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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 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 for an effective site map:
- 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 you’re using the horizontal template, please follow these navigation guidelines.
For an example of a good site map, please take a look at the SFU Sustainability website.
If necessary, have your site map approved by the project sponsor.
How to create a site map
Need help creating your site map? Here are a few tools that can help you with the process.
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.
To conduct a card sort, you can use actual cards or the Communications & Marketing team can help you conduct 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 the digital tool, Optimal Sort, please contact Communications & Marketing team to start the process. 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.
- Send us the completed list of the different types of content and we’ll do the setup.
- Before the card sort goes live, we’ll send you a preview link for your review. Once approved, we’ll activate the sort and then you can send the link to your user testing group.
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. The Communications & Marketing team can help you 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.
Here are a few steps to complete before we 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). Please include the correct answer for each task (this helps us when setting up your Treejack test). Pages with child pages cannot be selected as answers.
- If you need help writing tasks, please see the Optimal Workshop documentation on how to write your tasks.
- 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.
- If you need help writing pre- or post-study questions, please see the Optimal Workshop documentation on how to create screening questions.
- Send us the completed users tasks with correct answers, and the completed tree test template and we’ll do the setup.
Before the study goes live, we’ll send you a preview link for your review. Once approved, we’ll activate the study and then you can send the link to your user testing group.
We recommend setting a deadline of two weeks for responses. The more responses we get, the more data you'll have to get a clearer picture of how users are navigating your site map. The Communications & Marketing team will send you screenshots of the results for you to analyze and determine if any changes to your site map need to be made. Ideally, this will happen before you start building pages on your production site.