How to Create a Squarespace Sitemap When Planning a New Website
In my previous blog post here, I talked about an XML Sitemap. Today, I’m going to talk about a different kind of sitemap. This sitemap serves a similar purpose as an XML sitemap, however, this is one that a website designer or website developer creates at the beginning of the design.
WHAT IS A SITEMAP?
A sitemap is a visual representation of a website’s structure. It should clearly communicate how all the information on a website is ordered and organized. It outlines the goals and purposes of a site, such as attracting new leads or making online sales, to giving direction to your project. It also helps you provide your website visitors with a user-friendly experience, like easy navigation, by establishing the hierarchy of your site’s pages at an early stage.
It is usually drawn with boxes which generally represent pages and lines represent links like the example below. Although similar at first glance, sitemaps should not be confused with task or user flows which detail the paths available to users when they use a website.
WHY DO I NEED A SITEMAP?
FOUR REASONS WHY YOU NEED A SITEMAP.
Sitemaps are best developed at the beginning of a website design project. Creating, testing, and refining a sitem/ap should help ensure:
1. Puts everyone on the same page.
A web design project involves the participation of many different people, including business owners, web designers, and account managers. By outlining a solid, agreed-upon plan at the beginning of a project, the entire process tends to flow better.
2. Establishes the site’s goals and purpose.
There are far too many websites nowadays that provide a poor user experience. These difficult-to-navigate sites typically lack a sitemap that outlines its goals and purposes. Once a sitemap is created, the pieces of a website are more easily plugged into place.
3. Prevents creation of duplicate content.
Duplicate content is another preventable web design mistake that can hurt your search rankings (SEO). If you map out a site beforehand, you’ll be able to avoid redundancy by determining early on where all your content should be located.
4. Sets up a clear conversion funnel path.
If you want to generate leads with digital marketing, you must have a clear conversion path. To achieve the best results, this process should start in the sitemap phase. Then, you can make sure your visitors are properly directed from your calls-to-action on each web page.
A sitemap is a resource that the client and web design team can refer back to throughout the project. It’s a handy tool that displays the relationships between your site’s pages and its content elements. Ultimately, building a website without a sitemap is like building a house without a blueprint.
HOW TO CREATE A SITEMAP
Have you ever created a “family tree” in school as a kid? You know the one, where it starts with a box at the top with your name in it and then branches out with family members? In essence, that’s what we’re going to do when creating a sitemap. It’s optional as to actually drawing the tree. :)
I’m an artist and a visual person so I start off with a pen and paper. Focus on documenting as many different ideas and approaches as possible rather than worrying about aesthetics.
Then on a separate clean sheet of paper, draw a box at the top of the page and label it “Home.”
Underneath this draw a row of boxes that represent the major, top-level pages. If there are more than 7, this may require a re-think. You want to keep the navigation as concise and simple as possible. Your top-level pages are typically going to be the ones that make up your site’s main navigation menu - the one that will be present throughout every single page of your website. For a web design agency, this may include “Services,” “About,” “Portfolio,” and “Prices.”
Add your secondary or “child” pages that are related to these top-level pages. These pages typically work best as more detailed, specific versions of their parent pages. For example, the “About” page may be related to the following “child” pages, “Team,” “Partners,” and “News.”
Continue to create, label, and organize boxes as if you were developing a mind map or organizational chart until you have detailed every page you want on your website.
Keep your main navigation as simple as possible. The more options you add the more distractions you’re providing for your visitors. Remember what your site’s primary objective is and use your top-level pages to push your visitors to that point.
Stick to your most necessary secondary pages if your navigation is going to include dropdown menus. Too many dropdowns can become frustrating and distracting to your website visitors.
Sitemaps are not static! Things change, and so does your sitemap. Allow for flexibility and don’t think your layout is set in stone.
Still unsure how to create a sitemap? I have good news! I made it easier for you. Sign up below to receive a free Squarespace Sitemap Template!
Do you create sitemaps before you design a website? Do you use a program online or like me, pen and paper? I’d love to hear how you create sitemaps and what additional tips you have to create a successful sitemap!