Happy Wednesday to all my SEO peeps out there! It’s Wednesday, it’s time for Search Engine Academy to talk about Information Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO)!

We are going over how you can implement an IA strategy for either your web site, or a client’s site. Today, let’s turn our attention to deliverables that can effectively communicate your IA strategy, particularly if you have to present it to a client who knows nothing about IA.


Metaphors can be very useful in communicating ideas to audiences who have no knowledge of the subject matter. Think about “information superhighway.” It creates quite a picture, doesn’t it? And yet, it got the point across about how to picture the internet.

For IA, there are three metaphor types you can use to describe web site design. By the way, this information and everything I’ve learned and written about information architecture come from the best book on the subject “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. You should totally check it out.

OK, back to three types of metaphors…

Organizational Metaphors

Use this metaphor to draw a picture of an organization. Suppose the website sells shoes. You can create a picture of the women’s shoe department, the men’s shoe section, kids shoes, etc. Or perhaps you’re fixing a sporting goods store. Picture someone entering the store and the first section is football jerseys for the local home team. Next to it are men’s athletic clothes. You get the idea.

Functional Metaphors

You can create an image, or a series of images for performing functions. As an example, you may picture entering a health club. You can do your core and stretching work first, then cardio, and after that, weight training. Additional functions could be a yoga or Pilates class, high energy spinning or a fantastic six pack abs class.

Visual Metaphors

Use familiar images, icons and other graphic elements to make a connection to new elements. A business directory might use telephone icons with yellow and black colors to make you think of the old-school hard-copy Yellow Pages, for example.

This can be fun and creative. Get others involved in brainstorming and creativity sessions. Capture ideas about how different metaphors can be applied to organizational, functional and visual applications.

How would you organize a used book store? A children’s clothing boutique? Here at Search Engine Academy, we teach a session on brainstorming and creativity in SEO. This isn’t much different.

Once you’ve settled on a metaphor theme, use large sheets of paper tacked to the wall. Draw or paste items and images to flesh out the website metaphor. However you do it, make sure the metaphor is not limiting. If you find it’s getting in the way of the website IA and design, go back and find another metaphor that allows you expand.

Next week, we’ll talk about using scenarios, case studies and diagrams to support your IA communication efforts. In the meantime, can you think of any useful metaphors that describe your business on your website? See if you can come up with something. In the meantime, you know what I say…keep it between the ditches!

All the very best,