I'm new to UX and am confused and cannot differentiate between a site map and a Hierarchy chart.

Logically I understand that a hierarchy chart is a general name and the site map is a specification related specifically to websites.

But someone I know who teaches UX, claims that they are two very separate things; according to her the hierarchy map describes the navigation process whilst the sitemap is a representative structure of the web pages for the whole website that doesn't show the linkage between the webpages, rather just shows the hierarchy regarding the information in the website.

Can someone please clarify things for me?

2 Answers 2


There is often some ambiguity and confusion around terminology (just look at the definitions for the tags at UXSE) but if we just look at what the terms themselves refer to, it is easy to see that one is more specific than the other.

Hierarchy charts is a visual representation of a logical order or structure. So it is a data visualisation technique but it doesn't define what type of information is being represented or displayed. An example of a hierarchy chart would be a organisation chart where people's hierarchy within an organisation (based on title or salary) is organised.


A sitemap (for a website) is a visual (but usually a text heavy tree structure) representation of the navigation and/or content of the website. It isn't always hierarchically organised, especially if it isn't an exactly representation of how a user can navigate between the content. This can be the case when a website has an organic or complex navigation strategy implemented.


So I hope this helps you understand the difference between the two terms. You can certainly represent a sitemap using a hierarchy chart of some sort, but a hierarchy chart isn't necessarily a sitemap. Also not to be confused with a site map, which is just a visual representation of a physical location.

  • This is a great answer! I appreciate your help!
    – Sharon
    Feb 6, 2022 at 20:47
  • @Sharon the purpose of UXSE (among other things) is to provide a forum for people to ask and answer questions relating to the work involved in UX Design, so I hope you get some other answers here :) Thanks to your contribution!
    – Michael Lai
    Feb 7, 2022 at 22:12

Sitemaps are a type of tree-like graphic that illustrates the organizational structure of a website or application. User Experience Designers and Information Architects use them to define the taxonomy by grouping material that is connected to one another. They are an essential part of the user-centered approach because they ensure that content is located where users anticipate finding it. In addition to this, you can use them as a point of reference for creating wireframes, functional requirements, and content maps.

UX sitemaps are often created after you have finished working on your personas and user journeys and the initial discovery period for your website. They visualize what you have learned about how users will navigate the website, what information they will require to support them in achieving their goals, and what kind of language they use to identify things in the world. In addition, it should also consider the business's objectives and any material necessary for the firm to carry out its overall plan successfully.

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