In Part 1 of this blog post, I explained what site maps are and why they are so useful in the website-planning process. In this post, we will get down to the nitty-gritty of how these site maps are actually created.
Note that everyone’s planning processes, whether for their website or their family vacation, vary. You may have a unique way of putting your ideas into action. As I’ll discuss soon, site maps can take on many forms, and none of these forms is the “correct” way to do it.
Make a List
In order to get organized, you need to take stock of everything you have. Sit down and create a list of all of the pages you think you would like on the site. Even if this is just a list of the first level navigations with plans to dig down into second and third levels on your site map, you will start to see how large your site is going to be and which pages need to be added or removed if you have an older version of your site.
Give it Structure
Once you have the list of your website’s pages down, you will begin to give them structure in a site map. As Powermapper shows, site maps can be arranged in a variety of ways. Although their examples are meant to show what HTML and XML site maps can look like, you can adapt these styles to work for your visual planning site map.
At Imagebox, we simply write out our site map in a Word or Google document so that it can be easily shared with and tweaked by our clients. Our style is similar to the Table of Contents route shared by Powermapper. There are also plenty of tools out there to help you build more visually appealing site maps, also.
You’ll begin by breaking pages down by navigation sets. As I explained in my previous blog post, most of the sites we work on have two navigation sets that are visible from the home page: the upper navigation and the main navigation. We have a general rule to keep the number of navigation items on each set to seven or below to avoid crowding. Once we’ve decided which of our first level pages belong on which navigation, we start to build out the second level pages, listing them in order below their “parent.”
Building out this second level then helps you decide if you need a third level, or beyond. For instance, “About Us” may be your first level page, with “Our Team” being a subpage. If you would like each of your team members to have their own page, you’ll need to list out your third level navigation.
Check it Twice
Once you’ve completed your site map, you should take another hard look at it. Would you like each section of the website to have an overview page that you forgot? Did you accidently put customer testimonials in two places in the navigation when you’d only intended to put them in one area?
You should also try to look at your site map from a customer’s perspective. If they are looking for something, would it be easy for them to find it in the place you’ve chosen to put it? Would it make more sense somewhere else? Thinking critically in these first steps of website development can save you a lot of grief in the future!
Now that your site map is finished, it’s time to get to work on making your plan an actual production! If you’ve chosen Imagebox to build your site, that means we will put together a content document and start the site’s design, building on the foundation set up by your site map. And we’ll be there every step of the way to help you stay organized and on track, giving you a final product that your customer will love (and actually be able to navigate)!