September 2, 2008, 12:20 pm
Site Maps: Helpful Tool or IA Cop-out?
By Lisa Agustin
I’ve been following with some interest UIE’s series on what it considers web design “cop-outs,” such as site maps. According to Jared Spool, a good information architecture should eliminate the need for a site map, since the map itself doesn’t “give off scent,” or clues for finding desired content:
“It’s only in the absence of anything else that gives off scent that users start to think it’s a likely help. Therefore, the real problem is the pages that lead to the site map are missing important scent. Fixing the scent issues on those pages will eliminate the need for the site map. However, deciding to improve the site map doesn’t fix the scent problem — it’s only a cop-out.”
I do agree that redesigning a site map is not the way to address findability issues, but it’s a drastic move to get rid of the site map altogether, even if there are only a few people that use them. We look at the site map not as a back-up option for locating content, but rather as the single-page view of what the whole web site offers. When done well (ideally as a single static page of links that doesn’t go deeper than 2-3 levels in the hierarchy), the site map is not a crutch, but a complementary navigation tool.
When I analyzed our own http://www.dynamicdiagrams.com Web statistics several years ago I noticed that very few visitors used our site map, but there was a small percentage that used it as an entry page.
Posted by Henry Woodbury on September 7, 2008 at 7:25 am
Looks like Jakob Nielsen agrees with you, Lisa.
Posted by Kirsten Robinson on September 12, 2008 at 3:24 pm