Information Architecture Planning

I’m just starting a new website project at work, and one of the first things I’m attacking is the information architecture. I’ve learned the hard way that having a solid site architecture can save boatloads of redesign pain later on.

My method is to plan it out and it goes roughly like this:

  • Learn everything I can about the topic(s) to be presented – past history, present situation, and future plans
  • Discover who all the stakeholders are
  • Perform an existing site content type and page audit
  • Build a site map of the current site
  • Wallow deeply in site metrics for top pages, visitor trends, referrers, search terms, and page flows
  • Wallow deeply in customer data around segmentation, intent drivers, and key tasks
  • Look for stuff that can be dumped overboard
  • Figure out what will need to be added in the future
  • Whiteboard out all the elements (content, information flows, external process connections, customer segments, etc.)
  • Stare at whiteboard for hours, then erase and draw, erase and draw until a model and page pattern(s) appear
  • Wireframe a few pages with the designers to get a feel if the model works across architectural segments
  • Go back to whiteboard and fix the broken stuff
  • Wireframe again
  • Look for more stuff that can be dumped overboard
  • Build high-fidelity comps, preferably on the deployment platform
  • Lock it for usability/review
  • Tweak after usability/review (if needed)
  • Hand off to production when it’s complete

Easy, eh? 😉


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