The Value of the Site Map Diagram in Web Design
So you are doing your due diligence of investigating the top creative web design agencies in the area to build the best website money can buy. There are likely to be a plethora of players and qualifications on your checklist, making this a challenging and often tangent-filled task. Along the way, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important player – your target audience.
Oftentimes, the first step to building a website involves defining and analyzing website goals and objectives and competitive environment of your business. But, arguably, the most important step of the conception phase is to map out the user-navigation and flow of your website. This is where the often under-valued site map comes in. This element of the website is often called the information architecture (IA).
The main purpose of a site map diagram is to understand the structural organization of, and parent-child relationships between, various pages of the website. Not to be confused with a text-based site map (often displayed as a link in the footer for search engine optimization SEO), site map diagrams are best designed in the form of a flowchart. Flowchart content can vary greatly from site to site. But commonly site map diagrams follow one of the two layouts described below:
Depicts the customer conversion process
This diagram outlines how a user will be taken through your website and lead to the point of conversion. If an objective of your website is to generate leads, the process should be planned thoroughly and mapped out in a flow chart or outline. Perhaps your website has more than one conversion point i.e download white papers, capture an email address and/or fill out a form that feeds into your sales cycle. What does the path look like towards these conversions? The site map answers this question. In addition, it is important to nail this down before the development of the website begins. It is always advantageous to measure twice and cut once. This simple yet often overlooked step in the web design process can prevent head aches in the design process and ultimately save time and money.
Highlight the product/service features
This example focuses on the multiple levels (categories, subcategories, products, product options) of your offerings.
Site maps should be designed to enhance the ease of user navigation based on the goals and objectives of your website. A great tool for this is Gliffy.com, which offers free accounts to create, store, and export diagrams online. It is always beneficial to look towards industry leaders to gain inspiration on the best practices for organizing the information architecture of your website.