What is a site map?
A site map is a visual representation of how your website content will be organized. It is a type of chart that uses boxes to represent pages, and lines to show the connections between the pages. By looking at the site map, you can easily see what the structure of your website pages will be.
For example, take a look at the site map for the top navigation menu of the Cornershop Creative website.
As you can see, each of the boxes is labeled as one of the main pages on our website. After design and development are complete, the menu looks very different, but still contains the same content titles.
As each subpage is added to the site map, it will have a line that shows which of the main pages, or sections, that it will be nested under on the website. These pages can be several levels deep, so the lines will help you see where the pages connect and how they correlate to other pages.
The top row of pages (blue in this example) will be included in your top level navigation for your website. The other levels of the site map will likely be included in the dropdown menu, if that is relevant for your site. Again, the site map itself will not show how the website navigation will look after it is designed. The finished site will look different, but contain the same information.
Utility and footer pages may also be included in your site map.
Utility pages are often seen above the top navigation on the finished website, but the utility pages for the Cornershop website are next to the menu on the right side. These include “Search” and “Contact Us”.
When added to a site map, these pages will be in a separate section above the main site map. You may need to click the arrow next to “Utility pages” to open these pages.
Footer pages are the pages that will be included in the footer at the bottom of the website.
On the site map, these will be in the section under the main map, beneath the “Footer pages” heading. You may need to click the arrow next to “Footer pages” to open these pages.
As in the above examples, utility and footer pages will likely be a different color to increase clarity while viewing, but the colors and styles used in the site map should not be seen as an indication of the design that will be applied to your finished website.
For example, the footer of the Cornershop website looks like this:
How to Review Your Site Map
To begin, review your goals and priorities for the site and compare it with the pages in the proposed site map. Then ask yourself these questions:
Are all the pages discussed in discovery included in the site map?
Are all the most important pages in the top two levels of the site map?
Does the order and structure of the site map fit the goals you have listed?
Are there any pages that should be moved, or nested, under another page?
Are there any pages, such as donate, that would be better as utility pages or top level pages?
Do the pages make sense where they are placed?
Are there any other pages that should be added?
Are there pages that need to be deleted?
Are all the titles correct, or do some of them need to be updated? Note: Cornershop carefully selected the page titles, so they are intuitive for users and optimized for search engines.
Remember to consult any major stakeholders for their opinions, and keep a list of the changes you would like, so you can share it with the Cornershop team.
As you review, keep the following in mind:
Established websites can have thousands of pages, including blog posts, team bio pages, news feeds, etc. These pages will not be included in the site map as individual pages, but instead will be understood as sections within the website (i.e. your 1000 blog posts might just be listed as “Individual blog posts” on the site map).
There may be notes added to individual pages to explain why a new page was added, or the ideas behind what a page should include. Pages with notes will have a Notes icon in the top center of the box. You can open the notes panel by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of the box.
The first draft of a site map is not final, and we encourage you to let your review spark new ideas about the structure of the pages you want to have on your website.
You know your audience best, so you should let your Project Manager know if things need to be added or changed on your site map before we move forward with development.