Information architecture is a process that helps organize online content so that users can easily access services and information. This process is critical, especially for large internet sites, as it ensures the site meets both the user’s needs of and those of the business.
While the goal of information architecture is often easy to understand, implementing the process can be somewhat less clear. To help you organize your next project, we’ve created a checklist for building website information architecture.
1) Pre-Plan Information Architecture
Information architecture does not begin with the site. The process actually starts by spending some time researching the site’s goals. This includes considering who will use the site and how they will use it, as well as determining the best technology for delivering the information they seek.
Start your planning by:
- Identifying the website’s goals
- Identifying the target audience
- Identifying the target audience’s needs
- Determining which needs the website can provide
- Describing how users will interact with the website
- Picking an appropriate site structure
2) Choose Your Content To Match
Once you understand how your website will meet the needs of both the business and the user, it’s time to start thinking about the content. Choosing your content can be as detailed as constructing extensive content inventories, or as simple as determining the type you’d like to present on your site. It mostly depends on the size and scope of your final project.
Regardless of how detailed you choose to be, this step should not be skipped.
3) Organize Your Content
If you’ve already done the first two steps, the third step of organizing your content should go a lot smoother than if you had not. Organizing your content involves grouping and labeling your content so that you can thoroughly understand how it will be placed on the site.
This step includes:
- Grouping content based on the target audience’s needs
- Creating a hierarchy for your content
- Identifying any possible related information
- Creating content labels
- Creating a visual of your content using cards, outlines or mind-mapping
4) Document It and Write it Down
Up until now, most of the steps involved planning and organizing. Now it is finally time to document that hard work. While some may think this step is not necessary, it is most useful while the website is being built, as well as after the fact. You may already have a clear understanding of how the site will look, but there’s a good chance that others collaborating on the project do not.
Use Slickplan to create detailed graphical charts that not only help everyone involved have a clear understanding of what is going on but also serve as a record when the site needs to be updated. Those charts can also later be used to create detailed sitemaps.
5) Implement Your IA Plan
Congratulations, your information architecture is now planned out, and you are ready to build. However, before you start building, there are a few more steps to take. You’ll want to carefully review your architecture to ensure it aligns with the determined goals, has enough content, is flexible should budget or needs change, and is logical. If all of these things check out, you should then use a prototype to test your proposed structure. Although it may seem completely ready to go, if it’s not, it is much cheaper to change it now.
After your final review and user testing, you are ready to design the navigational elements and finish building the site. Once completed, continue to monitor how the website is being used and make changes as needed.
Written By Jenn Marie
Jenn Marie is a freelance copy writer and internet marketing strategist based out of the Seattle area. A true tech evangelist, Jenn previously helped individuals utilize the full potential of Dell, Microsoft and Amazon products. She now focuses on building authentic online presences for small businesses and entrepreneurs through her company, Jenn Marie Writing & Marketing.