Information Architecture

Information architecture as defined by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville from Argus Associates states, “Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.”

Organizing informational content on a website can be a very difficult and complicated endeavor, and is very challenging to many web professionals. Information Architects are trying to makes sense of electronic information so users can find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.

To integrate information architecture in your site, follow these primary steps:

Defining Your Goals

  • Define the site’s goals
  • Ask questions to stakeholders about the business and user needs
  • Filter the answers
  • Evaluate the existing site through a site analysis exercise to identify goals
  • Conduct a task analysis to understand the current system and the information flows within it

Evaluating the existing site through a site analysis exercise is very beneficial when identifying goals.

A task analysis is conducted to understand a current system and the information flows within it.

Audience and Competitors

  • Define the user experience
  • Define the audience
  • Create scenarios
  • Look at other state agencies, local and federal government websites (competitive analysis)

Outline Site Content

  • Identify business through data gathering and user requirements with site analysis
  • Map requirements to the site’s function
  • Identify content that meets the requirements and functions
  • Group and label content
  • Create an outline of the categories and sub-categories of content

Site Structure

  • Metaphor exploration through exercises such as site analysis and task analysis, then reinforce the structure in a solid directory structure
  • Commit to the information architecture – don’t change it without good reason and without following the process
  • Define navigation using card sorting and task analysis

Visual Layout

  • Choose a layout grid that presents your content and navigation well
  • Design sketches and page mock-ups
  • Create a wireframe

Navigation Labels

Once you have your structure for your site content well defined, you’ll need to finalize the labels for your main navigation categories and links.

Tips for navigation labels:

  • Remember the audience
  • Keep it simple (“Jobs” instead of “Career Opportunities”)
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms – spell it out!
  • Use “trigger words”
  • Avoid getting cute, just be clear
  • Follow conventions
  • It should be “obvious”

Card sorting is the preferred exercise to help establish a navigation structure in information architecture.

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