Good day my SEO comrades! Search Engine Academy is mighty glad to have you back for another reading about information architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO).
Today we’re going to talk about a strategy development process for your IA efforts. According to the wonderful, extremely helpful book “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” written by Peter Morville & Louis Rosenfeld, there is a four step process to get you to completion. It goes like this: think, articulate, communicate, and test (TACT).
Check out the lovely picture to illustrate the point:
Well, let’s go over each one in a little bit of detail, shall we?
You’ve done a lot of research. It’s surrounding you. Now you need to take time, either alone or with a group and think about how you’re going to convert it to some kind of output.
Capture your ideas from the thinking phase. Write them down, put them in your iphone, iPad, whatever. Again, maybe you’ll do this best at first by yourself, or perhaps you need your mates to propel through this step. You’re going to make diagrams, blueprints, wireframes…whatever works best for you to start communicating this IA project to others.
What are the best ways to let your target audience know what you’ve done? Maybe you’ve come up with reports, power points, wireframes or videos. It’s up to you to discover how best to communicate, and maybe it’s a combination of more than one thing. You may start out with a draft communications plan and refine it as you go along.
You need to wring out your IA before inflicting it upon the web at large. Even if you bribe several of your closest friends with pizza and beer, that’s better than nothing. If you forget how to do different kinds of testing, go back and read about IA and research, then come back here. Don’t forget what I wrote about card sorting – this is a great time to use it.
There’s something called task performance analysis that you can do now. Create a paper or prototype site to test out your global navigation system, your labeling system and the content itself. Keep track of this testing because it will show you weaknesses in your IA that you can safely refine and change now without costing a lot of money, if any.
You can also use wireframes. They’re good for showing you how your target web reader comprehend and use your IA within a website. If you’ve done good, your IA will be validated. If not, you’ll see the problems with your IA strategy and you get to fix it right away.
The take away here is that your IA strategy development should be iterative. You can move back and forth between these four steps safely, since the site hasn’t been hard coded and designed yet. At the end of this four step process, you should feel good about your IA strategy. If not, you need to seriously backtrack and figure out where the heck things went off the rails.
I like to keep these posts short and sweet, especially if you haven’t been thinking about IA. Next up, we’ll talk about your IA deliverables.
Until then, look for opportunities to test your IA and refine it. Don’t forget, keep it between the ditches and come back next week!
All the best to you,