Site Maps are Critical, Here’s Why
Information Architecture, Site Maps, and Your Website
To some, making a site map might seem like a needless chore. Designing a new website is a daunting process as it is; why further complicate the matter by adding extra steps, you might ask. Because there is often a great volume of information that needs to be worked through and organized.
Designers often create wireframes and mockups to plan out the site, but when planning a website’s information architecture, we start by making a site map.
Information architecture: organizing information in a logical way so visitors to your website can get around and find what they need.
We also think about how our clients’ website meets user needs, as well as organizational goals. For example, a nonprofit’s main objective might be to drive donations. A B2B company likely wants to generate leads, inform, and sell their product or service.
IA is a vital component of user experience (UX) design. It’s not about organizing your information how you think it should be organized. UX design flips that and focuses on helping website visitors and considers how they want information ordered and presented. This often entails talking to your buyers or donors (actual members of your target audience) to find out what they want. You also explore trends and analyze how your audience uses websites.
Site maps fit into this process because no one wants to design a site that is needlessly complicated. Before you start designing, sit down and figure out what pages are lacking, how the pages relate one another, and what can be cut out completely.
This process minimizes time spent creating unnecessary pages. Trust us, it’s better to add or get rid of something now instead of when the site is ready to launch.
The site map should be accessible to all team members working on the site build. From the designer, to the project manager, to the developer – it should be easy to find and edit. Because, guess what? It’s not a static document. Changes might be necessary and that’s okay – nay… encouraged.
A site map helps clarify purpose and goals. Without it, your site will be hard to navigate and ultimately result in poor user experiences. With a site map, you are deciding what you want from your site, what its purpose is. Then your team can make sure every touchpoint on your website – every page and link – is reinforcing those goals.
Site maps also help avoid duplicate content. Site maps are great at helping us see if content can be combined or linked out. You might not even realize that you’re creating the same content unless you have a handy map that tracks everything. Without a site map, you might end up with conflicting information, one page that gets updated but not another, and all sorts of other wasteful things.
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Have a project? Think we’d be a good fit? Get in touch! If it’s a website you need built, you better believe we’ll be starting with a site map.