# Sitemap

# Phase: 🔎 Problem seeking
Focus: Landscape


Time commitment: Varying according to size of site/app, but slightly time-intensive
Difficulty: Easy
Materials needed: Site/app to evaluate, diagramming tool (Mural, Omnigraffle, Visio, etc)
Who should participate: User experience designers, content strategists, information architects, project/product owners, anyone
Best for: Evaluating the existing navigational hierarchy of a product in order to assess needs and next steps

# About this tool

Sitemaps can be invaluable when reworking an existing site or application by virtue of forcing you to take a complete inventory of what you already have and how those things relate to each other. We're not talking about old-school, user-facing sitemaps that used to be linked to from the bottom of every website for the purposes of giving Google something to spider. Instead, we're referring to an internal document that explains every individual page or screen on a site and how they're interconnected. Sitemaps are essentially content audits zoomed out one layer; while they examine many of the same things, they don't go so far as to pull apart the purpose of every content artifact in a site or app.

To create a sitemap, simply begin with the entry point to your product (homepage, home screen, etc) and dig deeper from there: click on everything. In the process, note key categories about each page or screen, such as the following:

  • What page(s) link into this page
  • The title of the page
  • Its URL or other unique identifier
  • Its file format
  • Its metadata (description? keywords? taxonomy tags?)
  • Its parent page, if it has one
  • When it was last updated
  • Whether it's a duplicate of, or a redirect from, something else

Unlike a content audit, which may be most efficiently expressed in a spreadsheet, a sitemap usually logically takes the form of a tree (if it doesn't, you may have other problems!). While the process can be tedious, it can easily be broken out among a group of people to minimize the tedium. Depending on the site/product, there may also be automated tools or crawlers that can help reduce some of the burden. And in the end, you'll be able to surface a wide variety of insights, including:

  • The true size/scope of the product
  • Whether the product as it exists now is actually "about" what it's supposed to be about; does the content support the product's purpose
  • What semantic categories have the most content, and whether that accurately reflects its importance
  • Based on the cadence of updates, the amount of maintenance that has been devoted to the product in the past
  • Whether core information is being presented consistently and with the correct amount of repetition/reinforcement