A great place to start—before creating any content—is with a map.
- a) Yellow flag that you have created the website structure you need
- b) Elicit your page headers (and your site navigation)
- c) Show you your next steps as you create content
Ideally, you create the map first, before you begin working on your website.
In reality, the excitement of getting your first website online, a looming deadline for a new project you want to announce, or the fear of where to start often changes the order of tasks and the map gets relegated to second place.
Even if you’ve got some pages on your site already, it’s worthwhile to go back and create a map that shows how pages complement one another. It will serve as a guide as you add material to your site.
You’ve had your site awhile? A mind map is also a wonderful way to periodically review your site and be sure it is still on-target for your business today. Stuck on what to write for that next blog post? Have you removed outdated or added new aspects to your business or refined your values and need to reflect those adjustments? Use a brainstorm mind map to guide your steps.
6 Steps to create a sustainable website map
Step 1: Choose a mapping tool.
Look for a tool that gives you the ability to create visual hierarchy and to move words or phrases around:
- If you like typing, there are many free mind mapping software options.
- If you prefer hand writing—
- use a pile of sticky notes,
- index cards of different colors,
- a white board
- or even a large sheet of paper with colored pencils
Step 2: Write down all your ideas and thoughts.
Take a breath or two and relax. Now write down words or phrases that relate to your business or project, no matter how tangential they seem:
The start of an example list—if your business is about bicycling: tires, brakes, bicycle maintenance, panniers, bike accessories, bike path maps, touring by bicycle, folding bicycles, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, helmets, finding others to ride with, bicycle racing, how to pack your bicycle to travel, best foods for optimum riding energy…and on the list goes.
- Allow the chaos and excitement of the words to just flow
- No censoring allowed at this stage—just write down what comes to mind
- When the “popcorn effect” of the word-flow slows down, take the time to, once again, slow down and breathe
Step 3: Look at what it is spread out in front of you.
Take a moment to absorb what you’ve just created:
- Lots of ideas? Great, look at the chaos.
- Not many words? Explore the white space.
- Whatever it looks like, it is all okay.
Step 4: Continue to play.
If more words come, add them. Move the words around:
- words on top of words
- words next to words
- create category lists and move the words from one list to another
- read them out loud—see how they feel in your body…is there joy at the sound of those words? fear? anticipation? do they express your business or personal values?
- read them out loud again—do they hang together? do they flow?
Step 5: Put everything aside and let it percolate.
Walk away from your work for at least 24, though not more than 72, hours. You don’t want to lose the momentum created.
Step 6: Gather the words and phrases and create hierarchy.
What are the overarching umbrella words or phrases that other topics fall under?
- Generally, especially if you are just starting out, select four to seven umbrella ideas—these will become your main navigation.
- Now create a table with your key words at the top and list all the other words or phrases below. Some words may belong to a second subcategory.
- Don’t worry if there are too many ideas at this phase.
You will continue to refine the list as you move through the process to create your sustainable website design.
Do you have other techniques that helped you map a path to create your website?
Share in the comments below. I’d love to know what you’ve used successfully to map your journey to a sustainable website design.
We strengthen our ability to be satisfied when we share our struggles and successes. How has your journey to find words that resonate and reflect your values impacted your business?