Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Now that you know what your site is going to be about and
who it is for, you are ready to pinpoint what it will contain. Everyone around you is
starting to get ideas, and some of them may even have a mental image of what the site
should look like. You need to harness this creative energy and channel it into a
productive process. You already have an agreement on the goals and audience, and you will
be using the process that everyone is familiar with by now.
The point of this part of the information-architecture
process is to gather the pieces for creating the structure and organization of the site.
You will need to answer two questions: What pieces of content does the site need? What
sorts of functionality will be required? Think of it this way: If you want to build a
spaceship out of Legos, you need to pick out all of the pieces you will be using. These
pieces represent the content. If you want your Legos to do things, you need to choose
which motors and processors you need (yes, Legos are computerized in this exercise). These
pieces represent the functionality.
In order to harness all the ideas about how the site will
work, create a list of the content and functional requirements. Then reach a consensus on
how this content will be grouped and labeled. A side effect of this process is to create a
content list or inventory, which is the basis for the site structure.
Identify Content and Functional Requirements
Use the list of goals, the needs of your audience, and your
competitive analysis - all of which you've already collected - to start two new lists: one
of content elements and one of the functional requirements for the site. Add any potential
Web pages or types of content that you can think of to each list. Types of content include
static, dynamic, functional, and transactional. Copyright notices, privacy statements, and
membership rules are examples of static content. Member logon pages, signup pages for
email newsletters, and other pages involving forms or transactions should be included on
your list of functional requirements. Browse the sites of your competition, and add any
pages that are not on these two lists.
While you are generating these two lists, have everyone
create their own lists of desired content and incorporate them into your content list.
Have everyone review this list in order to get a sense of how important each piece of
content is. Revise your list if you need to. You now have what's called a "content
inventory." Some people claim that gathering content is their number one bottleneck.
The content inventory can be used to start this process early.
Using the content inventory, revise your list of functional
requirements. If the content inventory has pages for canceling purchases, the system had
better be able to cancel purchases. Work with the technology and production people to
determine the feasibility of each requirement. Do you have the technology and the skills
to meet each requirement? Do you have the time and money to buy or build the
functionality? Rank the importance of each requirement. You may have to get rid of some in
order to meet your deadlines. Other requirements might become overshadowed by more
important ones and drop off your list.
Group and Label
Order out of chaos - that's what this step is all about.
Here you organize the content and define the basis for the site's structure. Begin by
writing each element of the content inventory on an index card. Take the cards and
organize them into groups. (You will want a big table to do this.) Try organizing them in
different ways. When you are satisfied with how you have grouped things, name each group;
try to be as descriptive as possible, and avoid being verbose. Record the name of each
group and the elements within it.
Repeat this process with everyone involved. It is important
to record how each person organizes the information and names each group. Be sure to tell
everyone that there is no right or wrong answer. All opinions are valid. Excellent ideas
often come from the most unlikely sources.
After everyone has gone through the exercise, compare and
contrast how each person organized the information. Depending on how you want to do this,
you might call everyone together to discuss the pros and cons of each layout, work
one-on-one with the most intriguing people and their ideas, or just organize all of the
thoughts on your own.
When you decide on the final groupings and names, use them
as the basis for defining the major sections of the site and the names of each section.
This is the basis for your site structure. Be warned, though: Consider the major sections
as transient - their names and content may change in the next stage of the IA process. Be
sure to run the sections and their names by a few key players to make sure they are OK
with them. Finally, revise the content inventory, if necessary, to reflect the new
organization of the information.
Document - Content and Functions
Create chapter 3 called "Content and Functional Requirements" in your design
document s. Include a summary of the content inventory. Add a section about how the
content is grouped and named. Add the list of functional requirements with a summary, if
you like. The content inventory should be included as an appendix to the design document.
Remember to publish these results so that everyone can see them.
Next, Part 4: Site
Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 4 Part 5