By Jeff Kline


How To Build A Sitemap For Your JCC Website

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This post is the first in a series about creating content for your JCC website.

So, it's time for a new website for your JCC? That's great!

You're probably feeling excited...and a little overwhelmed. After all, a website company is taking care of the design and development, but the content is all on you. That's a lot of work to be responsible for, but don't worry—we've put together a series of posts that will walk you through each step of the web content creation process!

The first step in creating your JCC website content is organizing everything into a sitemap.

Get our free ebook with everything you need to create content for your JCC website now. 

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is basically an outline of every page on your website. It shows how your navigation will be set up—which pages are top-level menu items, and which secondary and tertiary pages (dropdown menu items) will be organized within each section of the website.

Your sitemap can serve as a checklist as you begin writing each page. It’s a good idea to set this up within an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet.

If you are updating an existing website, you could start with your current sitemap and make adjustments. Or you might just find it easier to start from scratch.

How to create your sitemap document:

Note: These instructions are for creating a sitemap that includes a Main Menu with three levels (top, secondary, tertiary) as well as a Utility Menu.

Step 1: Create a new Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet (or start with our template). In cell A1, create the heading Main Menu. Below that, create the following subheadings in A2, B2, and C2: Top-Level Menu Item, Secondary Menu Item, and Tertiary Menu ItemThese are the headings for your Main Menu. (In a couple of steps, we will also be creating a Utility Menu.)

Creating a JCC site map - step 1


Step 2: Beginning in cell A3, list out all of your departments (one department per cell).

Creating a JCC site map - step 2

Step 3: Determine your top-level menu items (ideally, no more than 7). Now that you have listed out all of the departments within your JCC, it’s time to figure out the best way to combine and organize them so that you have no more than 7 top-level menu items.

In addition to departments/programs, you might also choose to include age groups as top-level menu items.

Many JCCs also include “utility” items (secondary information, reference items, and tools for interacting with the site) as a top-level menu item. The Alper JCC of Miami, for example, includes About Us, Membership, and Donate as top-level items. These aren’t programs or age groups, but they’re still important pages.

Here are a few examples of JCC top-level navigation menus that include programs, age groups, and utility items:

  • About / Sports + Fitness / Arts + Culture / Early Childhood / Kids + Family / Adults
  • Fitness / Sports / Performing Arts / Youth + Teens / Adults / Jewish Living / Contact
  • Fitness + Recreation / Aquatics / Preschool / Camp / Arts + Culture / Donate / Join

Once you have determined your top-level menu items, bold the text.


Step 4: Determine your Utility Menu items.

Some JCCs choose to place some or all utility items in a separate Utility Menu.

The utility menu, often appearing in the top right of the page, is where visitors can find tools for using and interacting with your website. This is also a good place to put general information, like the About page.

Common menu items in a JCC utility menu include:

  • About
  • Hours + Schedules
  • Membership
  • Events
  • Donate
  • Contact
  • Blog

The JCC of Northern Virginia has a really nice utility menu.

JCC of Northern Virginia website utility menu

To build out your utility menu, go to Column A of your spreadsheet, click in the cell a few rows below the last line of your main menu, and create the heading “Utility Menu.” Below this heading, list out your utility menu items. (Utility menus typically do not have dropdowns, so we didn’t include any here.)

JCC website site map - step 4


Step 5: Determine your main menu dropdowns (secondary and tertiary menu items).

Now that you’ve figured out all of your top-level items for both your main menu and utility menu, you can go back to your main menu and determine what your dropdown items will be. (As we mentioned before, utility menus typically do not have dropdowns.)

The first level of dropdowns are called “secondary menu items” and the next level are called “tertiary menu items.”

Here’s an image to illustrate:

Main, secondary, and tertiary menu items

Look through the non-bolded items in Column A and move them to Columns B or C under the appropriate top-level menu item.

Then, fill in the rest of your secondary and tertiary menu items. Think about all of the pages you want to create for your website, and figure out how they should be organized within your navigation.

Keep in mind that you are creating a site navigation based on your audience’s intentions and goals, not your own. Where would your audience expect to find fitness schedules, or Mommy and Me swim class registration, or information on summer camps?

When you’re done, your sitemap will look something like this:

JCC website site map - step 5

And that’s it—you’ve created your sitemap!

To give you a head start, we’ve put together a sitemap template and pre-filled it with common top-level, secondary, and tertiary menu items that we’ve found on many JCC websites. 

Download your sitemap template

Up Next: Gathering Content From Your JCC Department Heads

Once you’ve created your sitemap, the next step in the content creation process is gathering information about the different departments in your JCC. To do that, you'll need to enlist the help of the department heads. In the next blog post in this series, we'll offer some advice on the best ways to collaborate with your colleagues and acquire all of the information you need.

For everything on how to write content for your JCC, all in one place, download our free ebook, The DIY Guide: Creating Content for your JCC Website now. 



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