A sitemap provides the skeleton of your site – it is a simplified version of the content and its hierarchy, without details such as text, images etc. A good sitemap provides a general overview, but avoids overwhelming the stakeholders and instead supports them to familiarize with the given hierarchy of their website. Last but not least: It is a perfect basline for a workshop to discuss what works and what does not work on your current or future website. This is also a reason why creating sitemaps is embedded in the course “Information Architecture” by Roger W. Fienhold Sheen, as part of our Master in Content Strategy.

There are two major types of sitemaps typically used to visualize and structure user journeys:

  • Visual sitemaps; these sitemaps follow a more creative approach, with drawn objects, arrows, lines etc.
  • HTML sitemaps or hierarchic link list; these are usually build in a way that the indentation of each row expresses the level of the page. Those sitemaps are usually created directly on the website itself (you remember the sitemap link usually hidden in the footer, don’t you?) You can build these outline sitemaps also via Excel or in other tools which allow you to show hierarchic relations.

As I learned during my Master in Content Strategy, there are also options “in between”, e.g. a combination of visual sitemaps with a lot of text and explanations, or visual sitemaps which do not have a single letter because everything is represented with a graphical notation. There are also XML Sitemaps for SEO reasons – but this is not in the focus of this blog post.

Tools to create sitemaps

You can easily use Powerpoint, Illustrator or InDesign for your sitemap, but there are many more, some of them even available as freeware. For example you could use the free tool inkscape or daw.io. Or you can go and have a look at the “Top 50 Sitemap Generators for Creating Visual Sitemaps” and see if an automatically created sitemap fits your needs.

I decided to stick to that program for the creation of a visual sitemap for the met museum website. I was already familiar with Visio and I did know that Jesse James Garrett’s visual vocabulary was supported.

Have a look at my lessons learned in the video, catch a glimpse of my sitemap – and if you like, I highly appreciate a comment if you like to drop a line or two.

My Sitemap of the Met Museum in London (PDF)