What Is a Sitemap and Why Is It Important in Website Development?

There are lots of different elements that need to come together during the website development process. This includes everything from the design of the template to the content on the pages to the functionality of the CMS – Content Management System. One of the first and most important things you will need, however, is a sitemap.

A sitemap sets the course for the rest of the development. It can be changed at almost any stage throughout the process, but getting it right from the start will ensure you get a user-friendly website that will deliver on your objectives.

What Is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is a bit like an organisational chart. Instead of showing you the hierarchy of individuals in a company, however, a sitemap outlines the hierarchy of pages on a website. It also shows how each of those pages is connected.

So, at the top, you will have your homepage and other top-level pages, with all the pages linking from them at the level below. This continues for as many sub-levels as your website has.

Your website will likely have two different versions of a sitemap:

  • A manually created list the pages you want on your website, structuring them in a way that is similar to a tree diagram or organisational chart.
  • A dynamic, electronically created sitemap produced at the end of the website development process that gets submitted to Google.

As the latter is dynamic, it automatically updates whenever you add a new page to your website. This helps Google find all your pages as well as helping it understand how they connect together.

This blog is about the first type of sitemap, though – the one you manually create at the start of the website development process.

Why Are Sitemaps Important in Website Development?

Wherever you choose to get website development in Auckland, you should make sure the creation of a sitemap is included in the process.

Without a sitemap, the developer has no choice but to create pages in an ad hoc fashion, with no clear direction on which pages should be included and how they should connect. This results in a haphazard website that is often confusing for visitors to use.

The benefits of creating a sitemap include:

  • Helps you think about the overall structure of your website and the pages it will have
  • Ensures you don’t forget key pages
  • Makes it easier to identify and make changes to complex navigational structures that can be too difficult to use
  • Gives you an understanding of the content that will be required to complete the website development process
  • Helps you create an optimised visitor flow, i.e. the path you want users to take when they visit your website
  • Ensures there are no isolated pages

The process of creating a sitemap doesn’t take long, although the more time you can devote to it the better it will be.

How do you make sure your sitemap is as good as possible?

The most important tip is to make sure you focus on your website’s visitors:

  • How will they find and get to your website?
  • What do they want to find or learn once they are on your website?
  • What are the important things that should be as easy as possible for visitors to find, i.e. the things that should be in the main menu?
  • What should be in the sub-menus?
  • What are the things that are of secondary importance and can be in the footer menu?

By focusing on the above, you will create a sitemap that puts the user first.