Let’s face it, undertaking a new website project is both exciting and intimidating. How do you get started, especially if the company you are working with is not an economic development specialized marketing company?
Here at EDSuite, the very first deliverable on a website project that we tackle is the site map. Every city is different, and every city’s story has unique focuses and messaging highlights that should play into how you lay out your site’s content.
Spending time on your site map up front is one of the best ways to ensure your project starts off on the right foot and ends with building a better economic development website.
“A good site map can make or break a website project and it can save hours of needless work and confusion. ”
It eliminates confusion for your audience
When you take your current site map and begin to assess what you have, you should be able to quickly see some of the ways things have either gotten out-of-date or confusing. Think of the main menus as categories or buckets that all your pages need to fit in. Keep the titles broad enough to allow a range of topics under them, but not so broad that someone has no idea what they would expect to find there. When you see everything laid out before it’s on the actual website, you can better assess how it works together to present an easy-to-navigate website.
It allows you to be more strategic in telling your story
The great thing about your website is that you can control what you want people to consciously or subconsciously see first and what pages are grouped together. You can be strategic about how you arrange your pages to tell your story. Are you primarily targeting distribution and logistics? Feature pages about your location advantages or access to transportation hubs in the first few dropdowns. Retail and destination-driven city? Feature quality of life and entrepreneur-oriented pages first. Think left to right and top to bottom in terms of your menus and try to create a smooth story flow as someone navigates down a dropdown from page to page.
It creates a checklist for your content and visual assets
Laying out your site map provides a ready-made checklist for the content and photography/videography you will need to create for your new site. Look it over, compare it with your assets and existing site content, and make yourself a to-do list of what you need to gather or produce to fill the new website. Creating the site map first means you will know from the beginning what needs to be created and you won’t delay the content entry phase at the end trying to pull it all together at the last minute.
A good site map can make or break a website project, and it can save hours of needless work and confusion. A good site map will make navigation of your site by both site selectors and small business owners effortless and engaging. A bad site layout will get frustrating, confusing, and will ultimately result in the prospect walking away without contacting you. Start with your site map and spend time strategizing and discussing it with your team. It may seem like you are reading too much into the arrangement of your pages, but trust us, it will pay off in the end.