Sitemaps are an important element for any website; they help visitors navigate your site, and can help search engine spiders index it properly. However, they can be difficult to generate from scratch. Fortunately, there are a number of applications that can automate the process. Dan Wellman reviews a number of these tools, available in various price ranges.
If none of the standalone programs appeal to you, you could always use a chart drawing application to create a graphics based site map; Microsoft Visio, Concept Draw V and Smart Draw 7 all have this feature built in and all contain specialized diagram shapes for creating conceptual sitemap diagrams. The benefit of using these applications is that in addition to listing all of the pages or resources of your website, you can include information on the structure in which they are linked and show the relationships the pages have with each other. The bad thing about using these applications is that you have to manually draw the sitemap yourself, which can be time consuming at best.
In a choice between the above three applications, I would avoid Smart Draw; the application in itself is fine, but the trial version includes a little prompt window that appears after every boot that tries to convince you to buy the full application. This is simply annoying and in my opinion a blatant advertising abuse of your desktop. It also interferes with the running of your autostart applications.
Graphical applications, such as Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks can also be used to create a graphical representation of your website. Obviously, you can use any style that you want, but again, you’ll need to do this manually, and also, you’ll probably save the finished page as an image map. This can be done in such a way that it meets accessibility guidelines, but generally for a sitemap you would want to keep things as simple and as easy to use as possible. Another consideration is that page load times could easily be increased when dealing with large images or multiple slices.
While sitemap generators are not the most common form of applications available, there are some reasonable choices out there, so even if you have neither the time nor the inclination to create one yourself, there is no reason why your website should be missing such a key element to its structure.
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