Kristin Pruis • June 11, 2014
As you think about planning your website, it’s important to know that creating a solid foundation starts with well-developed site map. Creating this strategic plan for your site is one of, if not, the most important thing you can do in the beginning stages of developing your website design.
Essentially, a site map is the basic structure of all pages contained within your website and their relationships to each other. It is important to develop a site map and agree on it with your developer and designer to ensure that your goals and vision for the new website align. Without this agreement upfront, paving a clear path for decisions later could be difficult. A site map is typically visualized through a “tree” structured map. Note that the more pages and information you have on your website, the more complex your site map will be.
When you start planning your website, you will need to answer a few key questions:
What are the business goals of your website?
Is your primary goal to drive e-commerce sales or to create brand awareness? Maybe your goals include product education or showcasing your industry expertise. Whatever your goals are, make sure they are at the forefront as you start to plan out your website.
What will be the user journey throughout the site?
Think about the end user of your website. What information are they seeking? How can you create a simple path that will allow them to easily navigate through your site? How much information is your target audience willing to consume and at what stage are they in the buying cycle?
What tools would you like to use to develop your site map?
You have many options when it comes to how you will actually create your site map. Some people prefer simply using a pencil and paper while others use word processors, image editing software or online services like Gather Content or Jump Chart. However, there is no right or wrong tool to create your site map.
Once you have decided on the answers to these questions, you should have a clearer picture of what information is the most important and how it can be laid out. This is called the information architecture. Once you develop your high level categories (i.e. Services or About), you can segment these into logical and relevant sub-sections of your site.
A good rule of thumb is to not create any section of your site that is more than 3 page levels or three clicks deep. The above site map illustration shows only two levels of information. This simplifies the path for the user and makes finding information easier and faster.
So you’ve finished planning your website – Now what?
Once you develop your site map, you can start visualizing the navigation of your site and how each page will link to the others. You can also begin developing the content for each page because you have a context about where the page is located on your site and how users will get there. Your next steps will then take you into website design and development.
Need help planning your website or want to learn more about website design and development? Contact K Design Co.