Prior to any website development, it’s common practice to design a sitemap. This is essentially a mapped out version of your website will work, showing where pages are and how features relate to one another.
Why Start with a Sitemap?
A sitemap will help you to clarify the expectation for a visitor’s navigation through a website. Mapping these plans out visually can make sense of your website as a connected whole, giving precedence to the most important features. This includes the likes of product buy-ins, or lead capture, for example.
Advantages of the Sitemap
As well as expectation setting, a sitemap is also ideal for refining the preferred navigation process. During this process, a question your team must ask themselves is
“Is this the best way for users to move through our website?”
The next step is to assess – how do they really do it? Does your idea of visitor navigation match your sitemap? Laying this out will unearth some things that might not make the most sense, or could be improved upon. An example of this could be realising that it takes 4/5 clicks for users to access your product or service. If this process is considered lengthy or cumbersome to a user, they are likely to leave the website.
Creating a Clearer Process
We’ve previously discussed the value of ongoing, iterative design and development, which is crucial to ensure your website is up to date and growing in line with your evolving business objectives. Once a sitemap is outlined, you’ve got a sensible process you can build upon. This blueprint can be used to delegate responsibilities and design what happens first, and then what happens next.
Working in this way minimises the opportunity for error and helps you to highlight potential mistakes. This is a much easier process prior to development than after you’ve developed the site.
Whilst moving pages and changing a process flow might not be considered the biggest undertaking, if changes are taking place without the right development principles in place, mistakes can occur. This can cause an issue for search engines when they attempt to track where things are. As a result, your website ranking can be affected.
With the above considerations, proactive planning in conjunction with your developer will increase the likelihood that you’re adhering to best practice when you’re first designing your website, and when you’re building out new features.