If you're not using MindMeister then by the time you finish reading this post I hope you'll go over and give it a shot. This is probably one of the best tools I've come across that helps you associate abstract concepts together when planning. I'm currently using MindMeister to plan several large client sites in addition to using it to help me map out my business.
I've talked a lot about planning your website in previous posts and this is the perfect tool for visual learners to get their ideas on virtual paper and see how things fit together. To get a good idea of how this looks take a look at this public map that was created about Google +.
You can share your map with your manager, business partner or coach (I've been sharing mine with my coach, Justin Lukasavige). Best part of this is it's free! You can get up to three fully functional maps on a free account.
It may not be quite so obvious as to how to best use this, so here are four tips for using MindMeister to plan your website.
1. Use it to outline your marketing strategy
How is your site going to use social media? How you are you going to implement your feeds? What about a newsletter?
Your site isn't just your site anymore. There are so many other things that you need to think about to make sure that you're spreading the word to get all the exposure you can! So creating a good strategy is a good idea.
I've used MindMeister to outline virtually my entire business, the vast majority of which is web-based. I've got my marketing plans for what I want to do and what I want to acheive in here and how each site will help me get there. I've got notes on how I'm going to use social media, SEO, and all other kinds of things to get exposure for my business.
2. Use it to plan your site architecture
What pages are you going to need? How are you going to manage comments? What is your page structure going to look like? Are you going to have a store? What does the checkout process look like? What are you going to use for your payment gateway?
These are just a small sampling of questions that I ask myself when creating my maps. This step is incredibly helpful for getting your thoughts out on virtual paper right in front of you so that you can see what you're trying to do. You'll notice some things that work, some that don't and will usually have a good idea on how to resolve them. If you don't you can always drop me a note and I'll see if I can help!
3. Use it to plan out your page sections. What do you need on each page?
Create new nodes for each page and then make notes for what you need to have on those pages. When I'm using it for my sites I get down in to the details of what needs to be added, how it's going to be done, the features it needs to have, how they're going to get there and any other functionality that the page will need.
You may not need to have such detail, but you'll be surprised at how the ideas start flowing when you're writing those things down, and the areas that you need to shore up.
4. What do you want have in your main content regions? What about your sidebars?
This is an extention of the previous point, but different. Use this to think in terms of strategy for these areas. They DON'T have to be the same thing on every page, so make sure that you have a good plan for what you need to include there.
Some pages may be full-width pages for sidebars, some may need blocks, or widgets that are specifically pertaining to your content on that page that would be out of place elsewhere. Think through this step and map out what you want to see.
Using MindMeister can be a valuable tool to help you get to where you're going. I know that when I found it the ideas just started flowing! When it comes to planning your website, having something so visually represented in front of you helps me think clearly and I hope that you'll find it useful too.
Do you have other ways you can use MindMeister to plan your website? Let me know below!