Do I Really Need a Sitemap?10 min read

by | Jul 8, 2021 | Design, Web

Sitemap working session

When creating a website, a sitemap is often one of the first steps in the process. Although on its surface it might seem like a simple org chart, it is key to starting a website off on the right foot. It has many other benefits as well like saving money, time, and creating a great website with a strong foundation. Depending on the client’s needs, a sitemap might be preceded by discovery meetings, strategy, and branding work, but the sitemap typically marks the beginning of a new website.

What is a Sitemap?

A sitemap can take many forms but typically they look like an org chart or a root system.

Angled sitemap example

Each page on the website is planned out and listed, often with navigation paths and how they relate to each other in some hierarchical format. The typical order goes from the home page, to top level pages seen in the main navigation like an About, Services, or Contact page, to interior deep dive content pages, and finally less important pages like the privacy policy. It is a visual list of all the pages to be made or to account for the site’s current structure. Commonly a map key is also implemented to add additional relevant information.

Do I Need a Sitemap?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is absolutely yes.

A sitemap may seem like an unnecessary step. You know you need a homepage, an about page, a few services pages, a contact page, and maybe a blog. Let’s get moving to designs.

The problem with skipping this step is it opens you up to complication down the road if necessary site function gets overlooked.

The main functions of a site map are:

  • Improving user experience
  • Determining project scope
Sitemap whiteboard working session

Improving User Experience

When creating any public facing touchpoint, it is important to come from an empathetic standpoint and problem solve. After you determine what a potential customer wants to know, learn, or possibly be entertained by, we can start planning what those pages are and how one navigates to them.

Deep dive, content rich pages like individual service pages or a page with detailed fundraising information need to be sorted and nestled under categories and located where a user would expect to be able to find them. Pages are ordered in levels from least to most specificity and help guide a user around a website. If these paths and content locations are not planned well it often leads to confusion, frustration, and ultimately larger site bounce rates.

Determining Project Scope

There are a handful of pages most websites need, so why figure out every last detail and not just fill them in as needed? The problem is design, content, and development are all based on the size of a website and page count. The addition of one page in a later stage has ripple effects and the additional time needed to write content, design the pages, and build them can easily eat up budgets and cause project overages. Rarely is adding another page, just adding another page.

When working with the DVS team, we do a deep dive into what your needs, wants, goals, and pain points are and it all starts with listening. After we gather the information and come up with a marketing plan, budgets need to be established. With an early sitemap the scope of the website is more easily defined and budgets can be allocated appropriately. Skipping this step only leads to uncertainty and a few hours of early planning can save many hours later in the process by unexpectedly inflating time requirements. Ultimately our goal is to always be flexible and serve the needs of our clients, so if an unexpected change comes, we always do our best to accommodate. More accuracy early on benefits the client in the long term.

Device testing at desk

Bonus: Existing Site Updates vs a New Site

Is a sitemap still needed if a site just needs some updates and improvements and not a full rebuild? The answer is still yes.

Over time, websites often grow in size and like city planning, new development without consideration on how each piece fits into the overall project leads to problems. Often, user paths are not clear, organization gets jumbled, content can easily become duplicated, and managing information on so many pages becomes a herculean task. Taking a step back from a website and considering whether its current form makes sense pays off in the long run with a better user experience.

The Necessity of Sitemaps

Often simple in presentation, sitemaps play a key role in ensuring a website goes according to plan and is an effective tool for any business. Spending a little time up front to have an accurate map to build from leads to a greater finished product and benefits everyone. Get in touch with us today to see how our proven web design and development process can set your business up for success as a part of a robust marketing strategy.