News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Create a Content-Rich Blueprint of a Website

What decade is this anyway?
For all the years I've been involved in mind mapping, I've never heard very much talk about using maps as part of the web design process. I've never understood that. Having designed more than a few websites myself (and I mean "design" in the sense of my role in the process, which is usually "information design"), I can tell you that mind mapping makes web design insanely easier.

By their very nature, mind maps immediately capture the sense of layers that is the backbone of every web site. You have a home page with its own content. And then the home page links out to layers and layers of other pages. This layering a very tough concept to convey with the kinds of business tools most clients use.

Creating a visual picture of something visual: What a concept!
I use MINDMAP to create guide to the site--a kind of blueprint. A while back, one mind mapping company developed a way to go directly from a mind map to a fully functional website. But it was a pretty crude process. So I stick to using the map as simply a guide--but a very good guide.

The nice thing about using MINDMAP to do this is that you can map out not only the links from one page to the next, but the actual content that will appear on each page.

Think of what this means to you as a web designer. Imagine if your client could send you ONE SINGLE DOCUMENT that clearly communicated:

  1. How each page is linked to the next.
  2. What text goes on every page (along with notes about how and where the text should appear, what color it should be, etc.)
  3. Whether there should be links to documents, images, sound or video files.
  4. All of those text, image, audio, video, etc. files, added as attachments or links to the map.
(And remember, this is all in one, easily reorganized, easily added to document-- produced with software that is very affordable and ridiculously easy to learn.)

Every mind map tells a story, don't it?
So what you would have before you is a complete, self-explanatory, self-contained guide to how the client wants the site to be organized, and the content for each and every page.

Call me crazy. But when I've seen how other people try to communicate information this complex, the results are usually... scary. We're talking pages of notes, Dropbox folders full of documents with instructions on what goes where--but in yet another document. At best, we're talking Visio diagrams that contain some--but not all--of the information you need to understand the information architecture. At worst, you're on a conference call taking notes, trying to understand what in the world the client is talking about.

Here's just one simple image of what a map like this might look like. I think your imagination can fill in all the blanks:

Christmas is coming (hint hint)
So here's an idea: Get your clients the gift that keeps on giving: Get them a copy of ConceptDraw MINDMAP. It will take the each of you about 5 minutes to figure out how to do all you need to do to create a map like this (create branches and sub-branches, insert notes, and attach hyperlinks). From that point on, it will be so much easier to communicate information back and forth that you'll feel as if you've jumped ahead a couple of decades.

And compared to the way most people plan websites, you have.

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