Information Architecture – The Science of Site Layout
Within the context of portals and intranets, information architecture provides a simple yet effective way of organizing the information on your site so that each page or section falls under another larger category. Laying out information in this fashion is intuitive because most users perceive a piece of information, data or file as being a subset of a larger set, eventually leading all the way back up to the homepage.
While information architectures vary significantly from organization to organization, there are a few basic elements that all IAs should incorporate to make it the quintessential touchstone document for the development of a high performing intranet or website.
1. Simple Vocabulary
2. Show the “Big Picture”
An IA provides an overview of the:
paths a user can take
actions required by the user to follow the paths, and
results of the combined actions and paths selected.
3. Be Clear
Your intranet’s target audience – management, new hires, shift workers, etc.
Goals (quantitative) & objectives (qualitative) for your site and for users visiting the site,
The size of your site – both current and planned (growth).
- Nomenclature/terminology used throughout the organization
There are several IA layouts to choose from; some of the most common ones are pictured below:
All in one
The simplest of IA designs, an All-in-one layout has all content living on a single home page location. This makes for a very simple and straightforward user experience. This approach works well for small sites with little content, and has the up-side of requiring very little maintenance. For most organizations (which may have hundreds of thousands of pages on their intranet), the All-in-one layout is unrealistic.
This design type is usually applied for sites with limited number of standard topics: Home, About Us, Products, etc….
Similar to the flat structure, the Indexed IA design is organized intuitively (or at least it is supposed to be), and has the aid of a table of contents. The indexed design is a better choice than its simpler cousin when there is a moderate amount of data to be accounted for. This design is best suited for data that can be easily and logically organized, for example, alphabetically, such as a phone directory, or parts list. When a site has a large amount of data to be indexed, a search based design is a better IA structure selection.
Hierarchical: Strict & Multidimensional
A Multidimensional Hierarchical IA design provides a site map where content can be accessed from various pages and methods or search patterns.
This IA design relies heavily on the properties or metadata of the site's content. An example of this would be Indigo where the user can find a book selection through various search options: title, author, ISBN/UPC, Editor and Publisher.
To learn more about how Prescient can help improve the information architecture of your organization's website or intranet, please Contact Us.
Prescient Digital Media is a veteran web and intranet consulting firm with 11+ years of rich history. We provide strategic Internet and intranet consulting, planning and communications services to many Fortune 500 and big brand clients, as well as small and medium-sized leaders.