One Method to Create an IA

Information Architecture, or IA, is just IT jargon for an organization or navigation system, typically a hierarchy. Actually, it depends who you ask. For a general idea on why this definition might be contentious, please google it, or refer to the Wikipedia article on IA. Anyhow, for the purposes of my post, please think of the IA as I have defined it, which is what I was told in my department.

Gather Data
I first gathered a lot of data (as the previous post probably indicates). What I basically did was do an inventory of existing content. I also looked at each page to see what topic it generally covered. In doing the inventory, I think came up with three major data tables.

  1. How many pages covered the same topics.
  2. Which pages showed up in the inventory more than once.
  3. Which pages were visited the most (of what I included in the inventory).

Assumptions to Think About
Oh yes, of course, using this kind of data has certain assumptions of course, which may or may not be true.

  • The more pages on a topic that staff have created, the more important staff think this topic is.
  • The more a page is linked to, the more staff find it a useful page.
  • The more a page is visited, the more useful that page is to our users.

Although I don’t think these assumptions should be accepted without any scrutiny, I think they’re also okay to make, to a certain extent. These assumptions aren’t always true, but they can be used as indicators. Also, I would be hard pressed to use only one of these indicators, but in combination can be used as a good base.

Creating the Base IA

  1. Summarize: Using the 3 tables, I did a sort of summary table by way of ranking and counting to come up with the most common topics.
  2. Group: I then grouped them in such a way that it made sense to me and named each group.
  3. Fill in the Holes: I filled in any “holes”, such as in the category Finding (Library Resources), Books and Journals were obviously in there, but Maps were not.
  4. Add what’s Missing: I think consulting with one or more expert (in this case, librarian) is a really important step in recognizing that there may be really important pages that people just can’t find or don’t know exist (or maybe doesn’t exist yet).

Work in Progress
No wonder programs go through so many versions, I don’t know how many I’ve gone through just consulting with one other person!  No doubt it’ll go through many more as users and other staff are consulted. As long as it doesn’t degrade into this: How a Web Design Goes to Hell

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Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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