I have insomnia, and am reading the latest alertbox Site Map Usability. You read it too, and let me know what you think.
My reaction was basically that he has got the core issue wrong: yes a site map might be useful, but does it have to be in the traditional form of a dedicated page that lists every single page in the site? and how well does the user have to be able to picture the IA to use the site?
What is the nature of a site map? A display of the contents of the site, displaying breadth and range. I remember Peter telling me that the only reason epinions had a yahoo-style directory on the front page was to demonstrate the range of content they had. it wasn’t a particularly useful navigation scheme otherwise.
So maybe we just need to rethink our concept of a site map… maybe it’s like xplane’s global bottom-of-the-page map. or maybe it’s simply an index page, or a yahoo-directory.
When we make maps, we don’t always map every stone in the path– why should a site map be different? Perhaps a useful map that is accessible and grokable by users is more like the wall maps of the world on my homeroom walls as I grew up in Iowa– not one showed my home town.
(Actually I was happy if they showed Iowa. You are somewhere!)
He does say a site map should be two-and-a-half screen, but gives no advice on how to accomplish it. Perhaps suggesting something like “only two levels of hierarchy” might stop some clever folks from using 6 point type to keep their site within jakobian limits.
So what is the appropriate level of detail. That should be decided site-by-site basis, in a collaborative effort between designer and human-factors specialist.
All in all, the man is quotable: “If you wait long enough, you might become King of Sweden, but we can’t wait for Microsoft as our only hope for improved website navigation.”
Okay, off to bed.