A vital first step before creating a website is working on content strategy, and a very important part of your content strategy is going to be figuring out your site map: what pages will be on your website, and how are you going to organize your navigation so that people can find what they need?
If you already have a website, it’s always good to take a look at it after some time has passed, reassess your goals, and adjust your pages and navigation. It can be great to do this on an existing site, because you will hopefully now have some data and feedback to use to inform your decisions.
At Aeolidia, my web design studio, we have built content strategy consultations into all but our simplest projects, because we’ve realized that without a good content strategy, you are not going to have an effective website.
I polled our designers and developers for their thoughts on site pages and navigation, and together we came up with some great questions to ask yourself to get started, and some general tips. Come to my web content strategy class and let’s work on building your site map!
I thought it would be fun to share an example of a well-planned site map. Working with the 1canoe2 team was a highlight of our spring! The design process was fast and fun,and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the site.
Beth, Carrie, and Karen’s goals for the site were all shopping-related. They told us:
“We need a total website design. Blog, info pages, shop for retail, wholesale, and a custom work page for invitations, birth announcements and custom notecards.
We love the way Etsy works, and we’ll never give up that shop, but we would like to be able to bypass the Etsy and PayPal fees, and we’d also like a wholesale login and shop page, as well as a custom item page. The custom item page will probably need to be a Phase 2 thing, as we don’t have those elements designed yet. We’re hoping to have a line of wedding invites/notecards/announcements done by the end of the summer.”
We took this info, and went through the process of planning a smart site map.
1) Define goals: 1canoe2 had done this step.
2) Consider the shopper’s goals: 1canoe2 had an existing Etsy shop, website, and blog, and had developed a good idea of what their customer is interested in.
3) Brainstorm pages: we got this list from 1canoe2:
- About Us
- FAQ/Shop Policies
- Press/Where to Find Us
- Mailing list signup
- Social media (FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram)
- Contact info
- About us
- Custom orders page
4) Narrow it down and 5) Prioritize: As you can see on the website, only seven links made it into the main horizontal navigation.
The FAQ page includes the shop policies (no reason to have two separate pages for this!). Press was left out, and Where to Find Us was renamed to Stores for clarity. The mailing list and social media links are in the footer of each page, where they’re simple to find, but not taking up valuable real estate. Rather than make a page for custom orders, we made it a category in the shop. This section also serves as a bit of a portfolio gallery, as it uses photos of custom items they’ve created.
6) Group: Once you have real content ready, navigation usually falls in place pretty easily. The 1canoe2 site has a clear area for the cart and account links, one that contains the main informational links, and an area in the footer for external social media links. When in the Shop section of the site, a vertical navigation bar is included with the shop links.
The 1canoe2 site is clear and easy to understand. It has all the info needed to shop, and it’s packed with personality (check out their super adorable “About” page!).
Beth’s testimonial for us almost brings a tear to my eye, because she expresses all my goals for how I think Aeolidia projects should go, but from the client perspective. It makes me so happy!
“Understandably, we were completely overwhelmed by the idea of designing our new site. We knew it needed to look like us and that it needed to be clean and robust. Because of their specialized client base, Aeolidia already knew the type of company we were, without hours of explanation or exhausting revisions. We were so blown away with the first design draft that we only made a few small revisions, and that’s saying something from people as visually picky as we can be. It was intuitively 1canoe2, in a way that we weren’t able to express on our own.
Every step of the process was easy, educational, and organized. I just don’t think it could have gone any smoother or faster. And on top of all that, the final website is above and beyond what we dreamed up ourselves. We are enabled to go create more hand-illustrated products and effortlessly sell them ourselves in just the way we want to present ourselves to the world.”
How about you? Are you ready for a smart, useful website, with an intuitive navigation? Bring your plans, ideas, questions, and join me to learn about web content strategy!