Toward the beginning of our web design process at Infomedia, we create a site map for your new website — this functions as a kind of outline, or plan, for the way your future site is organized.
At Infomedia, our web design process starts with a site map, or a plan for the organization of your site. Creating your site map is a great way to plan what you’ll include on your future website. If you’re starting from scratch, drawing up a site map can be a guide not only for your web designer, but also for you as you gather content about your business. And if you’re migrating content from an existing website to a new one, your site map can help you improve the way your content is organized and identify what needs to be updated and changed.
Putting the site map together helps you get your ideas together and organized so your website designer can understand what you’re going for — it can also be useful in figuring out what’s missing, because the site map often reveals holes in your content. Knowing at the beginning of the process that you’ll need to get more text or photos can shave time off your deadline, because you can be working on getting that content while your designer starts crafting your website.
So, How Do I Create My Site Map?
Most site maps will have some pages in common (About, Bios and Contact are common pages), so you can start there. If you already have content, take a look and see how you’d like it structured. You might also want to check out competitor websites and see if they have good ideas for content. From there, make an outline of where you think the pages should be organized on your site — your web designer and developer will be incredibly helpful in this part of the process because they can incorporate what they know about website structure and user experience to make your site map plan even better. Once you’re almost ready, take a second look and find those holes where you’ll need to add content.
Is the Site Map Just an Outline of Your Navigation Menu?
It can be tempting to just see the site map as a plan for how the navigation of your website (the menu and header and footer) will be set up, because often the site map outline and the navigation structure will have a lot in common. But they’re not the same: While you might not add every single page of your website to your main menu, your web developer will still need to know where you’re planning on putting that content in order to build a place for it.
To a website developer, the site map is kind of like the architect’s blueprint. When a web developer builds a website, structure is incredibly important, just as it would be to a construction crew who’s building a house. Every little thing that you’ll want in your eventual house, from walls and doorways to the kitchen sink to your fireplace, is on that blueprint. In the same way, everything you know you’ll want on your website should have a place on your site map — even if it’s not going to show up in your navigation.
What’s the Big Deal? Can’t You Just Move Pages Around Later?
Sometimes it’s easy to make structural changes to your website, but often it isn’t, especially if the page you want to move has any kind of unique structural elements (like sidebars, buttons, lists, special menus, etc.). If the page stays the same structurally and stays under the same “parent” page, moving it is usually easy. A Content Management System like WordPress makes this kind of change simple, and you can even make it post-launch without the help of a developer. But sometimes it’s more tricky:
Each page needs to have a “parent” page, which is the page it’s nested under in the hierarchy of your website. This is one area where your site map differs from your navigation menu — while you can navigate to a page from more than one place (from both the footer and the menu, for example), that page can only live in one place on your website. It’s kind of like a bedroom in house — even if the room can be accessed from two places, like the hallway and the bathroom, it can only exist in one physical place. So it’s important to be sure the bedroom is in the right spot on your blueprint before you start building. Otherwise, moving it is a lot of trouble (and a lot of money). In the same way, deciding where your pages live (which parent pages they fall under) toward the beginning of your web design process will save you a lot of trouble (and sometimes a lot of money) later on.
Want to Get Started?
Great! Start by making a list of the new content you want on your website. If you already have a website, take a good hard look at that content and decide what stays, what goes, and what you can change to make even better. When you’re ready to talk to a web designer, you can always contact Infomedia for help — if you already have an idea for your site map in hand, you’ll be ahead of the game!