Today we ran a five hour sitemapping and website project planning session for the Weald & Downland Living Museum, a local outdoor museum that has commissioned us for a large website rebuild.
What is sitemapping and why is it needed?
A sitemap is the hierarchical list of pages and posts that make up a website. We plan this because without doing so, the eventual website will invariably end up difficult to navigate for human users, confusing for Google, and generally a bit of a mess.
When done properly, this can take some time and requires input from not just the client and website developer, but also the user experience (UX) manager, the designer and the SEO expert. We can’t stress enough how this is time well spent.
All large sites we’ve built from scratch or rebuilt have begun with this process.
How do you sitemap?
There are various ways to do this. Our favoured technique is to write down every single page on a PostIt note, stick it on a large wall, and then let the client and the project team loose on it. Ask which pages are likely to be the most commonly visited (check your Analytics stats) and which contain the crucial keywords (‘cornerstone content’).
Also think about the expected behaviour of your target users. What’s the logical user journey likely to be?
For example, user visits a blog post that you’ve promoted on social media, they follow a link to a product, they add this to their basket, go to checkout and return to a confirmation page. Or perhaps they arrive on your homepage, follow a nice big graphical link to a specialist service to read more, and then click through to fill out your enquiry form.
Rearrange all those PostIt notes into a logical order, grouping together similar subjects or related services. You may decide to split or merge pages together, or to rename pages using more friendly terms or important keywords.
Soon you’ll arrive at a hierarchical structure – sections, landing pages, subpages, crosslinks – from which you can finalise your sitemap.
Then, and only then, should the design and build process begin. Don’t be tempted to wireframe, design or build, or even write content, without sitemapping first!
Before and after
These are the before and after pictures from today’s sitemapping workshop. The tidy one is the existing sitemap (though with around 80 4th level pages omitted); the second image is the end result – more messy looking but once typed up into a finalised sitemap far more logical and user friendly!
Need help sitemapping?
Is your website in a mess and due for a refresh? If you need us to run a session like this then just drop us a line. We can help with the initial planning processes ahead of the design, build and implementation of a website, so that your launch goes without a hitch.