What do clients need to know to make good decisions about their web site? A general understanding of the web development process is a given. And one of the most powerful tools in web design is the development and use of a site map.
What is a site map?
When you build a web site, how do you know what content to put on which page? How much content? What kind of content? This is the beginnings of your content strategy.
Content strategy has been described as “…the practice of planning the content creation, delivery, and governance.” and “a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project.” In order to craft a good strategy, you need a roadmap. Enter the site map.
The simplest site map is an outline of all the pages of your web site. Formats can range from a one page text file to elaborate wireframes with a color legend.
Ultimately, your site map combines web design principles and business goals into a working plan that will see your site development to completion.
Components of a site map
-defines your content strategy
-defines the site architecture
-has buy-in by all stakeholders
-is reviewed on a regular basis
-evolves as needed
-facilitate client/partner collaboration
-crystalizes expectations, goals and strategy
-targets your real audience
-does not include all content, but the right content
-sets project timeline
-sets benchmarks for review
Since your client is the expert on their business, only he/she will be able to drive the development of this critical element. The site map determines how MOST of the content will be organized. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be the ultimate end-all, be-all site map… YET. But we do need a working template before any web development can proceed. Ask them to think in broad strokes and try to organize accordingly.
In earlier posts, we discussed how you can accomplish this by reviewing competitor sites and making a list of what you like and don’t like about their site. Everything from design (color of the menu bars) to organization (how many categories? how deep? how detailed?)
Give your client helpful suggestions or questions to ask themselves when they are reviewing a web site. Teach them how to appreciate good design.
Here are some good general purpose articles on the how/why/what of site map creation.