When the time finally comes to redesign your website, you might feel a sense of excitement and motivation. You have an idea in mind of how the new site will look, but where exactly is the best place to start? It’s natural to want to immediately dive into the aesthetics of your website, but this isn’t a recommended starting point. The success of a website cannot be achieved on design alone. First and foremost, you need to evaluate what your goals are and who will be using your site. Once you have that figured out, it’s time to move into building your site’s architecture, or sitemap.
What Is A Visual Sitemap?
Simply put, a visual sitemap is a blueprint for your website. It paves the way for how the pages of your site will be organized using a hierarchical chart. There are many ways you can put one together - you can utilize a digital site mapping tool (I personally use Slickplan), or you can stick to the basics and go completely analog (for example, a giant notepad with markers and sticky notes - our CEO’s preferred method). Whichever tool you use is completely up to you, but defining what success looks like for your new site will be the key to how you build a proper sitemap.
What Goal Is Your Business Trying To Achieve?
One of the first conversation points we have with our clients is understanding their business and what goals they are trying to achieve online. For some, the goal might be revenue-based (increased ticket sales, e-commerce, etc) and for others, it might be increasing the engagement of their target audience (for example, getting more young adults involved with a church’s online offerings and attending more events). Defining your business goals is an important step in creating your sitemap because they will indicate what your CTAs (calls to action) are going to be and will provide you with a sense of transparency as to what pages need to be at the forefront of your new site.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Now that your business goals are set, it’s time to define who it is that will be using your site. Remember earlier when I stated that the success of a website is not defined by design alone? Your design has to be strategically thought out to help you achieve your goals. Your goals will only be achieved by creating a pleasant and easy-to-use user experience for your audience.
For example, if you are a law firm and your target audience is made up of men and women seeking immigration-based legal assistance - the site’s structure needs to be simple to navigate and should clearly display a way for the user to get in touch with your firm. Don't bury a ‘Contact Us’ page within your site’s navigation and forget to add a phone number or CTA button in the utility navigation (a type of navigation that is not content-based and instead is action driven). Touch points like this need to be very easily found otherwise you run the risk of the user getting frustrated and venturing elsewhere for assistance.
It’s All About The Research
Is it time to start designing? Not quite. Your next step should be to review what pages you have on your current site and make a list of all the pages that need to live on the new site. Again, if you've had the chance to work with us, you know that we are a data-driven company. Organizing content is not excluded from this methodology.
The first area we review to make an informed decision on which pages should be transferred over is Google Analytics (assuming you utilize Google Analytics tracking - if not, shame on you). If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site, you can use a number of other research tools to help you (SEMrush is one I use frequently). Google Analytics offers detailed insights into what pages are driving the most traffic along with a lot of other metrics that help us understand how an audience interacts with a site.
Depending on how much historical data is present in Google Analytics, I typically review a site’s traffic data from the last 6-12 months. From there, I can easily make note of which pages are the top performers and which ones are considered dead weight. One tactic I like to utilize is to look for pages that are similar to each other in terms of content that can be combined. Reducing your site’s clutter really improves a user’s experience and it also gives you fewer pages to manage. You might even be able to strengthen your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) by combining that similar content into one, well-informed page.
SEO Quick Tip: Always make sure that your webpages stick to one main focal point so search engine crawlers will not have to juggle which topic to rank you for within search engines. For example, if you happen to sell t-shirts and dress shirts, break those up into two separate pages to increase your keyword ranking opportunity.
Outside of looking at the data, another place I like to venture to get some inspiration on how to build the sitemap is by looking at other high-ranking websites (found on the 1st page of Google) that are in the same industry. It never hurts to take a peek at what your competitors are doing to try and get the upper hand. I am not advocating that you should copy their sitemap (or even content for that matter - that is a big no-no). There is a good chance that your competitors attract a very similar audience, and if their sites rank well that usually means that their sites are built well and have supportive content. You be the judge on whether your experience on their sites is pleasant or if it’s difficult to find what you are looking for.
Putting It All Together
Your business goals and target audience have been established, and your website data have been reviewed - now it’s time to put all that information together to create your sitemap. When I arrive at this step, I put myself in the consumer’s shoes and visualize how they would use the website. I also think about what the audience will want to know when they arrive on the website.
Is your company’s history an important part of what makes your business stand out from competitors and will ultimately get them to take the action you want them to take? Or is your audience coming to your site to view products and make a purchase?
These questions will determine what pages are going to be top-level pages, otherwise known as ‘parent’ pages. For example, ‘Services’ is a common parent page and underneath ‘Services’ a user would expect to find individual pages that are specific services. These types of pages are called ‘child’ pages. Once you have your parent and child pages in place and your utility navigation is set, you need to focus on what content and other assets (images, video, forms, etc) will go on each page. Congratulations! You are finally ready to strategically design your brand new website.
This is just a small taste of what it’s like to partner with Speak. If you found this useful and are in need of a website redesign yourself drop us a line sometime - we’d love to chat.
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