Information Architecture is the process of organising the desired functionality and content for a website in as effective way as possible. You can think of it as being similar to developing architectural drawings prior to commencing a construction project. Without effective information architecture a website project is almost impossible to complete on time or on budget. Even more importantly, without effective information architecture it is almost impossible for the client and the web developer to be on the same page in terms of expected outcomes.
Most web developers fall into two categories when it comes to information architecture.
For some companies it means nothing more than a meeting and a series of largely text based descriptions of the project. Often this approach results in a project being delivered that is vastly different from the expectations of the client. Subsequent efforts to remedy this situation typically become expensive and time consuming and often result in disappointment for all.
Another common approach is to create what is referred to as a wireframe. A wireframe is essentially a series of black and white keyline diagrams describing key pages within a website. This is generally considered to be the industry standard, and for many years was the approach we took with our projects.
We had noticed that whilst the wireframes we were developing were detailed and covered key website pages, many of our clients struggled to understand how their website would actually operate when looking at such diagrams. In addition, these diagrams did not cover all site pages and could therefore leave the exact functionality of any omitted pages up for debate.
For this reason, in 2010 we revolutionised our approach to information architecture by introducing a process we refer to as prototyping. A prototype is a complete working version of a client’s website with the exclusion of design and content. When a client receives a prototype they can browse their entire website. They can use the full range of site functionality and get a feel for the overall experience the finished website will offer. Whilst a lot of work is required to create a prototype it is still a much easier environment to make modifications to than a completed website with design and content included.
As a company we offer a very structured approach to developing websites. From our experience, giving people the opportunity to review functionality, design and content in three distinct stages is the most effective way to deliver websites that meet or surpass the expectations of our clients.
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