Create a Site Map Before You Build Your Site

Before you build your website, plan it with a visual site map

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When people think of site maps, they often think of ​XML site maps that contain a link to every page on a website. However, for the purposes of planning a new website, a visual site map is a useful tool. By generating a site map of your proposed site and the sections you plan to have on it, you can gauge the size and scope of the project. Think of it as the blueprint for your website.

Web pages are arranged in a hierarchical format to help users find the pages they need on the site. Each major section or topic has a link on the homepage to direct users to the information they seek. Each of those pages has additional links to other pages. Site maps illustrate the connections and depth of the website.

Why Draw a Site Map

It takes a village to launch a new website. A site map illustrates the project and provides a simple way to judge the size of the project. It provides a high-level view of the prospective website, and it is a catalyst for getting your initial thoughts on paper. You can use a site map to assign areas of responsibility to team members or as a checklist to record progress.

How to Draw a Site Map

Take time to brainstorm before you sit down to draw a site map. When drawing a site map to plan your site, you can be as simple or as complex as you need to be. It helps to begin with the elements that most websites usually have — links for About, Privacy Policy, and Contact Us, for example.

  1. Grab a piece of paper and a pen or fire up a software program.
  2. Draw a box, which represents the homepage, near the top and label it "homepage."
  3. Under the homepage box, draw a second level containing additional boxes for every major section of your site, beginning with the obvious sections for About and Contact. Beyond these, add boxes for the main sections of your website. These vary, but they might include Services, Products, FAQs, Our People, Forums, Shop, Help, and so on.
  4. Draw lines between each box (web page) and the homepage to indicate that they should be linked directly from the homepage.
  5. Under each section, add boxes (at a third level) for additional pages you need in each section and draw lines from those boxes to the section box. For example, under a Products box, you may want a box for each of the products or category of products that you sell.
  6. For a large website, continue creating boxes at subsequent levels to represent web pages and draw lines to connect them to other pages until you have every page you want on your website organized and listed.

    Tools You Can Use to Draw a Site Map

    You can use pencil and paper to create a site map, or you can build your map digitally using software, such as:

    • Photoshop, Paint or another graphics program
    • Mind mapping software such as MindManager or Scapple
    • Flowchart software like Cacoo or Creately
    • Site map software like WriteMaps or Mindnode