You have your templates redesigned, you have your content in place and you’ve launched your “new and improved” Web site. You have had some good traffic but you keep getting emails from users stating they have problems finding what they are looking for on your site.
What is the problem? The site makes sense to you. You know how items and sections are arranged and organized. Why do you continue to get these kinds of emails? Suddenly, you remember having heard someone use the term information architecture. You didn’t know exactly what it meant at the time and therefore discarded it as just another techno buzz-word.
Information Architecture (IA) is one of the more subtle yet profound disciplines in Web site development. At its basic level, IA specifies how users will find content on a site. It defines the organization, navigation, labeling and searching of content. IA can be broken into the following components:
– Information Gathering
– Information Aligning
– Information Editing
– Information Labeling
– Information Mapping (the growth and change of content)
In this post we will discuss the first component of IA: Information Gathering.
For many, you have a lot of content but it is not in a digital format. Converting it is a first step. Whether it be audio, video, graphics, or text, the gathering and converting of this material into a digital medium is crucial.
Some of the content may have to be edited for online usage. Audio and video messages may have to be edited into smaller pieces. You should also critique any audio or video for how it will translate on the Web.
– Are there references to “U.S. only” audiences? Remember that this is the Worldwide Web.
– Are there video shots with panning and zooming? Are there any long shots that will turn into a haze of distorted pixels once the video is compressed?
– Are there images or pictures that need to be created/optimized for the Web?
– Are there text documents that needs to be created?
All these factors need to be considered when gathering information for your site. No piece is too trivial. Gather everything. You will find that during this process it will be a huge benefit for the following reasons:
– Confirms and solidifies your vision, mission, goals and values.
– Creates documents that have long been in the heads of executives, directors, and managers.
– Makes the conceptual, concrete.
– Prepares your organization for a Web-recognized workflow.
Finally, keep an open mind as you gather all your information and potential information. This is the first step and as such every consideration for your Web site should be kept pliable. You may find some presumptions you had about your organization to be erroneous. That is OK. Use these insights to mold and refine your organization for future growth. You certainly do not want to confuse your calling as you see hot-new-Web-technologies on the horizon.
Next week, we will look at the second component of Information Architecture: Information Aligning. We will discuss how and why it is crucial to scrutinize your content and see any patterns that develop in how pieces relate to each other and to your mission.
See you then.