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Let Visio Map Your Web Site for You

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Do you need a visual map of the pages on your Web site? Laurie Rowell explains how you can use Visio 2003 to create it in minutes.
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Mapping a Web site in Visio 2003 is astonishingly quick and relatively painless. The trick is understanding what you’re looking at once you’ve mapped your site. You see, when you use the Visio function to create a site map, the app doesn’t just draw a series of shapes—it creates a model of your site. You can manipulate this model either directly, in the main view, or by means of a series of tools that allow you to look beneath the surface to find out why links are broken or to generate reports.

The whole mapping process is but the work of a moment, so let’s do that first.

Map It

First, you’ll need a site to map. You can snag one from the Web or examine the architecture of a site still in development. In other words, Visio will happily map any site on the Internet, an intranet, an FTP site, or still in files on your hard drive or share. This method works equally well no matter where you grab the site.

  1. Select Web Site Map from the template offerings or choose File > New > Web Diagram > Web Site Map to launch the template. The Generate Site Map dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 1.
  2. Enter a Web address for the site you want to map, or browse to the development site. If possible, don’t just name a site; instead, specify a file, such as the index or default file.
    Figure 1

    Figure 1 Enter a URL or browse to a file.

  3. This step is optional, but useful because it reduces the map size. Click the Settings button and then click the Advanced tab. Select the check box Display Duplicate Links as Expandable; then click OK. This action will keep Visio from automatically pasting in extra shapes for duplicate links.
  4. Click OK to tell Visio to map the specified site.

Be patient. Mapping could take a while, depending on the speed of your network connection and the size and complexity of the site you’re mapping. Your newly mapped Web site will look something like Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The site map background will stretch to accommodate the site map.

The resulting map can spread out far and wide, and if Visio needs to stretch your virtual sheet of paper, it will just do it, popping rulers onto the sides to show you how big a virtual sheet it was obliged to use. If you want to print this gem, you should choose File > Print Preview to see how it will lay out on your available paper choices.

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