Planning your first web site can seem like a daunting task, and in a way, it is. Careful and practical planning can make the job much easier – not to mention, more fun to boot! It is very helpful to write down a schematic plan before you even think about learning to code, or to use a html editor to help you with the coding for your site. Even if you use a pre-made template, you will still need to plan the contents of your site.
Your Sitemap is the Heart of your Site
First off, think about the number of pages you wish to create, and decide on the absolutely essential components. All of your pages will be linked to the central core of your site, your Sitemap.
As well, all of the key pages of your site should be included in your navigation scheme, which is then repeated on each page of your site. An easy example of a navigation scheme looks like this:
|| Sitemap | Portfolio | Contact | Services | Resources | News ||
As you can see, the Sitemap is the very first item on the navigation bar, giving the visitor to a site easy access to the entire site’s map. This is important, because visitors don’t always know how or where to access a site’s sitemap. Read Jakob Nielson’s useful article on Site Map Usability for more information on this topic.
If your site is going to have more than say, ten pages, you will probably not include each and every page on your navigation bar. This is when a sitemap becomes especially useful.
A sitemap is basically an entire page of your site devoted to the contents of your site. It includes every single page and option available on your site.
Some examples of excellent informative sitemaps are visible on the following pages. Notice the different ways that sitemaps can be organized, some simple, others more colorful and complex:
- Visions of Adonai Sitemap
- First Nations Pedagogy Sitemap
- Healing Intent Sitemap
- Pegasus Art Gallery Sitemap
- Apple.com Sitemap
- Elsevier Publishing Sitemap
- Ebay Online Auctions Sitemap
- The Lab – Australian Gateway to Science Sitemap
- CNHE/IISE Sitemap
- CNIA Sitemap
Some Handy Sitemap Generator Tools
- Google now offers an open source tool for you to create easy, comprehensive sitemaps that will actually help your site with search engine optimization, an important part of attracting visitor traffic to your site! Visit Google Sitemap Generator to create an account to download their XML_Echo Sitemap Generator software. It’s simple and free!
- Freefind also offers automatic site map creator software (they have both a free and subscription package available) to help to streamline the process of creating your sitemap, especially if it needs frequent updates. Visit Freefind to find out more.
- Search Bliss Web Tools offers an online simple sitemap generator tool to help you create an attractive sitemap in a very short amount of time. Try their Sitemap Generator for yourself!
- Auto Map it! also offers Search Engine Optimization sitemap creation to suit all search engines, including Google. They also share the results with you so that you can show your sitemap on your site, to help your visitors navigate your site. Try Auto Map it! to save yourself time and money.
So, whether you use a simple unordered list approach to hand-code your sitemap, or you use a sophisticated tiered layered approach via one of the above softwares, your sitemap is an important part of your site. It is second only to your main index entry page – so make it clear, easy to find, informative, and most of all, up to date!