Howdy, howdy, my SEO comrades! Search Engine Academy is back at ya with another Wednesday edition of information architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO).

We have been showing you how to implement your IA plan. Let’s keep on rolling with IA design and documentation.

Now that your IA research and strategy are pretty well done, it’s time cough up an information architecture for the website. Whether you’ve done a small, simple site with a web design expert, or built a large controlled vocabulary as part of a larger design effort, what you produce as a deliverable is what you’ve experienced throughout this entire process.

How To Clearly Represent Your IA Efforts

As an IA expert, you’ll use a lot of visual representations to communicate the IA you’ve helped design. This can be really challenging, because IA is so multi-dimensional. You’ll need to design and present diagrams to show your IA efforts. Here’s a couple ways you can do this.

First, create and present multiple view of the information architecture. Websites, which can also be called digital information systems, can’t really be shown statically all at once. Instead, create a series of diagrams in different formats to communicate the various aspects of the IA you’ve worked on. Multiple diagrams may be the way to go.

Develop your diagrams for the different target audiences’ requirements. What you create to show the C-level folks may be very different from what you can share with the web development and design team.

It’s best if you did the presentations yourself. If the audience is unfamiliar with IA, your most beautiful diagrams will still look like gobbledegook. This is a great opportunity for severe miscommunication and disconnects that could leave the impression that you don’t know what hell you’re doing, that you didn’t listen to a damn thing that was said to you about requirements, etc. You need to be there in person to explain, translate, and heaven forbid, defend what you came up with.

If you can, get an understanding of what your target audience needs before you create your IA diagrams. Don’t assume anything…you know what that means!

The diagrams most frequently used are wireframes and blueprints. These emphasize website content structure, but not so much the semantic content. Blueprints and wireframes can show structure, movement and flow, but they can’t really talk to the semantic component of content or labels.

Visual Communication

You can communicate two things about a website IA with diagrams. You can define content components – what is a unit of content and how to group those content components. You can also show connections between content components – how they’re linked for navigating the site.

You can use something called a “visual vocabulary.” Basically, it’s symbols you can use to describe a system, structure or process. You use boxes, connector lines and arrows. It looks a lot like flow charts and organization charts, to be honest. If you use Microsoft Visio, there are several applications that play well with it to create IA diagrams.

Don’t know Visio, and don’t want to learn? You can use word processing tools to manually create diagrams. Whatever works for you, because you’re going to spend a lot of time creating, refining and presenting these things.

This is enough for today. Next week, we’ll look at blueprints, yay! Until next time, think about what type of software you might use to create an IA diagram, and how you might present it to a group of stakeholders.

In the meantime, keep it between the ditches!