Should You Have One? What For? When? What Should Be In It?
I am trying to gauge your opinions on site maps. I have never had on any of my websites before as I have never seen a use (other than SEO, which isn't a factor here).
Do you use site maps?
When do you consider a good time to have one?
What do you put in it?
I have a site with about 100 pages of content and am wondering if a site map would be benefical. I don't think the site is hard to navigate and it's not more than 3 clicks to a page. I already have a site search engine, so, would a site map just be overkill?
I realize you said SEO wasn't a factor here, but it's difficult to exclude it from my answer.
1) Because Googleguy recommended it. 2) Because it gives an extra link to each page and therefore helps SE's find new pages quickly. 3) Helps spread Google PR throughout the site so that deep links benefit all pages. 4) Backup navigation for frustrated users. 5) Because it's an easy thing to do and there are no known disadvantages.
|When do you consider a good time to have one? |
When the site goes live.
I have several sitemap pages each based on one of the site's main themes and none with more than 100 links (another Googleguy recommendation). These pages are interlinked and each has a link from the index page. They include a link to every page on the site, often with a lengthier description than is possible in the normal index format. The links are organised by themes and subthemes.
I feel that from the SE point of view sitemaps are probaby less useful once a site aquires sufficient clout so that the site is indexed regularly. But they earn their keep in supplying backup navigation. I have never checked how many users visit my own site maps, but I often look at site maps when I am looking for something on a large site I have never visited before.
My site is mainly in English, but I also I have pages on my site in Chinese characters, both traditional and simplified, and I have a site map for each. Rather oddly a high proportion of users from the Far East enter the site via these site maps, so I do get some benefit. :)
Please use a site map! When I am surfing around someone's site and it's not obvious which clicks will get me where I want to go, I go right to the site map. With a site as large as yours, I think it's a must.
Thanks for the responses.
I must admin I am surprised that people would use a site map instead of a search function. I guess it just seems like another page to constantly update to me (especially as parts of the site are dynamically generated).
If parts of the site are dynamically generated why not make that part of your site map dynamically generated?
I do this and never have to manually update the site maps as they are always updated from the database.
|I am surprised that people would use a site map instead of a search function |
I use a search function as a last resort. It can throw up all sorts of results which may not be what I am looking for, whereas a good site map should give an ordered presentation enabling the required page to be easily found. If it doesn't, then I'm gone.
A few years ago an excellent book was published "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. It makes the point which is still valid that if users have to think to find what they want they tend to go elsewhere. To use a search function the user has to think about what search term to use, and then possibly refine the search. It all takes mental effort and most users take the easier option and back out. The web is so big they can find what they want elsewhere.
Even site maps suffer from this because not all users are aware of their benefits or even their purpose.
[the user has to think about what search term to use, and then possibly refine the search. It all takes mental effort and most users take the easier option and back out.]
This is nothing new; in my work as a librarian it never ceased to amaze me how grateful people were for the answer to a question. Amongst the thousands of books on the reference library shelves I can pinpoint the book, page and paragraph that holds the answer. This was only possible (quickly, if ever) by using the back of the book index.
Site maps, or preferably html indexes serve that function. Search engines can get you to the right room in the library for the most part, but site maps/indexes are more like the librarian.
Site maps are a very good idea. I have simple links to my other "major" pages. It tells the new visitors what you have, and how they can easily find it. I guess the reason it's good is that it makes everything obvious and easier for the visitor.