Site map

A site map is a list of pages within a website organized in a logical way to help users navigate the content. Its hierarchy is defined by a top-level navigation which acts as the main access point. A site map will help you organize content and will be one of the main parameters used by search engines for rankings.

Best practices

  • Create a clear and concise top-level navigation with 5-7 items
  • Align with content strategy
  • Address learnings from your research
  • Incorporate user testing feedback

If necessary, have your site map approved by the project sponsor.

CLF4 navigation guidelines

How to create a site map

Need help creating your site map? Here are a few tools that can help you with the process.

Card sort

A card sort is a quick, inexpensive and reliable way to determine how best to set up the navigation and menu on your new site. The process involves sorting a series of cards, each labeled with a piece of content, into groups that make sense to the participants.

It is especially useful when designing a new website or improving an existing one to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site.

Getting started

To conduct a card sort, you can use actual cards or you can create a sort using OptimalSort, a digital card sort tool.

We recommend doing a hybrid sort. For this type of sort, you will predetermine some content categories and cards and participants can create additional content categories and cards.

If you’re interested in using Optimal Sort, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • List out the different types of content. If you are unsure what types of content to list out, a good starting point is your current website. If you do not have a current website think about the names of the pages you have in mind for your new website.
  • Before the card sort goes live, test out the preview link. When ready, activate the sort and send the link to your user testing group.

Study results

The more participants complete the study the better. You can set a deadline of one to two weeks to allow results to come in.

Site map testing

Once you’ve created your site map, it’s important to test whether or not your audience understands it and finds what they’re looking for when they visit your website. A difficult site map can be frustrating for users and they are likely to leave your site if they can’t find the information they need quickly. Test your site map and get feedback from users with Treejack, an Optimal Workshop tool.

The testing phase could take anywhere from two to three weeks (includes preparation, setup, data collection and data analysis), depending on your timeline.

Getting started

Here are a few steps to complete before you get started:

  • Format your site map so that it can be easily imported into Treejack. Download this Treejack site map template and use it as a formatting guide.
  • Create a maximum of 10 tasks/questions for users to complete as they go through the study. Keep in mind that we want to test navigation only (not items on the homepage or in the header/footer). Pages with child pages cannot be selected as answers.
  • You can also create pre- and post-study questions to find out more information about the survey participants or to limit who participates in your study.
  • Start setting up the test.

Before the study goes live, test the preview link. Once approved, activate the study and send the link to your user testing group.

Study results

We recommend setting a deadline of two weeks for responses. The more responses you get, the more data you'll have to get a clearer picture of how users are navigating your site map. Analyze the results to determine if any changes need to be made to your site map. Ideally, this should happen before you start building pages on your production site.