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The Art of Information Architecture

Home > Build > Backend > Information Architecture

by Aaron West

There are many factors in a quality Web site Design, development, creativity, writing, color balance, and organization are all contributors, but careful planning is what makes or breaks the site. The old adage 'It'll come out in the wash' rarely works in practice. Lack of planning usually results in unorganized material and plenty of headaches along the way.

Information Architecture is the practice of designing the infrastructure of a Web site, specifically the navigation.

The title 'Information Architect' has quickly come out of obscurity and become a necessity in the art of web development. While one can go to school to obtain this title, the job can be performed reasonably well by following a certain amount of logic.

Professional designers will benefit from architecture by being able to produce accurate quotes and preventing project overrun. Many designers find that projects last far longer than originally projected. This is a nightmare the careful planner can easily avoid.

I'm a firm believer that one should go through plenty scraps of paper, if not a whole notepad, before the first keystroke or mouse click. I've built plenty of Web site in my career and have learned each time that the more planning, the smoother the project can be. Whether you need to develop a high-budget, corporate identity on the web, a content-driven site, or a personal page in your spare time you should benefit from a few simple steps.

Before we begin it's important for me to stress that your client/supervisor should be in the loop for every phase. If possible, have them sign off on the structure as you go. This way you not only have the satisfaction of getting the "greenlight", but you also avoid the project being changed or prolonged at your expense.

Define Your Goals

Every Web site has a purpose, a motive, a driving factor that prompted the need to put it on the web. If you can find out what you, the architect, desires to achieve, you've fought half the battle. This phase will serve as the catalyst for the entire project. These goals should be considered during every decision throughout the process.

Make a list of what you would like your visitors to take with them when they leave your site. If you are preparing an informative content Web site you would want the visitor to leave knowing the information you conveyed. You might also want them to enjoy themselves while they are there. Subscribing to a newsletter or registering for a membership might also be nice. These are your goals. If you list these appropriately and reflect on them during the rest of the process, the odds of success are much higher.

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