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The End of the Traditional Sitemap.

The World Wide Web

This was not an accidental term.  A series of WEBsites interconnected by hyperlinks.  But for many small and medium size businesses they 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 sitemapping 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.  No where to go.

 

Young Rabbits

 

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 browsers Back button to help navigate your site, then you likely should also seek therapy.  But the real question: Isn’t giving them another page or another article of more value?

Content Monsters

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 common place, but only on blogs.  If your blog is used as part of an inbound strategy to drive traffic to your site, that’s 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 manor 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.

This Just Sounds Like a Lot of Work

The real value of having a detailed sitemap goes back to the montra “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 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

 

Written by: Richard Kaiser

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