Every website project is different. Each with their own specific goals based on industry, target audience, and type of business/organization. However, the project process remains the same. The two most crucial goals we are working towards are:
1. search engine friendliness: meaning your content is well-written, organized, valuable, and is tagged appropriately for common search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.
2. user-friendliness: meaning your site is well-organized in a layout that is easy for customers to navigate and find the information they need
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The key to meeting these two goals is by developing a solid sitemap before the creation of designs or content begins.
I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t a sitemap just a list of standard website pages – home, about, services?”. Yes, in basic terms a sitemap is an outline of the pages within your website. But it is also the framework for building your digital presence. Let me elaborate more on what I mean by that.
For starters, outlining a sitemap ensures that the information within your site is strategically planned and organized in a way that is intuitive for users. Both current and future content should be accounted for to create a flow that allows for growth within your website. If you are only focused on the current than the usability of your site will decline over time.
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Secondly, the sitemap serves as your guide for creating the content (verbiage, graphics, call to actions, etc) that will fill each of the pages. This foundation will assist in maximizing your websites chances of being ranked higher in search engines. I like to use the analogy of architectural blueprints when thinking about sitemaps and content writing. Each room within the blueprints has a specific job, and based upon that rooms job it is then strategically placed next to other rooms. This methodology is the same for the pages within your website. They must be strategically placed within the site as a whole. Just as the contents of a room (lights, beams, etc.) need to be accounted for ahead of time, so does the content of your website before you begin writing and designing.
Whether you are launching a website for the first time or implementing a redesign, don’t rush the initial planning phase. The sitemap plays a critical role in how your website becomes a resource for your users.