Getting Around with Maps
Supermarket aisles are always problematic, especially when you visit for the first time. Even if you already know what to get, you still need to find your way through baby diapers, Asian groceries, toiletries and teabags to find your instant coffee. Some tech-savvy startups have already tapped into this issue here. Clearly, one needs a good map to get to where one wants to be, even in supermarkets.
All maps, in any shape or form, serve the same purpose. Maps should get the users to where they want to go. Bad maps will not only misdirect you (or sometimes they do), but users will have to spend needless time before they finally get to where they need to go. Good maps will take you to the right location via the best and shortest possible path.
This is no different than the issue users face in websites. Most websites are simple, with only a handful of menu items in the top-level navigation. However, user research almost always come across navigation issues due to a poorly structured sitemap. Users often have issues trying to find the Contact Us page, not to mention, sub-level navigation. Career pages usually hide on the bottom of the navigation.
When we design our products, we always put our users first in mind. We take into account who will use the product and our main target audience. Once we define our users, we start to come out the solution based on their characteristics. This framework is called User-centered design (UCD) or User-driven development (UDD).
Let us examine the best way in approaching sitemaps.
Our Approach to Sitemaps – Keep it Simple
In our recent work with Chip Mong website, we try to keep it simple. As we discussed, we try to get the users to where they want to go in the timeliest way.
In the case for the Chip Mong Group Website, we can define the main users for this website as either potential investors or recruitment candidates. Thus, these users visit the website to obtain information about the company and to find contact details. Corporate websites, such as Chip Mong Group’s website, have a very specific user spectrum. Unlike other eCommerce websites or entertainment websites, the user of these websites has a very specific goal.
Usually, users don’t tend to read the heavy text in the website. However, in our case, we expect that our users are willing to read the information provided as obtaining information is the user’s primary objective. Therefore, the website should be ready to tell the story in an effective way.
Chip Mong Group’s current website’s IA(Information Architecture) is quite simple and straightforward. The page layout is followed with a traditional website style which fits to screen and no scrolling. The user has to jump between pages to pages to navigate the website.
Nowadays, most people use smartphones. Thus scrolling is the trend of web browsing in this generation. That trend has changed user’s behavior when they use computers too. One of the great benefits of a long scrolling website is narrative flow.
A good narrative flow offers unique opportunities for storytelling that page by page navigation cannot match. This technique gives the user more control over pacing and keeps them in focus. The continual immersion avoids the detrimental lag between pages.
In short, sitemaps represent the structural hierarchy of the website’s information. The same way a user can navigate a well-designed supermarket, finding the toilet paper within three minutes, a website with a strong sitemap will get the business’s contact details in a blink of an eye, if that is what the user is searching for.
So here is our suggestion. In the newly proposed sitemap, each top level category has scrollable pages. In the first view of the page show introduction about the page. It is quite similar when we write the article. The article starts with the introduction, allowing the author to iterate the main points.
For example, in regards to the Portfolio category, we want to put an overview of the entire portfolio; each portfolio has a button to link to its detail page. This IA can be applied to each top level category. The same thing applies to the Chip Mong Group CSR page, as users are able to access more information as they need.
The website is also an important avenue for Chip Mong Group to find qualified candidates. As the company scales up, the need for recruiting potential candidates increase. Candidates are able to search jobs instantly as they enter the career page. If they have any doubts, they can read the testimonials of current employees and Life at Chip Mong. Then comes the clincher. Candidates will search for their dream job, and if they cannot find it, submit their CV anyway.
Conclusion – Making the Sitemap Work
Chip Mong Group has long remained one of the strongest family-owned companies in Cambodia. However, scaling up means they have to upgrade their identity into a more corporate look. The website is a crucial vehicle for this facelift. And with everything else, it starts with the structure.
This is an example of a sitemap that fulfils business objectives. Businesses have to take in mind that as they grow, their objectives may also change. If that’s the case, their user’s objectives may also change with it. Therefore, the sitemaps needs to adapt to the this changing need to reflect the user’s needs and the business’s.
A solid sitemap is key to a successful website, as it gives proper respect to the user and the business objectives equally.