What is a Sitemap?
When you’re setting up shop online, it’s important to consider how your customer will make their way from A-Z. A sitemap is a layout of your website’s contents.
It’s necessary to make your website visitors’ user experience sensible and smooth. Especially when your website contains more than a few pages. In most web design and development projects, designing a sitemap is one of the first jobs on the to-do list. That’s because it lays the foundation for your online store.
You can draw up and alter your sitemap at any point during the website development process of your online store.
What is Site Mapping?
It's the action of creating a sitemap, and it involves making a list or diagram that communicates the web pages on your website.
It's used to create a whole new website, remodel an existing one or assist website visitors in navigating your site.
Because sitemaps are considered a technical component of SEO, it's easy to be intimidated by the concept. In truth, you don’t need to be an expert or have the technical experience to build a sitemap. It's not that tough. And we’ll prove that to you shortly
Visual Sitemap vs Technical Sitemap
A picture that draws a list of all your website's intended pages and related content, often in hierarchical order.
This is sometimes referred to as an XML sitemap, and it has the same layout as the visual sitemap, but it ensures that every link on your website is included for SEO purposes. It gives Google the information it needs to understand your site's structure and rank its pages.
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Why is a sitemap beneficial?
- Every page of your website is defined and organised in a systematic order.
- It aligns your design, website development, and SEO.
- It ensures that your customer has a good user experience (UX).
How to Create a Sitemap for Your Website
1. Plan your content ideas
Laying out all your website's content ideas is the first step in creating an effective sitemap. Start with a massive brainstorm and explore everything you could potentially want to feature on your site at this point; you'll have time to polish your ideas later.
Evaluate each of your ideas from the viewpoint of your user. How will each piece of information benefit the user or your company? Begin categorising and subcategorising your ideas, eliminating anything that does not benefit your users as you go.
Look for opportunities where you can merge your thoughts. Ask yourself: is it possible for two very similar ideas to be under the umbrella of a single page on your website?
2. List your website's categories and sub-categories
The next thing to consider is how all this content will appear to a new visitor to your website. Identify the key categories and organise the content under them using the groups you created in Step 1.
It all begins with the homepage. Then you move on to think about where your homepage will link your website user. When you're doing this, bear in mind the content of your website. Recognise that pages located further from your website's homepage will be more difficult to rank for.
This is also an excellent opportunity to include keys or symbols that'll help you organise your sitemap. Your homepage, for example, may be a triangle, and each category could be a circle.
Tip in action: Prioritise your content into tiers that follow a logical order.
To make this step a little easier, check out a sitemap template and consider how your pages would appear.
3. Start filling in content and information to your sitemap
Label each category clearly and begin adding more information to each item. Adding your page's URL is a great approach to start organising the technical aspects of your business's website as you go.
You can also identify which pages you want to use for marketing, which pages will have video and images, and which pages will need the user to fill out a form to access a new landing page or exclusive material.
4. Fine-tune your sitemap
At this point, you should have a comprehensive diagram, so it's time to put it to the test. Here are a few activities to assist you make sure you're on track with this sitemap.
Create fictitious user journeys
Consider any user profiles you have and how they might use the site. Create a list of questions that customers might have and a plan for how they'd find the answers.
- What are the major stumbling blocks?
- Where do you think they'd have trouble deciding what to do?
You may need to restructure these areas.
Get a second opinion
Give your sitemap to a friend or trusted person who isn't working on the project. Ask that they locate the pages that have the answers to your online business’s offering.
If they don't know where to look for anything they need, it's time to make some modifications.
In your diagram, double-check that each piece of information is consistent and clear.
- Have you bolded all the page titles?
- Is there a URL for each page that follows SEO best practices?
- Are you referring to your brand look on a regular basis?
It's easier to read and use your sitemap if it's consistent throughout.
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5. Distribute the sitemap
To offer everyone a clear idea of what you're going to build, share the sitemap with your web designers, writers, freelancers, and leadership team.
Tools and Resources for Site Mapping
While Google Sheets or Excel can be used to lay out your core navigation and site structure, the following tools can help you present the sitemap more elegantly and plan the content creation process for any missing pieces of information.
- Gloomaps – minimalistic and free
- Slickplan – feature-rich, suitable for agencies and teams
- Miro – feature-rich, especially for large-scale collaboration
- Octopus – free, good for modest sites with block-building skills
Doing market research? Check out Our Top 10 Market Research Tools (And Why You Should Use Them)
How to Make Your Online Store's Navigation Structure More Effective
A solid navigation system helps your customers find what they're looking for quickly and easily, which boosts your online store's overall success.
You only have a few seconds to catch a visitor's attention on your website, so you need to make sure you direct them to the information they need immediately!
Use language that is simple and straightforward
Make sure your labels are clear and meaningful for your main navigation menu (often found in your website header).
Just by reading the title, your website visitor should be able to tell which products are in a category or what information they'll find when they click on a drop-down menu. It may be tempting to get inventive with your phrasing, but this may confuse rather than inspire your customers to click.
So, the simpler, the better.
Put it to the test: Visit your favourite online store's website and see if their navigation menu is simple and easy to understand and use.
Make the titles at the top of the page clickable
Some websites include top-level navigation items that open a dropdown menu rather than redirecting the user to a new page. However, this isn’t clear for website visitors, particularly if they cannot open the dropdown for any reason.
Consider linking the top-level item to your primary category page and including subcategories in dropdowns if you list product categories in your menu. Users will be able to locate exactly what they're looking for or browse entire categories because of this.
Include dropdown indicators
Dropdown indicators usually include an arrow next to each navigation label to indicate that the menu item expands. They allow website users to see that there are additional options without hovering over each item individually.
Stick to the tried-and-true locations
Using creativity in your website design is a terrific approach to set yourself apart from the competition. However, if your inventiveness creates uncertainty, you risk losing both customers and sales.
It's wise to position your navigation where people will expect to find it.
According to eye-tracking studies, website users first gaze at the upper left of a page. So, maintain the main navigation at the top and the most significant stuff, such as the home page, on the left side.
While "hamburger" menus (which expand when users click on a three-line icon) are useful for mobile menus, they may be puzzling on desktop PCs.
Because the icon is so small and frequently hidden away in the corner, it's easy for website visitors to miss it. It also fails to highlight your most crucial menu items, forcing visitors to go a step farther to get what they're looking for.
BONUS: Make the Most Out of Your Footer Navigation
Your website's footer should not be an afterthought but an integral element of your overall plan. It's a great spot to highlight your most important pages because it's shown on every page and product on your site.
You don't want to develop a huge, overpowering footer with dozens of links, but you do want to make the most of the space you have. Consider your footer to be a catch-all. What information would a website visitor find most helpful if they read all the content on a page and scroll to the bottom?
It could be comparable to the links in your primary menu in some circumstances. Adding these options to your footer allows visitors to get what they're searching for without returning to the top of the page.
But don't overlook the pages and content that website visitors expect to find in an online store's footer. Consider the following scenario:
- Shipping information
- Return and refund policies
- Terms and conditions
- Customer service details
- Contact information
- A search bar
- Social media links
- Your blog
Before you go live with your online business website, read the 9 Things to Know Before Starting an Online Business
Happy Site Mapping!
Pat yourself on the back because you’re ready create a sitemap and navigation structure for your online business. We’d love to see your online business website when it’s live.
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