A better information architecture tool

Paul Boag

I have never managed to find a tool I like for creating site hierarchies and getting them signed off. However, recently I found something that is definitely getting there.

You wouldn’t think it is much to ask for all. All I want is a simple tool for creating site maps that I can show to the client and get him to sign off on the site hierarchy. Okay so I am actually a bit more demanding than that. I guess my actual list of requirements would be as follows…

  • It has to be easy to use and not have too many unnecessary options that just get in the way
  • It needs to look nice so I can show it to the client and it looks professional
  • I need to be able to print it
  • I need to be to save it in a format that I can easily send to the client
  • In an ideal world I would like to be able to work on it collaboratively but I accept that might be asking for too much.

Sure there are a lot of site tools around but they all seem to fall down on one of above criteria. For example something like Visio or Omnigraffle are great but are overly complicated. There are simpler products out there but to be honest most of the ones I have used just produce damn ugly site maps. There are a few online tools which are pretty simple and produce nice site maps but they always seem to mess up when it comes to printing.

A while back I received an email from a guy who had developed a site map tool called writemaps which he wanted me to mention on the show. I took a look hopeful it would meet my criteria but unfortunately it did not. I wrote a polite email back explaining that I felt there was more work to be done on it before I was willing to endorse it and that was the last I heard from him until recently.

The site has now had a complete overhaul and I have to say I think it is superb. If you share similar requirements to me when it comes to creating a site hierarchy then this tool is for you.

Easy to use

It has a clean simple interface that requires minimum effort to create a site map.

Screen capture of writemap showing the clean user interface

Visually attractive

It has an attractive design which I would be more than happy to show to any of my clients. The only downside is that currently you cannot differentiate between different page types (all pages look the same). However other than that it looks great.

Screen capture of writemap showing the version of the interface without the edit controls

Great printing

Although the printing isn’t perfect yet it is still extremely good. I did encounter some small rendering issues (which I also encountered when zooming) however overall the result is very satisfactory.

Screen capture of writemap print view

Lots of saving options

It allows you to save online, create a backup or even save as XML. Unfortunately it doesn’t save as an image but I guess you can always do a screen capture.

Screen capture of writemap export options


Best of all you can share a site map with somebody else. You can even choose if that the person can edit it or not. Great for showing the client.

Screen capture of writemap's sharing preference window

This is a huge step forward from the version I originally saw and so I suspect things will continue to improve over the coming weeks and months. Also I have only touched on a few of my personal highlights. You can also do many other things like..

  • Add notes to individual pages
  • Associate a page with a live webpage
  • Show or hide branches on complex site maps
  • View the site map as a hierarchical list instead of a tree

If you find yourself having to produce site hierarchies and if you need to get clients feedback on them then this is definitely the tool for you. Best of all it’s free so sign up for an account at writemaps.com