I have been designing and building websites for over seven years, and I can tell you that the most important stage of any buildout is a collaborative planning stage. Mind you, this stage is arguably the most important for any project, regardless of its nature. At pMD, we have just started planning our own website buildout and over the last few weeks we drafted our site-map.
The site-map is one of the first and most important stages in the planning process. This is where the big picture starts to take shape and where you decide which pages are important and which ones are not. As part of the site-map, once you’ve decided which pages to include, it’s time to decide how they will work together in order to create a cohesive and connected experience. You can think of it like blueprints for a building. You can see every room, it’s entrances, exits, and how someone will flow through the building, but there is no color or mention of visual design. By taking the visuals out of the picture, you are left with a clean and uninterrupted foundation for your buildout. It’ll help in finding faults and cracks at an early stage and keep the project moving forward with a solid backbone.
When I first presented our site-map at pMD, I printed it and laid it out in front of the team. Nobody had seen what I was planning yet, so anything could happen. I stood before everyone and gave a brief overview of the pages we were including and how they would connect to one-another. From there, the real excitement started. Everyone chimed in with a comment or suggestion, and together, we realized that what I had drafted needed a bit of work. In fact, it needed a lot of work, but not because it was bad, but because we realized that we could do something better and more interesting. Without that collaboration, this never would have happened. We ended up taking a basic site and splitting it into three sites, each with its own purpose, but all linked together.
Over the course of a few weeks, we perfected our site-map and put a seal on it. That was it. Once we had come to a consensus, no more modifications could be done and it was onto the next step. In and of itself, marking the site-map as “complete” was one of the most important things we could do. Going forward, it keeps everyone on the same page with an easy reference to where we left off. Now it’s onto the next stage: wireframing!