Our agency’s specialty is public relations, but we also do a lot of graphic work – from logos to ads to brochures to websites. Whatever we do, we focus on excellent, compelling writing that is informative and valuable to the target audience. That’s why our websites perform so well: we start the process by thinking about the end goal. Then we use that information to determine the site’s foundation – the site map.
That means we don’t start with cool, hip layouts or amazing photography or eye-catching animations. Those are important, and they definitely have their place. But great website design is more than that. It should help your target users find what they’re looking for, flow through the site easily and engage with you and your brand. That’s why a good site map is essential.
The website map explains the navigation, including all the sub-pages and sub-sub-pages, and how everything works together. It also notes various elements that should be included on certain pages, from social media links to people directories to videos to calls to action. When completed, the site map informs both the layout and the copy, ensuring a cohesive, planned site. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be changes along the way, but it should help you avoid potential big-ticket revisions too far into the process. And everyone involved – copywriters, designers, coders, people who test the site, the approval committee, etc. – has the same knowledge of the way the site should work and the reasoning behind it.
So, how do you get to the Almighty Site Map?
The site map ensures everything about your website is crafted to best promote your company, engage with your audience and meet your objectives.
The first step is to compile what we call a creative brief. That’s done by thoughtfully answering multiple questions, including:
- Why are you creating a new website? Is it to increase SEO, drive more leads, enhance credibility, be a resource, etc.? When goals and objectives are defined, everyone knows what success will look like.
- Describe your company. Provide background on what you do, your products and services, why you do it, what problems you solve. And do an honest SWOT analysis (or have your PR team conduct one) to outline strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Who is your competition? What do you like or dislike about their websites? How does your company differentiate from them?
- Who is your target audience? What do they think of you now? And be detailed enough to outline your target personas, providing information on their preferred tone of voice, the best way to interact with them and what they find valuable.
- Do you have certain messaging that should be used, or does that need to be developed? What is the main takeaway for your target readers?
- Do you have graphic standards set up? Are there other channels, such as social media or collateral pieces, that should coordinate and interact with the website?
Once these questions – and others that these will spawn – are answered, the creative team can put their heads together to determine how that drives the architecture of the website. Should certain information be up front on the home page, or even on every page? Should there be certain buttons and offers that present free resources and lead users down a sales funnel? Should it focus on providing a wealth of content that is constantly being updated? Can users easily find what they will be looking for – or even what they don’t yet know they are looking for?
The site map could be as complicated as an animated workflow or as simple as a text document with bullet points. Regardless of the way it looks, it is the blueprint that drives the way the site will be built and how your users will interact with it.
With the thought-out site map and all the information from the creative brief, you have what you need for copy, design, photography, marketing offers, coding, etc. It also gives you a good start on keywords to target for search engine optimization. The site map ensures everything about your website is crafted to best promote your company, engage with your audience and meet your objectives. That means you’ll have a website that you’ll be proud of and that performs well.