Sitemap Design


Users decide whether or not to stay on a website in ten to 20 seconds. If your visitors are going to convert, you need to entice them to stay longer. You need to create the best user experience you can.

One way to do so from the start is to create a sitemap design. In this guide, you’ll learn what a sitemap design is, why you need one, and how to create one.


What Is A Sitemap Design?

A website planning tool, sitemaps show the hierarchy of pages on your website and how users will flow from one page to another on the path to conversion. Whether conversion means collecting emails or buying products, think of a sitemap as a web flow diagram to that goal.

You might also hear the term XML sitemap. This is like the skeleton of your website. You submit it to search engines so their spiders can crawl your pages efficiently.

For the rest of this guide, we’re going to focus on the web site map tool. This valuable resource offers a number of benefits. Continue reading to find out why you need one.


Why use a Sitemap?

Let’s start out this discussion with a logic flow:

  1. Customers like to have a great user experience.
  2. Websites that deliver great user experience tend to have better search engine optimization (SEO).
  3. Websites with better SEO get more visitors.
  4. Those visitors are more likely to convert.

Well-planned websites are easier to navigate, so they provide a better user experience, ergo well-planned websites get more conversions.

Websites developed from sitemaps offer a streamlined path to conversion. Remember–you only have ten to 20 seconds. How much of a website can someone view before they count to ten?

If you don’t have a website yet, or you’re planning to have yours redesigned, there’s no time like the present to get to work on building a sitemap. Benefits in the design phase of using a sitemap include:

  • Helping you identify your website’s goals
  • Preventing you from using duplicate content
  • Keeping your development team on the same page

Let’s drill down into each of these a bit more.


Websites that don’t have goals seem disjointed and can confuse visitors. Confusion is an effective tool to get people to leave in the first ten seconds.

By creating a sitemap and wireframe design, you can define the goals of your website, which usually fall into these categories:

  • Capture information
  • Convey information

Developing the right hierarchy of pages and how those pages will be laid out (the latter is what wireframe means, by the way) ensure that your website meets your goal(s).

Duplicate Content

Redundancy is bad for websites for two reasons. The first is related to SEO. Search engines don’t view duplicate content in a positive light.

Each search engine is different, so it’s difficult to say with certainty how much this will affect your search engine rankings, but it’s enough to know that it’s bad for your website.

The second reason you should steer clear of duplicate content is it detracts from the clarity of your website. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who kept circling around and repeating themselves? How long before you wanted to escape that conversation once the repetition started? Ten to 20 seconds?

Your website should be like one of Hemingway’s six-word-stories: as succinct and clear as possible.

On the Same Page

Lots of stakeholders are involved in designing a website, from the actual webmaster to the CEO or owner of the company. Content writers, editors, social media staff, the sales team, and the marketing/advertising team(s) are just some examples of people who might be involved in the process.

A sitemap acts as a guide so everyone knows what to expect. It’s also a valuable brainstorming tool that allows all stakeholders to have the chance to voice their opinions.

Now that you know why you need a sitemap, let’s move on to how you go about creating one.


How To Make A Sitemap

There’s no one way to make a sitemap. How you visualize your new webspace is entirely dependent on what your goals are and what works best for you and your team.

We’ll look at some of the common types of sitemaps and how you can easily create your own:

  • The List
  • The Vertical Diagram
  • The Horizontal Diagram

The List

Another way to think of a list style sitemap is to think of an outline. This allows you to show the hierarchy of the pages on your site. This type of sitemap is also pretty quick to create and easy to edit.

The only downside to the list or outline style is it doesn’t show user flow.

The Vertical Diagram

The vertical diagram style sitemap uses boxes to show pages and lines to show links and the user flow. While this design may not be as easy to edit as copying and pasting in Word, it can be easy to read.

It’s important to keep in mind that while user flow is shown left-to-right, it might be easier to see the scope of a website’s hierarchical layout on a different format.

The Horizontal Diagram

Hierarchies and user flow join together like peanut butter and chocolate in this diagram. A horizontal version of the vertical diagram, this one not only shows webpages, links, and user flow, but it also visually depicts the site’s hierarchy.

The Slickplan visual generator is a tool that allows you to create the visual diagram sitemap in a space that’s easy to edit so it doesn’t look like a 5-year-old got into the company pens with your map.


Final Thoughts

A sitemap design will help you organize your website in a way that makes sense for users. If you skip this step, you risk a poorly designed site. Among mobile users alone, 57% will leave a site behind if it’s poorly designed.

Still have questions about how you can keep your website in the running? Drop us a line. We’d love to help you.