Stage Before Beauty: Don’t Skip the Sitemap

Sitemaps are ugly.  They just are.  And clients don’t want to talk about them.  Who can blame them?  Websites are visual and beautiful.  Who cares if the cart is before the horse?  Let’s talk about lipstick, not foundation! Let’s pick out the kitchen tile before we know the number of bedrooms!  Let’s eat the icing and forget the cake!

You get the idea.

I’m a marketing professional, not an engineer.  I don’t like spreadsheets or process maps.  I like videos, infographics and pretty pictures.  But, having said that, the website sitemap, in all its ugliness, is the first and most important stage of website development.  And I am here to fight for its (ugly) rights.

At WebSolvers, we are asked all the time, “How long will it take to build our website”?  The answer is “How long is a piece of string?”  Seriously, that all depends on the scope of the project, of course.  We have built websites with and without finalized sitemaps and I can tell you from experience from both the client side and the agency side, websites are a lot less expensive and launched more quickly (with less anxiety) when the sitemap is completed before the design.

Translation: Sitemaps lead to happiness.

Website sitemaps are not novelty items.  They have been around since dinosaurs built websites and were first created to provide site structure.  They are vital to communication with search engines for smarter SEO.  The all-mighty Google adheres to sitemap protocol as defined by sitemaps.org, which helps Google (and other search engines) “know about” all the pages on your site, including those that may not be discovered in normal crawling.

I know.  That just doesn’t sound very pretty.

The sitemap is like your high school term paper outline.  We all wanted to skip that step, didn’t we?  The ugly truth is that doing the outline organized our thoughts and made writing the paper faster and easier.  The sitemap essentially is your outline because it helps clarify what content you really need on your site and gets rid of all the unnecessary pages.  In my favorite book about websites, “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug, he says that users form mental sitemaps, and as a rule, people don’t like to be puzzled over how to find something.  If it isn’t self-evident, they bounce.

Bye-Bye instead of Buy-Buy.

When developing a website, as unattractive as it may seem, I highly recommend completing that first sitemap stage.  Sitemaps make the web development process simpler, faster, less expensive, and ultimately keep your site visitors engaged.  And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

About Kelly Lafferman

Kelly Lafferman is CMO & Principal at Findsome & Winmore, The Classic Digital Marketing Agency, located in Orlando, FL. She specializes in helping clients find and win customers through a blend of digitally-driven marketing, branding, communications and engagement solutions. Kelly loves pinot noir, her kids, surfing, and studying consumer behavior (not necessarily in that order). Follow her on Twitter at @klafferman.

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