I have written a series of articles outlining these steps. This is part 1 of the series.
What is a sitemap?
Simply put, a sitemap is a map of your pages. You can think of it as a very basic outline to your entire site.
It illustrates what pages will exist on your site and how they will be arranged in terms of hierarchy. A sitemap often dictates the navigation, however, sometimes the navigation is customized based on what is most important to your users rather than the sitemap hierarchy.
What is the benefit of having a sitemap?
When done early on, it enhances and helps manage project efficiency and expectations.
Your sitemap will not only act as a solid base of reference throughout the development of your site, it will also be your go-to for updating and evolving your website. A sitemap also helps you create the content you need for your site. By knowing exactly what pages will exist on your site, you can create content appropriate for each page. This avoids unnecessary duplication of content and more focused communication on each page. Of course, a sitemap is flexible and can change throughout the process. The closer we are to one that is just right, however, the more efficient the whole process will be.
What does a sitemap look like?
A sitemap looks like some sort of map with names of pages connected together by lines.
I often include notations on each page to provide basic content strategy. I explore ideas on what the goals and objectives of a particular page are, what the calls-to-action should be, and suggestions for sub-headers, images and links.
I provide this because it helps illustrate the site as a whole and provides guidance for writing copy. Sites that are more content heavy and have a larger budget usually receive more in-depth documents at a later time to expand upon the content strategy.