The worldwide web – one astronomically large sitemap. This was not an accidental term. It’s a worldwide network, connected by millions of links that never stop growing.
But for many small and medium-sized businesses that really don’t have a web of pages, they have channels that send you down a specific path. This was fine 10 years ago, but things are changing, and the way that people digest content is changing. The problem is that the tools aren’t changing.
The Rabbit Hole
One of the big issues that I would like to correct in the future is trying to use site mapping software to create sitemaps. In reality sitemaps in the traditional perspective have created issues that I have often referred to as going down the rabbit’s hole. The user navigates down through the site using the main navigation; however, when they get there they are often stuck. Nowhere to go.
Over the last several years there has been much conversation in the way of user experience around this issue. Why would you ever want a user to be done? If you’re like me and have ever spent hours awake at night wondering how many users will use their browser’s Back button to help navigate your site, then you likely should also seek therapy. But the real question: Isnt giving them another page or another article of more value?
Huffington Post, Buzz Feed, and millions of other websites are quickly turning people into content monsters. Finish one blog and oh, look there’s another article that they recommend that I’ll like [click].
It’s not an accident. This is planned. It’s so common that you can find blog posts such as 5 Tactics for Content Creators to Increase Content Consumption.
So, this is nothing new. In fact, you’re probably rolling your eyes at how lame this post is becoming, so let’s speed things up.
This is commonplace, but only on blogs. If your blog is used as part of an inbound strategy to drive traffic to your site, thats great, but only if some of that traffic is going from blog to product/services. So what happens when they click the internal link on your site and go to those pages? Are you dropping the content monsters into the rabbit hole?
Fix the Sitemap First
Instead of the rabbit holes or channels, what if the sitemap started to adopt a web look and feel? An interconnected network. The case studies link to the service pages. The services pages link to the case study pages. Relevant blog posts are displayed on both. And I am still a marketing guy, so there had better be a flippin’ call-to-action on every page, or I’m going to throw a temper tantrum.
If you’re still reading this, you probably agree and some of the agencies might be making a more conscious effort to do this, but the software hasn’t caught up. Programs like Slickplan still use the channel-based concept for developing sitemaps, which is similar to every other product on the market.
The only type of programs that I’ve discovered that can build a sitemap in the manner I’ve been describing is still stuck in beta in my head; however, you can hack around this by using mind mapping software such as The Brain. More traditionally used for brainstorming, I’ve found this tool invaluable for larger web projects.
The real value of having a detailed sitemap goes back to the mantra, “garbage in, garbage out.” If we start with a half thought-out sitemap, we will move into half thought-out wireframes, a half thought-out design, and the final output is garbage.
If you give the user a better experience they are more likely to do business with you. From a marketing and user perspective model, getting this right up front will have an exponential impact on the final results of the site. So once again another cliche turns out to be capital T true:
Failing to plan, is planning to fail. +Winston Churchill