How to Create an Effective Site Map for Your Website

As I struggle through a 527 line Excel spreadsheet that I need to coerce into a coherent site map, I decided to write up some of my thoughts on developing an effective site outline for a website.

In no particular order:

  1. The home page doesn't get any sub-navigation. Don't ask me why, it just does. Move along, nothing to see here.
  2. A site map's purpose is to tell you where pages exist within the structure of a website.
  3. A site map's purpose isn't to list every element of each page, especially repeating items like “search box” or “email signup box.” That goes somewhere else, like in an Information Architecture document or a checklist of “things it would suck to forget.”
  4. A place for everything and everything in its place. Think of the site map as a tree. If you have a page that doesn't connect to the rest of the site what you've got is a dead branch. The only pages you don't need in a site map is Not Found and Thank You (landing page for contact forms.)
  5. “About” should be one of the last items, not right after “Home.” Websites for individuals may be the only exception to this rule, and even then not very often.
  6. If you've got to the 5th level of navigation, you've gone too far. Carol Anne – listen to me. Do NOT go into the light. Stop where you are. Turn away from it. Don't even look at it.
  7. Every line in the site map = one Web page. If you've got a Resources section that includes Links and FAQs, you still need content for the Resources overview page.

Any other suggestions?

Rich Brooks
Site Maps for Dummies