Welcome, welcome, welcome to Search Engine Academy’s ever-continuing blog series on information architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO)!

I’ve been doing this series for a year now, and it looks like it’s going to go a few months longer. That’s good, as it gives me a blog post to write and upload for indexing and ranking every week. More importantly, it gives you, dear, gentle reader, stuff you can use to make your website easier to use.

We talked a helluva lot about research for building your web site’s IA framework. Now, let’s rub our hands together and talk about IA strategy, shall we? Sure!

IA strategy is a path between the research you’ve done and your website design. You should be thinking about this path even before doing IA research, and keeping it near the front of your brain.

You may also discover that you need to go back and do some more research if during the strategy phase, your plan just doesn’t fit right. That’s OK.

There’s a lot of slop and overlapping, because rarely is anything binary. I’m anal retentive, I admit, and while I wish more things were binary, I’m getting better at accepting chaos through daily meditation.

Take a look at this picture, courtesy of the wonderful book “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” (Morville/Rosenfeld):

Developing Information Architecture

What you’ll find is yourself going back and forth. Sorry.

Information Architecture Strategy

OK, what is an IA strategy anyways? Hell, let me quote from the book. They have it nailed:

“An information architecture strategy is a high-level conceptual framework for structuring and organizing a web site or intranet. It provides the firm sense of direction and scope necessary to proceed with confidence into the design and implementation phases. It also facilitates discussion and helps get people on the same page before moving into the more expensive design phase. Just as the operating plans of each department should be driven by a unifying business strategy, the design of a detailed information architecture should be driven by a holistic information architecture strategy.”

You’re going to put pen to paper and based on all the research you conducted, you will start a web design framework. Hopefully, if this is a group project, you will be integrating this nicely with the rest of the web dev team.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and here are some of the questions you want to have asked and answered before you go too far down the IA strategy path:

  • How far will your IA efforts go? Two levels down, or out to subsites, if they exist?
  • Are the content writers able to apply the metadata?
  • Who’s in charge of controlled vocabularies and the thesauri?
  • Have you considered the search engines, personalization of search and content management?
  • Have you at least done a high level outline of the main navigation scheme? Is it by location, content, product or service?
  • What are all the different document types that’ll be found on the site? How many of each?
  • How in-depth is your metadata structure? I’m not talking about title and description tags; I’m referring to document data as well.
  • Do your navigation schemes allow for top-down and bottom-up movement?

Plus anything else you can think of.

You will want to capture all of this in a IA strategy report, along with a project plan. You’ll need to keep in mind that you have to balance IA with web design, applications and any politics that will color the whole deal.

With that, let’s stop right here for today. Next week, we’ll deal with attacks on your IA strategies. Until then, I hope you can think about your IA strategy – is it ready to go, or does it need refining?

As I always say, keep it between the ditches until next time!

All the very best to you,