As a designer, I like to help companies begin with the right approach to building a website. Often a designer will create a wireframe or a mockup of a website to show to a client before they have even mapped out their concept or idea. This is where a Sitemap comes in handy. A Sitemap for a website is an outline or flow chart of your website – which is where I recommend everyone start.
Clarify your sites purpose and goal
A website and a brand should serve one or multiple customer groups and should fill a need. When I was first starting out, I would start a website first, maybe buy some business cards (yes, awful waste of money) and then work on branding and concept. What ended up happening was a collision of ideas and concepts, which was very confusing. I then started to develop a small narrow concept first and then build a sitemap to support this one narrow concept. Design and development always take a back seat, because with design you can get lost in minutia and with development, it’s an afterthought of the concept, not a forethought.
Set-up a conversion funnel
I assume sales are important. If you want a visitor to land on your website and buy a product, complete an interest form or submit a service request, a conversion funnel is key. Use a Sitemap aka flow chart to map out the ideal path you want a visitor to take. Land on the home page > go to a product page > add to cart > checkout. This will help tremendously when deciding what pages and content to place on primary and secondary navigations menus.
Get input and get everyone on the same page
I have yet to see a website or business concept built without user input. If it’s not from your customers or potential prospects, it’s going to be from co-workers, colleagues or co-founders. Whoever is project lead (yes there always is one) should keep the Sitemap in a central location or on a server where its easily accessible by all. A Sitemap just like a website is dynamic. As you make changes and additions its helpful for everyone to see what is happening so they can provide input in real-time.
To recap, a Sitemap will help to eliminate pages and content early on, to save time and money. Design will stem organically from how to organize your website, how to develop your idea. Get the nitty gritty of a Sitemap out of the way and then you are free to explore Design.