How Can a Sitemap Help My Web Design?

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A sitemap is, funnily, what it sounds like.  It diagrams the structure of your site and all the connections between your pages and out into the larger world-wide web.

I use MindMeister to create my sitemaps.  It’s straightforward to use and maps are easy to share with a client.  There are other options out there that are free – MindMeister allows for three free maps and then a monthly subscription is required.

Why Is This Useful?

When used during the discovery phase of a web project, it facilitates content discussions while everything is still easy to change.  If a client has a site already that you’re reworking, mapping the current site helps to catalogue its content, find broken links and dead-ends, and identify any redundant content.  Over years, without proper maintenance, a site can grow arms and legs.

A Sitemap in Action

Let’s take a look at the map for this website:

Sitemap of kaitlinburge.com

Main pages are listed in turquoise, and content sections are itemized in the same order they’re presented on the page.  This site has no parent/child pages, so everything is one layer deep.

Notes on content and hyperlinks are added as notes visible on a hover, indicated by the white, circular icons.

Header Footer Sitemap

I also log my header and footer content off to the side, disconnected from the main map.  These show on every page and aren’t attached to any one, so I set them off on their own.

In designing my own website, I explored different layout options.  I considered separating my Graphic Design page into two, pulling out branding into its own page and sequestering more creative projects into a graphic design gallery.

As I began to assemble content, I felt this more streamlined design was easier to navigate.

If your sitemap seems confusing or cluttered or unbalanced, it’s a good indication your website will also be unbalanced when it’s done.  Keep working the  map until it feels like it flows.

Streamlining Client Discussions

When working with a client, getting agreement at this stage lets the design process go forward smoothly, without a lot of mid-stream redesigns due to missing or redundant content.

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