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IA: A Good System - Interactive / Web Design 1Interactive / Web Design 1

IA: A Good System

Creating an Effective Information Architecture

You need to take the following into account:

  • Your end objectives
  • The constraints you have to deal with
  • The content you have or will generate
  • The requirements for the people who will visit your site (this depends on who your target audience is).

Card Sorting

You need to decide how you will carve up the content needed for your site into separate chunks, which are going to then sorted into sections and pages. The best way I do this is to do a card sort.

You have a design problem you are trying to solve, you have your target user. Now you need to see what all your user would need to solve the problem. The chunks of content they would need can actually be organized into pages, then into sections, then finally into an actual information architecture. After this thinking has been done, you have all you need to move on into designing the sitemap and wireframes.

Here is a video on the method I was taught to do a card sort in person, using post its or index cards:

We are working remotely, so we will have to use an online service in order t be able to look at each other’s work.

In web design, you want each page to be a bucket for information about the selected topic ONLY. Use links to guide the user to other related material. You want your copy to be clear and concise: no one likes to dig through loads of badly organized copy for what they seek.

Here is a sample digital card sort I did in Google Docs, as a drawing. Feel free to use it to make your own., or use this blank one.

Sitemaps (click to see the assignment)

Once you have taken note of the way things and tending to be grouped, create a sitemap. A sitemap is a high-level chart where each topic (or page) is represented by a box, and the basic relationships between pages is drawn in a simple manner. Take the time to draw a couple of sitemaps and get it right.

Here is a great article about sitemaps that explores different formats and such as there are many ways to do this, but it has t all effectively express the system you are designing.

For a great overview, you can check out this comprehensive slideshow.

Wireframes

wireframe_021409

Once you have established the overarching relationships between content areas, it’s time to go in and create detailed wireframes of each individual page type. Wireframes are simple, unembellished diagrams of the page structure. They help you figure out how each element on the page relates to the others, and provide invaluable insight on how the page should look and function.

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