Create information architecture (IA) for your web application (Part 1)

We shall define Information Architecture (IA) as the high-level, structured organization of the site. On a deeper level, IA will concern itself with:

By creating the IA for a project, we hope to:

IA, if done correctly, will address the following concerns:

  1. Organize the content of the site the way customers want to find it, vs how we internally organize the data (e.g. managerial structure, database structure, or just arbitrary preference)
  2. Allow design to be determined by content and intent; we will let form follow function
  3. Determine major points of user errors and frustrations, and find optimal solutions.

Since there are lot of topics to cover, IA will be split into 3 articles:


Our example

For the purposes of demonstration, let’s suppose we want to build a web application that helps people pick the right bicycle helmet to buy. There are lots of factors to consider, including the user’s age, level of competition, cost, and particular sport. An Olympic track cyclist has many different needs than city bike messenger, and so on.


1. Identify short-term and long-term business goals

It may seem a strange to start with business intentions first, but for most serious web applications and sites, you will need money to keep things going. Never forget that the cash needs to keep flowing!

Typically for project development cycles, there’s an initial phase of just trying to get a product out the door, followed by a latter, mature phase more concerned with monetization and expansion. For each phase identify what is and what isn’t out of scope.

Overall Objectives & Expectations (short-term goals)

Phase 2 Goals

Long-term goals will not be part of the initial launch, but must be considered as part of IA and design so that when these features are implemented, they won’t simply appear as “bolted on,” but are consistent with the baseline user interaction.


2. Clarify user intent

The goal of building user profiles is not necessarily to determine “who” the users are. Building IA for for targeted demographics is an approach that comes form traditional marketing and marketing research.

Why would anyone want to come to this site?

User Dimensions

Leisurely Competitive athlete
Child/ youth Adult
Budget-concerned Professional usage
Style & comfort Safety-oriented

More to come…

Who puts articles online before finishing them? I do. Check back in a few days.