Site Map Usability

Useit Alertbox on Usable site maps.

Most site maps fail to convey multiple levels of the site's information architecture. In usability tests, users often overlook site maps or can't find them. Complexity is also a problem: a map should be a map, not a navigational challenge of its own.

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[W]e strongly recommend having a clear link to the site map on every page. Call the link Site Map.

Keep them simple, and emphasize a compact overview of the information space.

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Like lost in a city...

A rule of thumb I adhere to: if a site requires a map, then the site inherently has poor navigation.

If a site map is used -> improve navigation -> need a site map? return to step two -> remove site map.

Some thoughts

about Nielsen's advice on EH

Or to put it another way..

"Even though all of the study sites had site maps, only 27% of our users turned to the site map when asked to learn about a site's structure."

So that means that, when attempting to find out about the structure of a site, you can address the needs of over a quarter of your users with a single page? You're never going to help everyone in the same way, but that's a lot of people to help at the same time surely.