How many times have you used Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Mapquest (#tbt) to get directions? Probably a lot.
Now, imagine these services didn’t exist. Imagine you're a cartographer living 400 years ago in a region that hadn’t been mapped yet. Think about how difficult that would have been, to be responsible for mapping unknown lands.
In order to plot new locations on your map, you would have to get a full sense of the surrounding area either through your own trials and tribulations or through the stories from locals. At the end of the day, you're the one responsible for documenting where towns are located and the safest way to get there.
Needless to say, maps revolutionized how we recognize locations, categorize space, and navigate to where we want to go. And just like you can map the world, you can also map a website or app to get a lay of the land.
A site map is a high-level diagram that shows the structure of a website or application. It shows the organization of navigation and how many levels of information there are. Site maps aren’t intended to show the path a user takes when they visit a website. They are intended to help define the current and future structure of a website.
Site maps can be really high-level, only showing site-wide navigation. Or they can be more granular, showing how each level of information connects to the overall structure. For example, here is a high-level site map for Apple.com. It shows the different top-level navigation including Mac, iPad, iPhone, and so on.
You can take this further by adding the categories of information below for each of the top-levels of navigation.