The following was originally posted on January 12, 2011 in Sitecore’s Best Practice Blog, part of the Sitecore Community.*
What is information architecture (IA)? IA is an important step in the strategic development and design process of your new website. Done right, IA supports your entire business strategy. Done right, IA elevates your website from mere brochure-ware to a transactional site your visitors can actually use. Done right, IA will keep your organization from making useless web pages.
Why is IA important? A well-defined IA structure allows your visitors to quickly find what they are looking for once they land on your homepage. It keeps them on your site longer and ultimately helps them transact with your site because you have taken careful steps to plan it that way.
You can bring the WORLD to your web site. You can spend oodles of money getting traffic to your site with online advertisements, social media, paid search, search engine optimization and print, BUT your site is not performing:
- if users leave right after coming to your site – high bounce rates
- if users leave on the wrong pages – exit rates
- if users don’t DO anything on your site – conversions
In industry terms, you are missing out on conversions. Conversions are made when visitors perform the tasks you want them to while visiting your website. For example, when a user reads about your services, your end goal is to have them to call an 800 number or fill out a form, so you can start a relationship with them.
Recipes for Successful Redesigns
In a redesign effort, there are three recommended approaches to ensuring good performance from your website.
a) Make important things more prominent
b) Make transactional points of access
c) Make it look simple…
When we engage with a client, we embark on a journey of helping them segment and prioritize their audiences and content to remove clutter. We help them define meaningful transactional points and ways to get there, so the experience is absolutely seamless and simple to the end user. This requires a lot of thought and review with client stakeholders, subject matter experts, and end users. To help us, we have a series of tools.
- A sitemap is an organizational chart of the pages of a website.
- A sitemap visually shows the top pages (main navigation) and underlying pages of a website.
- The goal of the sitemap is to organize and prioritize content in buckets to make it easy and intuitive for end users to find.
- A wireframe is a black and white layout that displays the components, functionality and placement of content on a page, with no colors, graphics and other design elements present.
- A wireframe determines what the user should see and access, not how it looks.
- The goal of the wireframe is to make the interface appear simple to the end user. This is achieved only by placing lots of care and attention into ensuring that only the most important components are highlighted.
A quote from Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
*MedTouch is a Sitecore Certified Solutions Partner. You can learn more about Sitecore’s content management solutions on our website.