The site mapping phase of a website project is a strategic process that if done correctly, will set the tone for your entire website.
A site map is a hierarchical listing of a website’s pages. In addition to a listing of the pages, site maps also typically include details regarding the page intent, content, and functionality for each page.
The reason site mapping is important is because it will ideally help you build a site around purposeful and sound bones that will allow the rest of the pieces to properly fall into place. The site map will also help to determine the overall architecture of your site and ensure all necessary items are present and accounted for.
Whether you are building a brand new site or revamping an existing one, the site map will act as your guide for the remainder of the project. It will be referenced throughout each phase, dictating a carefully strategized plan that will shape the website. The site map will list the items needed in your utility navigation, main navigation, secondary pages, and footer. It will also help you to outline page content and eliminate pages that are not needed.
Following these four-steps will help ensure your site mapping process yields the most successful and productive results on behalf of your website:
Step 1: Set Goals
Once you’ve completed your all-important kickoff meeting, you’ll next want to set an overall goal for what your website will be and will do. This an important first step in the site mapping process.
Think about the information you want to convey to visitors and what actions you want them to take on your site. 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.
Step 2: Audit Your Existing Site
After putting a goal in place for your site, it is important to run an audit of your existing site (if applicable). This will allow you to gain a better understanding of what is working well and what should be changed when building the new site.
An audit will help to determine the value of pages and how they are built. An audit will also analyze how each page is being used and how critical they are to the conversion funnel. This information will be incredibly valuable when putting together the site map.
Knowing exactly where pages are linking to, what pages are driving the most traffic, and how targeted keywords can improve your search rankings, will allow you to make informed decisions on where and how pages should live on your site.
Step 3: Consider Your Site’s Architecture
Once the audit is complete, 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 visitors shoes to gain perspective on what makes the most logical sense as they click through your site. Evaluate every click to ensure a clear and concise path is being made, even in reverse order.
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 4: Start Your Site Map
Now it is time to take this detailed 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.
But before you know where you’re going, it’s imperative you know where you’re coming from. This means that your agency should first layout the site map of your existing site, review best practices, as well as consider competitor research to create a new site map. The following are key sections of your new site map:
- Navigation —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 nav 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.
- Secondary Pages — After outlining the navigation items, the secondary pages, or interior pages, can be now be mapped out. These are the pages that will live under the main navigation and become the interior body of the site. It is important to consider content when creating the interior pages to avoid having duplicate content or unnecessary pages. Interior page content is typically more focused on specific information, where the main nav page content is generally overarching information.
- 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.