|Have you ever asked yourself: How do I
find that page again?
site could probably have used a spoonful of Information Architecture medicine.
The role of the Information Architect is
similar to a traditional Architect. For example, before building a house an Architect will
create a blue-print, work with the builders, plasters, and electricians and oversee the
Lack of architectural planning in web
development is very expensive as large portions of the site may need to be improved (i.e.
totally re-written) to correct areas that were overlooked in the haste just to get
something out there.
An Information Architect also gives the Financial
Controllers a better grasp of costs and contingency figures; improvised site designs
frequently run over budget.
Companies that wish to develop a commercial website have
specific business goals in mind. The Information Architect captures these areas (not
unlike the business requirements phase) and circulates them to all team leaders.
Large-scale websites often use Market Research and Focus
Group testing, the results of which become incorporated into the site development plan.
Software tools such as Visio, Word, and PowerPoint are
used to prepare the site structure, labels the content sections, and defining content into
To achieve all this, the Information Architects will:
client and note their business priorities.
A design document is then prepared which highlights
critical risks and success factors. This also involves mapping the site structure,
organizing the content on pages, and designing navigation systems.
During the development process, the Information Architect
establishes key deliverables and milestones usually in conjunction with the Project
Manager to assist the client and team leaders in keeping the project on track.
At each major stage, the client is sent mock-ups of the
work in progress. Its also essential to brief the client as the site develops to
help them understand what they are paying for and what areas are in development.
Any presentations should be in line with the client's
level of understanding. Most prefer to see diagrams on both paper and PCs to see how
the site will function.
In defining the site layout, the following areas need to
1. Site Maps flowchart the
navigation and main content sections to illustrate how users navigate, e.g. from the
Catalogue to the Shopping Cart.
2. Content Maps identify the
content appears for each page and how it cross-references other groups.
3. Page Schematics the Graphic
Designer illustrates the page layout and categorize the links, content, advertising space,
and navigation on each page. Schematics also highlight priority and hierarchies.
4. Storyboarding and Prototyping
prepare mock-ups to demonstrate how the site will perform.
When clients fail to grasp the long-term value of
planning, the Information Architect will explain the benefits of concentrating on this
area before any coding beginsand the potential risks that may occur by avoiding such
Before evaluating a website, you need to examine the
Target audience who will
use the site
Business goals what are
the sites objectives and critical success factors
what technical requirement need to be examined
considerations for future expansion and scalability
The Information Architect is responsible for exploring
the projects goals and objectives it's the client's responsibility to ask
about costs, timeframes and contingency plans.
Content needs to be gathered quickly. And as it could be
stored in different file formats and media formats, it needs to be made web
compatible and also formatted for other web channels, such as WAP and DTV.
After designing the site structure and navigation system,
you can map content to different sections. You also need to label content for
cross-referencing in databases and file sharing. Well-organized content enables the user
to find things quickly and encourage them to stay on your site.
Use the 3 Click Test if it takes more than 3
clicks to find something, design your navigation paths again.
Once you have gathered the contentor at least
sufficient content to startbegin refining the content groups.
Every section requires specific content. Each of these
groups needs to have the correct content and cross-references to other relevant groups.
Refine the groups to get an equal distribution of content across all sections, so that the
site is not over-populated in some sections and under construction in others.
Divide large content groups into sub-groups. In this way,
users can retrieve data swiftly and will not get lost is a sea of links!
Combining Visual Design and Content
Remember, visitors want three things on your site:
Ease of use
Your content should drive the site. Graphics enhance the
content, not replace it. The exception is probably entertainment sites where content and
imagery are very closely tied together.
During the design phase, keep returning to these Big
Three mentioned above.
Successful websites provide as much information as
possible with the least clicks. Select the color schemes in accordance with the
companys branding guidelines and business goals.
Future of Information Architecture
Information Architecture will play an increasingly important role in the success of
large-scale websites, intranets and e-libraries.
As more content gets produced, it needs to be labelled
correctly, and structured for rapid access by users with different levels of experience.