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Did you know that approximately 65% of the population are visually-oriented? Or, according to research by 3M Corporation, that the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text? When trying to either outline your website structure (called ‘sitemapping‘), or convey that structure from your mind to that of your web designer (oh, if only telepathy were practical!), visuals can provide the roadmap to help you arrive smoothly at your destination.
Let’s say you’re getting ready to design, or redesign, your website; you’ve pulled out your ‘good websites’ file, got yourself settled into a comfy chair with a beverage close at hand, and you’ve got ideas swirling in your head about the kind of information and images you want to put onto your site. This is the point where I’ve found it’s helpful to get out a large newsprint or flipchart pad, plus some colored markers, and let the ‘inner grade-schooler’ take over….
I’m going to say right now – there’s no ‘one’ right way to do this. Do what makes sense for yourself, try a few different approaches. It’s only paper, right? Here are a few options to get you started:
- Like columns? Write your categories (About & Contact, plus all the topics specific to your enterprise) across one side and start your lists.
- Prefer circles? That’s OK, too. Use big circles to hold the category titles and all your content and image ideas for each one. If you like circles, you can even use a Venn diagram to map out the relationships (and resulting links) between various categories.
- Remember flowcharts? I like them as a way to ‘drill down’ into various categories and show how pages can be connected.
If you’d prefer making your sitemap via an online tool, or want to take your freeform diagram and put it into a format to share with others, here are some sites that can help:
- SlickPlan.com allows you to easily create flowcharts and sitemaps to help organize and communicate a project’s details. It was developed specifically for website designers and developers, but their site says it’s for anyone wanting a quick and professional-looking sitemap for their project. Under the FAQs there are some brief video clips showing how easy it is to generate a PDF of your sitemap, or HTML code or an HTML link for sharing with others (slick!).
- WriteMaps.com has options to create sitemaps or flowcharts, plus export and share either your sitemap-in-progress or your finished product. Click on the View the Tour tab for a step-by-step diagram on how to use it.
Both of these sites require accounts & logins, but they’re free and supported by donations, so why not give them a try? Each has the ability to save as many versions of your sitemap as you like, so you can track changes as you go, and always return to an earlier version if you get off-track. Ultimately, a well-organized sitemap will help your web design process flow more smoothly, and might reduce your overall web designer expenses since you’ll already have things mapped out.