December 16th, 2005
Recently, I posted about our current thinking on on-site Search. I said it was, in essence, how users deal with the scent on the page failing them. Fix the scent problems and the need for on-site Search diminshes quickly.
Site maps and site indexes fall into the same issues.
In an abstract way, you can think of a site map or site index as a Search utility where all the functional search terms are already presented as links. Instead of requiring users to guess at the possible Search term, you list them out. In a site map, you typically list them in related groupings of content (as perceived by the designers of the site). In a site index, you list them in alphabetical order.
Our research shows that users will rarely turn to these things if the scent on the page is good. Investing resources in building an effective site map or site index is taking resources away from fixing scent problems. We recommend that our clients focus their resources on the scent problems before they turn to these devices as solutions.
Usage of maps and indexes are also a predictor that the scent on your pages is failing. (Here’s a nifty trick: If you find users are more successful when they visit your site index or site map, make that page your homepage and see what happens. I’m wagering they stop needing the site index or map.)
Building and maintaining a site map or site index is, like on-site Search, fixing the symptom and not addressing the true problem.
[Want to know more about how to improve the scent on your site? Check out the upcoming UIE Roadshow, where Christine & I will be sharing our latest research on the topic.]Tweet