We’ve received a handful of questions about site maps — the third element in our requirements to officially kick off your office or department’s site construction — so I thought I’d take a minute to explain a little bit more about what we’re looking for.
The best way to do this is to follow an example, so I’ve included one here with additional, clarifying information below. The example is very short and includes only five web pages. Note two things:
1. The site map orders information in a logical way
2. The basic outline only includes pages and does not include additional detail until later in the document
So, as you’re putting together your site map, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Put your information in a place that makes sense
Don’t worry about how users actually get there; just think about where it lives. Want a high-profile way to draw users from your homepage to information about a particular scholarship? You probably need a Scholarships page in your Special Programs & Opportunities section, so put it on your site map — but don’t worry about your homepage content here. Answer the question, “Where does it live?,” not “How will people find it?”
It may help to think about this as a file structure. Identify the files you’re putting information in, and do it in a way that will help first-time users find what they’re looking for. Put pages in clearly labeled folders.
2. Keep your site map clean (additional detail comes later on)
You’ll want to be able to account for where all of your content goes, but that doesn’t mean every piece of content has to be shown on your site map.
Clarifying details aren’t bad — in fact, they’re quite good — but you should leave them out of your navigation. In our scholarship example from number 1 above, there’s no need to actually list the names of your scholarships in your site map. If it’s important to identify them, put them on page two.
You should end up with an at-a-glance, high-level view of the structure of your website. Make it easy to read, clean and clear. Make each page a bullet; make each child page a sub-bullet.
At the end of this process, we want a map that can be used as a blueprint for building individual pages. If it’s listed on the map, it becomes a page.