Now we are onto sitemaps and website menus. And the message is the same again, keep it simple, “you sexy thing”.
Let’s check in with wiki again, “A site map (or sitemap) is a list of pages of a web site accessible to crawlers or users. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organised in hierarchical fashion.”
Let’s just start with the “list of pages” part – the rest we will get to in the SEO post down the line. A sitemap is a map or chart that also lists all the pages you can then build into your site. It’s a website pages plan that you can action when you build your site. Typically your site would have a Homepage, About page, Contact page, Blog and Products page as a minimum. If that were the case, you’d have a very simple sitemap. Something like this:
Products and services
The step-in indicates that the four pages are all a “step down” from or found on the Homepage. This sitemap can then be used to arrange the menu in your website.
A website menu, also called a website navigation system (yep – we can be rally car drivers today) is:
“A navigation bar (or navigation system) is a section of a website or online page intended to aid visitors in travelling through the online document. Typically, webpages will have a primary navigation bar and a secondary navigation bar on all pages of the web document.”
The use of the word ‘menu’ here has an in-built analogy that’s helpful to consider. A menu indicates what to order gastronomically at a cafe – i.e. the options of what food pathway to go down. A website menu helps you decide where to go as a visitor. The word menu is a derivative of the French word “minuet” meaning small and detailed. So this helps to underscore that website navigation menus should be pinpoint with their words.
We will revisit the sitemap organisation in just a few posts but for now, just think about how you’d word the tabs in your menu or navigation system.
Is the word “Home” right for you and your audience – as a base page?
Is the word “Contact” enough for a page where you provide your phone number and a form to fill in to send an email enquiry to you?
Are the words “Product and services” right for you and your audience?
Is the word “Blog” right for your audience?
This aspect of your website will need to be reviewed after you’ve written your website page’s content. The point at this stage is to get you thinking about what simple terms indicate very precisely what will be on those pages.
Monk script had a bit of a menu overhaul recently.
My sitemap looked like this:
About Monk script
>> Social Media Butterfly
>> CV Rebuilder
>> Website Shake-up
To simplify it I changed it to:
>> About Alex
>> Our clients
Blog ‘Oh my Word!’
>> Social media
>> CVs and job applications
>> Other services
Free resources (this is a landing page for my mailing list opt-in reward)
As you can see, I rearranged the ‘About Alex’ and ‘About Monk script’, ‘Values’ (now called Ethos cause I have a current thing for that word) and ‘Our clients’ pages to be all under one menu heading of ‘About’. Sleeker and simplified. Also, I was thinking about the reader there and wanted all of the content about working with me in one section.
And I’ve changed the Services menu words from the title of the consultation package “Social media butterfly”, “CV Rebuilder” and “Website Shake-up” to be less creative and esoteric (to me) and clearer for the reader. These could have been a little confusing to someone who’s just trying to figure out if I can help with their website or social media posts. I changed those menu words to just ‘website’, ‘social media’ and ‘CV and job application’. So much simpler. Everyone I spoke to about the change said, “Hell yeah, way better.”
In setting up your website, think about this structure or, as I like to think of it, the architectural design of your website. Think about where it is logical and strong to place a page, in conjunction with what – and of course, what will you name it. Logical arrangement and simple words in a menu strengthen it and are all in aid of helping the website visitor to feel comfortable and like they can figure you out. Naturally, this will hopefully then lead to sales and more engagement.
It’s not cool to design a house where when you open the front door, it takes you straight into the bathroom; or, in draughting design speak, the “WC”. You want people to open the door, be greeted by some words of welcome and be taken on a quick tour. It’s not the embroidery room; it’s a bloody lounge room. It’s not the catering arena; it’s the damn kitchen. Not a WC (anymore) – it’s the bathroom or toilet.
The message is, shape a simple website architecture (that is, a sitemap with a menu that guides people through it) to add then your website copy. Use simple words to indicate what those pages (like rooms) are used for and contain. If you keep this philosophy of simplicity into the rest of your website’s words, you’ll be starting straight.
Without this attention on your website menu, you can make your visitor feel very uncomfortable and want to leave. Even if they can smell freshly baked bread coming from your catering arena.