Continuing our series on Web strategy, let’s go back to our pyramid metaphor. We’ve established that we need a site; set some overarching goals for what we want the site to achieve for us; and come up with some brilliant verbiage that will turn visitors into customers.
Surely, now is the time to dive into design!
Answer: nope, still not yet. And don’t call me Shirley.
This series is all about strategy. Jumping straight from content to design without a solid information architecture plan in place is not a great strategy. It’s better than going straight from “I need a site” to “Here’s my design,” but it’s still not great.
What Kind of Architecture?
Information architecture! Think of this as the blueprint for your site. You may have also heard the term “wireframe” – it’s the same thing. (For those who are chomping at the bit for design, it’s also called information design.)
The main goal of information design is to facilitate a smooth and easy experience on your site for your visitors. Now that we have all the content in hand, we need to arrange it to best effect. This includes both structuring the various pages on your site, and determining how they interrelate with each other in terms of navigation (in other words, creating a site map).
Here are some example wireframes and a site map for a fictional site for a fictional band.
The good news for you the client is, this step is easy! At this point, your Web shop will go away for a week or two and create the information architecture, while you sit on the beach sipping mai tais. Or whatever your favorite hobby is.
Form Follows Function
Why is this step important? Why can’t we just get to the visual design already? Consider creating a new skyscraper. Designing the facade is great, but without knowing the underlying structure of the building (how tall is it? how wide? etc) your facade design is only a guess, and will only (at best) haphazardly fit the final building.
Next up (drumroll)… design!