Information Architecture, Prototyping & Wireframing
Information Architecture (IA) is the way you build your website. Following a comprehensive analysis of your business, we will advise you on the structure, content and design style of your website that would be most suited to your customers and your commercial aspirations.
Our Information Architecture review contains…
- An Overview of the Audience
How, why and when the different categories of customer will use your website.
- Your Customer Journeys
How the different types of user will interact with your business.
- The Website Structure
How the sections fit together and where the content will come from.
- A Functional Description
How the sections and features technically interact with the user.
- A Content Management Plan
How the website will be managed after launch.
Constructing the IA highlights areas of ambiguity early on in a project, removing scope for misinterpretation once the build commences. If you are recruiting a website agency to build your website, IA can also be used in the pitch process, asking companies to bid against building exactly what you need. How many times have you used a website that does things in an unnatural manner? Maybe that was because the website was unable to do what you expected it to do because the underlying technology is unsuitable. We believe that design and technology based decisions should be made after your blueprint is complete.
We work on the detail at the beginning and support your teams to build you the most effective website, on schedule and within budget.
The foundations of a successful website start with working on the architecture.
We start by establishing the key stakeholders, and the aims and objectives of your project. We then collate and prioritise these to produce a document detailing what the project needs to do for each key stakeholder. We call this the Root Definition. The Root Definition enables the project to have a consistent objective throughout, which can be drawn from and checked against at all times.
Next we consider the detail needed to implement the project. This could include:
- Current site usage
- Technical detail
- Detailed audience description (who is the site aimed at?)
- Defined audience usage (why would they visit the site?)
- Scenarios of use (how can the needs of the audience be addressed?)
- Business requirements (what does the business needs to achieve from the site?)
- General business awareness (structure, targets, competitors, etc)
- Team structure (how will the site be managed?)
- Business implications
- Global issues (localisation)
Once the necessary research has been completed, the findings need to be developed in order to create a suggested site map and list of the functionality needed. For this we use traditional user centred design tools such as card sorting tasks, paper prototyping and scenario building. These lead to the initial site plan and customer journey maps, which can then be tested against business and user requirements in order to establish if it meets all the needs. The navigational and content plans are then built into a comprehensive brief so that the design and technical team can begin work.
By continually referring back to the requirements as agreed in the Root Definition, we are able to keep the project within scope and on track.
Prototyping and wire framing
It is important to ensure that the IA is structured correctly. One way of confirming this is to carry out prototype and wire frame testing. Best done early on in the design process, testing prototypes and wire frames will save you large amounts of money in the long run as they will help you to discover usability issues before the website goes live.
We can test prototypes at the earliest stages of development and design – you don’t have to wait until you have something that is functioning and clickable, we can test paper prototypes!
Testing prototypes and wire frames is a great way to get feedback really early in the design process from users and helps to eliminate costly redesigns after the site has gone live.
Prototype and wire frame testing is also a great way to test multiple designs to see which perform better and which are preferred by the users – this can even led to cherry picking the best features across different prototype designs in order to create the best possible finished product.
Well planned IA ensures a better user experience that is highly customer focused. It also supports high conversion rates as they ensure the route to the conversion point or goal is easy to follow.
IA can have a direct impact on both the construction and maintenance costs of your site. A well-organized site enables better content management, which becomes especially important as your site expands and changes according to customer needs and shifting markets. Smart content management can also increase search engine visibility and make analytics easier to obtain so that you can monitor your website’s performance. Through meticulous customer journey planning, you will ensure your analytics help you with key business decisions as well as monitoring your website’s performance.
Once you have your blueprint, the next step is to perform usability testing on the resulting website prototypes and designs.
When should I do it?
Arranging the IA should be your very first step towards creating your new website, before any talk of visual design and technical solutions. IA will save you time, effort and money in the long run too.
How long will it take?
Information Architecture needs space for thought and consideration. The process may involve interviewing employees and customers, which has to fit around everybody’s diaries. On average, the whole process is completed within 2 months.