn't all fit on one sheet of paper so having a huge space to write everything out (and easily erase and rewrite) really worked for them.
- MINDMAP: Arts at Michigan had a great idea to create a mind map of their website. Though this wouldn't work for me and my brain, it might work for yours.
Do you have a unique idea for creating your website's sitemap?
Even if you already have a website, it might be good to look back through your website's set up. Think of yourself as a customer. Is anything confusing? Hard to get to? Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board and reorganize your site's structure...