A sitemap is, perhaps, the most under-appreciated part of a website. As the internet integrates with our lives, it’s become nothing short of second nature for us to navigate across web pages — until we land on one with a low-quality or illogical sitemap design. A poorly designed sitemap makes it nearly impossible to find any important information and can be enough to send potential customers away.
Why You Should Use A Sitemap for Better Website Navigation
Most visitors will decide whether they’re going to stay on your site in just seconds. In fact, 55 percent of most internet traffic stays for just 15 seconds. If you want to capture the attention of potential customers, you must have a page that looks fantastic, works efficiently, and makes sense.
We’ll save the aesthetics portion for another article and focus on the sitemap. Many companies make the mistake of creating a site, adding content, and then attempting to link everything together through a sitemap — sort of like building a car and trying to go back in to install the wiring after the car is assembled. You miss things, cross links over, and can make pretty serious mistakes in the face of the resulting frustration.
Poor sitemaps can waste a lot of time and energy, too. If you don’t begin with a solid plan, you could accidentally duplicate a page that already exists or create something overly similar. The cluttered menu will cost you personally, but it could also damage the company by creating an unprofessional appearance.
Step One: Sitemaps
Designing a sitemap needs to be the first order of business when you’re building a website. It’ll function like an outline for an essay, helping to organize your thoughts. You can decide which navigation buttons you want to include, what they’ll be called and how many menus each will have.
This is incredibly simple for some businesses, especially if there are only a select few products or services. Others, such as clothing retailers, may have several sub-sections, and sub-sections beyond those. For example, they could have Apparel > Women > Tops > Sweaters, Tees, and Tanks. It’s natural, logical and easier to shop through.
What is another great benefit of creating a sitemap before you complete your site? It’s easier to change. Whether you’re scribbling notes with a pen or jotting down lists on the computer, it’s much easier to switch around a few words than mess with lines of code. Having an outline comes in handy when working with a separate website designer, too, since he or she can more quickly translate your ideas.
How to Design a Sitemap
Creating your own navigation menu can seem pretty daunting, especially if you have no website-building experience. It’s not as difficult as it may seem. Plus, you know your business better than anyone, so you can be sure that the most important aspects are getting enough attention.
Envision a tree when you’re crafting your sitemap. Your homepage is the trunk. It holds up the rest of the site and serves as a sturdy base for your commerce. Your primary pages are the biggest branches. They’re the buttons that are always visible, often including drop downs. There are typically only a few of these types of buttons, such as Products, About Us, Contact, and Blog.
Next, think about the smaller branches, or secondary pages. As we discussed, some trees will naturally call for more sub-sections, and that’s OK. Try to create the most efficient style for your company and use as many (or as few) as you need.
Keep It Simple
Secondary pages are awesome, and viewers will tolerate/use a fairly high number of them. A quick way to lose their interest, though, is using too many tertiary (or quaternary, etc.) pages. For leave your drop downs with only one or two levels.
You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. By the same token, you need a polished and effective sitemap to build a successful website.
Mapping Photo via Shutterstock