When a new visitor reaches your site (by whatever means), you
must remember he has never seen it before. Yes, I know that you
are intimately familiar with every single page throughout your
site, but your new visitors most definitely are not.
In fact, a site with poor navigation is a site which will not
see a large number of repeat visitors. Today the internet and
web are just to massive for anyone to spend any significant
amount of time trying to figure out how to find out something
from your site. Most people (myself included) will simply surf
elsewhere very quickly rather than hunt around for what we need.
One feature common to any well designed web site (at least any
web site of any size) is a site map. This document is similar in
concept to a table of contents in a book. It's purpose is to
give your visitors an overview of the contents and organization
of your site.
All right, so you've got a search engine on your site, you've
got a navigation system which is good and you've cross linked
everything so your visitors can get around as needed. So why do
you need a site map in addition to all of this? The answer is
- Sometimes your visitors want to get a view of your whole
site's organization and design in order to efficiently explore
what you've got.
- It is a way to show off all of the information that you have
made available to them.
- Site maps are good pages to submit to search engines, as they
include links to every page on your web site.
Some critical things to keep in mind about site maps:
- Keep your site maps up-to-date and accurate. If your site map
is not useful, then you may actually wind up chasing away people
instead of attracting them.
- Remember you want to include as much of your site as possible
on one page, but you do not want to increase the load time to
the point where no one will want to wait for it.
- Make sure your site map links to all of the pages within your
- Link to your site map from every single page on your web site.
There are several different types of site maps, each with it's
own advantages, uses and disadvantages.
Outline Format - Perhaps the most common format for a site map
is a simple outline. This is most similar to the table of
contents of a book, with everything listed from top to bottom in
a specific order.
This format is most useful for smaller, less complicated sites
(under a hundred pages) with a straightforward design. The main
disadvantage is that as your site grows, the site map grows and
takes longer to load into your visitors browsers. It is,
however, by far the easiest of all for your visitors to grasp
and understand, as your entire site is presented on a single
page in a logical manner.
Multi-column outline - Many web sites use this format. It is
similar to the Outline format, but with several columns. It has
the same advantages and disadvantages as the outline format,
although it can be slightly more confusing to your visitors.
Portal Format - This format consists of a main page which
indexes additional pages, which may in turn index additional
pages. Thus your main page may consist of the overall general
contents, with links to more specific contents. This format is
most useful for very large sites or sites with complicated
organizations. It is a little more difficult for your visitors
as it requires more clicks to move around, but it is better than
Outline format for large sites.
would recommend against this, as they are far less intuitive
than a simple outline or portal format. In addition, you can be
reasonably sure that a straight HTML outline will display on
No matter what you decide, the important thing to remember is to
make it easy on your visitors. They are the reason why you
created your web site, after all, and the easier you make it for
them to get around, the more they will explore and the more you
will meet the goals you made when you created your site.
About the author:
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets.
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