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Success or Mess? It Could Depend on the Information Architecture

The primary benefits of a well-constructed information architecture (IA) are generally understood.

A good information architecture creates clear paths for website visitors, makes a site easier to navigate, and enhances the user experience. But this blog post isn’t about the primary benefits of information architecture.

This post is about the ancillary benefits of a clear information architecture — the redesign project kickbacks, if you will, that come from a solid roadmap of what the site will be.

All of our projects start with a strategy and a key component of that strategy often is an in-depth dive into the information architecture. So much can swing on the development of this document. Taking the time to develop a clear IA that serves the site well is worth the work.

In serving the site visitors, a good IA also serves the project team. Here’s how:

A good IA translates project work into understandable terms.

Sometimes the hardest part of working on a website redesign is explaining the redesign process and what aspects are more important than others. Developing information architecture provides an opportunity for stakeholders to offer insight on a topic they know well. They may not be design experts, but they know their content well. Helping them organize this content in an IA, in turn, helps them understand how and why a website works.

A good IA identifies existing content gaps.

There can be a lot of “duh” moments in developing IA, specifically when it becomes clear certain content just needs to go while other content still needs to be created. There are areas of your site that do not exist but should. Identifying these gaps and assigning appropriate writing resources is easier with an IA in place.

A good IA becomes a framework for the migration process.

A completed IA can look a lot like a spreadsheet (or actually be a spreadsheet), with rows of information and columns for the details. Add another column. Call it “Migrator” and assign someone the responsibility of moving that specific item into the new site. Add another column and call it “Complete?” Suddenly the IA document also ensures there is content behind each item listed, ready for when the site goes live. Genius.

A good IA defines the project scope for launch.

People will come out of nowhere as a site readies for launch and demand that their content be a part of of the party. It is nearly impossible to answer all of these requests. With a good information architecture in place, drawing the line of what gets to go on Day 1 and what has to wait becomes an easier task. A statement such as “We’re only launching with Levels 1 and 2” sets the scope within reach and eliminates distractions.

This post appeared originally on the mStoner blog. mStoner is a marketing and advertising firm exclusively serving higher education.

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