Early introduction to mapping

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I was asked how to start mapping: “Would you like to tell me in very simple terms how I can plan, for example a website (pics/contents), or client acquisition.”

If you’re struggling with the whole idea of how to think visually, it’s almost certainly best to start off in the real world, not the virtual. So don’t use software where you have to worry about the operation as well as the topic you’re thinking through until you’ve got the hang of visual thinking.

For the absolute beginner, I like to recommend the flexibility of Post-It tabs. You can stick them on a large sheet of paper, and move them around as ideas take shape, you see what’s needed and you begin to plan out your course of action.

So to plan a web site, you might first write down the main topic of the site on a tab … “Film reviews” for example. Stick that in the middle of the large sheet of paper.

Then write down the each of the types of people (the audience) that the site is aimed at. One per tab. So, maybe “movie buffs”, “casual browsers seeking entertainment”, “browsers seeking reviews of a specific film”, “students of cinematic arts”, “critics”.

Then write down categories of film: “Sci Fi”, “Horror”, “Romance”, “Musical”, “Action”, Historical” and so on.

Plan your sources – one per tab.

As you write each tab, stick it to your sheet of paper, grouping related tabs together around the main topic tab. High-level topics go close to the main one. Consider whether topics on tabs can be broken down. So you might decide that historical films should be broken down by country, or historical period.

Clustering-mindmaps-start.jpg

Of course, this is a simplified, early-stage example included just to illustrate how things might go for you.

Then start thinking about how the visitors would use the site – navigation, search, layout, appearance. Each navigation element would have its tab.

As the collection of tabs grows, ideas will come and the site will start to take shape in your mind.

When it firms up, you can start drawing connecting lines, but if you’re really new to mapping and not confident, just use proximity of tabs to indicate a connection.

Later you’ll go on to draw, using color and maybe pictures or icons to help pull your eye to the area you’re looking for without to need to read, and use single words to open more mental pathways sometimes. On to software even.

This is just a simplified, non-intimidating pathway into information mapping. There’s a lot more in this wiki, like How to make a mind map and How to make a concept map (and they are different), but this is a start for those who find the articles too technical in the early stage.

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