I'm currently working on a redesign of a very large/complex website with tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of contributors. The new design requires a significant departure from the current site structure and legacy content must be migrated and formatted accordingly. I've done my best to familiarize myself with their content and their processes and I've put together a proposed sitemap that I think is a good first step.

However, the client kind of rubber stamped the sitemap and wants to move on with wireframing and design. I am concerned they haven't fully considered all of the complexities and possible use cases my round 1 sitemap might not account for.

Are there any suggestions on how to use a sitemap to help the client dig into the nitty-gritty details of their own needs and flush out edge cases that I am not yet aware of?

  • 1
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink... In other words: if you have done your best, possibly multiple times, to point out the pitfalls of missing those edge cases, then it is up to them. And aren't they edge cases for a reason, so it would be alright to treat them differently when they finally do rear their ugly heads? Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 7:42
  • Unfortunately I'm working within a fairly strict waterfall scenario here. Dealing with edge cases when they reveal themselves can and likely will happen but obviously I'd like to catch as many a possible sooner. Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 17:38
  • I guess what I'd like to know more specifically is if there is language that other designers use to intro sitemaps and prep/encourage some critical thinking on the clients end. Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


Every design decision should be justified by either empirical or logical means (which are ideally based on previous research and empirical testing) . Surely if you think your design is better, you have a way of arguing it?

As far as site maps are concerned, analytics is an invaluable resource for their design. User testing is the next thing to do to affirm a particular design.

Debate is a great thing, because your design is always the optimal one. Have you asked your client what is wrong with your proposal and how is the current sitemap better than your proposal. Have you identified weaknesses in the current sitemap? What does your client has to say in response?

What is clear, is that if your round 1 sitemap is not accounting for some user tasks, you will have troubles justifying it. So perhaps create a few task maps and task models of these complex scenarios and them map these in user journeys to show your site map is better?


I just finished the envisioning phase of a similar project where the site prior to the design had close to 80 links in the main navigation and was so confusing that people kept on the logo to get to the home page to try and find some direction in defining where they were. To determine the pain points , we used the following steps

  1. Analysis of the click maps and determined what is the main content people search for
  2. Checked the drop off points and saw why people would drop off there and where the lowest conversions where there

Once we had defined that, I worked with the team to define the site map. After defining the sitemap I got the team to run through a series of sequence and user flow tests where they had to evaluate what an user would have to get to to particular piece content in the site. We then evaluated the flow to see the potential break points and how much the user had to dig to get to the content. The site map was redefined based upon that depending upon the content importance and the effort needed to access it.

I would recommend a similar approach where you define the primary goals of the site and use a sequence flow to find out the effort people need to get the content or primary goals of the site and ask if the client is willing to accept the effort people will need to expend to get to the content

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