Implementing Good Site Map and Structure for your Website
Planning Out Site Structure and Flow
Planning out your site map and site structure is a very important part of developing a website. It can be often overlooked and this is a huge mistake because laying out your sitemap and sites structure should be the absolute first step when building a website. The best approach to site structure is to build a comprehensive site map that lays out where all content and information will reside on your website. This is where you will start to gather all of the information you need to start your website. Some of the common things you will want to create and have when developing your website are:
- What types of pages you will need
- Any logos, graphics and/or banners
- About/Contact Us information
- Blog Posts/Topics
- Desired Keyword Targeted
- Product Images/Descriptions
- Order Process Information
- Members Information
The more information you have the easier it will be to narrow down and create a site map that is effective for your website. And it is equally as important to remember that your site map is not your business organizational chart either. In fact, you should throw your organizational structure out the window when you start to build your website. The best thing you can do when you start your site map is to view your company through your potential customers eyes. What are they coming to see, where can they find it, is it easy to find and navigate back and forth through information? By looking at your organization through your customers eyes you will be able to better give people what they want and they will be more inclined to want to purchase from your company.
More than just a Map - A Good Site Plan and Layout Can Increase Conversion Rates:
Laying out your site map can very much be described as a goal oriented project. It may seem irrelevant, but if you start looking at it as an ends to a means it becomes something different. So here, first thing, if you haven’t already, start thinking about the goal of your website. What is the overall goal, and what is the goal per page/section of your website?
This exercise will serve you well as you start your site development. You will want to make sure each page or section of your website is goal oriented and performing a beneficial function for your website. And you will want to put in place proper tracking information on each page so you can accurately calculate your conversions rates. We will get into conversion rates later, but when planning your structure, start planning your goals.
Controlling the Flow
Controlling the flow visitors will take when on your website is something that you should be planning out when creating your site map and forming your overall site structure. Streamlining this flow is essential, as most of the time, visitors are looking for something specific and quickly. If they can't find it when they arrive on your site, well, you just lost a customer. Customers don’t want to wade through a lot of information and steps to purchase products. If you can find a way for a client to 1. find the information they want quickly and easily and 2. purchase that product or service quickly and easily, your website will do much better than the competition.
So how do you do this when building your site structure? Well, let's take the T-Shirt business for example and how I would start to lay it out. Well, first question...
What are my goals for each page/section of my website?
Start writing them out, be specific and targeted.
Throughout Entire Site
- Brand recognition
- Advertise Best Products
- Get Visitor to Sign up for Mailing List
- Get Visitors to Visit/Follow us on various Social Media Platforms
- Basic Contact Information
Specific Page Type Goals:
- Homepage: Search for products, click on products 'more info' page.
- Highlight Pages: highlight a Single Product or Single Category or Specific Artist, goal is to purchase the highlighted product.
- Artist Profile Pages: Personalized page for t-shirt designers. This is to incentivize artists to submit designs and gain free exposure from all artists friends and family.
- Products Information Pages: Get visitor to purchase product
- Products Search Pages: Get visitor to click on product 'more info' page
- About Us/Contact Us Pages: if issues arise, contact owner
Now from here you already gained a better understanding of how you will want your homepage to flow and what you will need to include for your visitors. In our example, visually the homepage would start out like this:
Tip: Don't be afraid to use sticky notes on a wall to write out example flows. This example is just a small piece of what your flow will look like at the end of the process.
As you start to grow this chart and add in the desired flow it will start to take shape. You will want to do this exercise for all pages. It may seem tedious, but it is necessary.
Site Map Software
While sticky notes will help at the beginning of the process, the example above was made using Microsoft PowerPoint. It is easy enough to change and edit if I need to and I can work in it pretty easily. One slide per page seems to be adequate. But, if you do want more professional help designing your sitemap, and you need more capabilities than what PowerPoint can offer, below are a variety of sitemap software programs you can use to help you.