Class 03

Class 03 – Topics
Presenting content on the Web
What is Information Architecture?
Site maps
In-class: Please bring a print-out of your work to class. We will look at homepage re-designs from last week.
Assignment: Create a wireframe of the home page (Section A) and the Who We Are (Section B) using the sitemap and content outline for Monday May Design. You can use the wireframe template for Illustrator discussed in class.

Reading for next week:
Understanding Discovery, Determining Overall Goals, Preparing A Communication Brief, Creating a Project Plan (pages 60-67) from Web ReDesign 2.0
Setting the Budget, Creating Schedules, Assigning Your Project Team, Setting Up Staging Areas, Planning for user Testing, Kicking off the Project (pages 67-85) from Web ReDesign 2.0

Questions to discuss next week (please come prepared):
Download the Communication Brief Worksheet and come prepared to discuss.
Name a few examples of “overall goals” for the web site design or re-design.
What does a Project Plan consist of?

Give examples of good documentation practices for a project.
Download and review the two estimating methods by Task and by Team and come prepared to discuss.
Download and review the budgeting time tracker and come prepared to discuss.
When is an Additional Charge Form used? (oftentimes referred to as Change Order)
What are the two ways to approach the Scheduling task?
What is the difference between a Visual Designer and an Information Designer?
What is a “staging area?”
What is included in the agenda of a “kick off” meeting?

Reading completed for this week’s discussion:
Analyzing Your Competition (pages 59, 259-276) from Web ReDesign 2.0

Questions to discuss:
What are the differences between a Formal and an Informal Industry Analysis?
Name a few of the features you might look for when you are doing a Competitive Analysis.
What are the three main areas for rating when evaluating for a Competitive Analysis?

What is Information Architecture?

Defining Information Architecture (from the IA Institute)

They define information architecture as:

  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

Are these definitions definitive? Absolutely not. The craft is new and still taking shape. It’s clear on the center but fuzzy at the boundaries. This inherent ambiguity challenges us to think deeply and seek diverse perspectives.

Below material about Information Architecture from Web Information Architecture Deliverables and Diagrams.

Web Information Architecture Examples
1. Content Inventory (aka Content Survey, Audit)

A content inventory is intended to provide a consolidated snapshot of all the major sections, pages, and content on a Web site. This would include text, graphics, and multimedia. Some even go as far as to break content down into individual pieces or paragraphs of content. Sometimes a content inventory is performed on content that is not yet part of a Web site. This would be helpful for an organization that is collecting content to be placed on a new Web site. Card sorting would be helpful for organizing content in this situation.

Here a a couple examples of Web content inventory variations.

Survey – A high level review of a site’s main sections and pages. It enables you to develop an understanding of the general site scope and major chunks of content.

Detailed Audit – this is a comprehensive inventory of every page on a site. This inventory will list every page’s filename, title, URL, and possibly its file type and a description. It’s also helpful to assign a unique page ID that will correspond to the pages location on the Site Map.

Content Map – This simply entails laying out the site content in a graphical format. If you’re performing a content inventory on a current site, then an effective site map might nullify the need for a content map.

Sample content inventory (pdf)
Read more about content inventories for the Web

2. User Profile (aka Personas)

A user profile or persona is a realistic (but likely fictional) example of a target audience member. The profile commonly takes the form of a one page piece that lists the user’s name, occupation, education, demographic characteristics, computer/web experience, and site goals or likely tasks. A stock photography picture is usually used to give a face to the profile.

These profiles can be extremely useful in keeping the web team focused on the user’s needs. These may not be necessary for usability experts, designers, or information architects, all of whom should have a firm grasp of user-centric design. But they can be beneficial for project managers, programmers, and clients. When making decisions it’s helpful to be able to say “John B. really would have trouble with this,” or “Adding this link here would really make life easier for Sharon.” User profiles also help to reinforce the importance of an Information Architect. It is a deliverable that documents the establishment of target audiences, a process that might have taken a considerable amount of effort and research.

Read more about user profiles for the Web

3. Use Case (aka User Scenario, Task Analysis, User Flow)

Use cases are narratives that describe how a user might use a system or site. A use case illustrates a sequence of events that an actor (external agent) might go through in order to accomplish their goal. A use case is similar to a process flow.

Essential Use Case – Narratives that remain relatively independent of a specific technology or implementation.

Real Use Case – Narratives that incorporate the current technology and/or site design. This is basically the same thing as a Process Flow.

Sample use case (pdf)
Read more about use cases for the Web

4. Sitemap (aka Site Map, Site Hierarchy Map, Site Diagram, Blueprint, Web Map)

Site maps are one of the most critical and widely used web information architecture tools (along with wireframes). They show the overall structure and hierarchy of a Web site. They can be used as the first step in laying out the web information architecture of a site, and will provide the framework upon which to base site navigation. When setting out to understand the IA of a current site, or design an IA for a new site, start by sketching out a rough site map. Site maps can be constructed in a wide variety of formats, but the general structure and principles remain relatively consistent.

Sample Site Map (pdf)
Read more about Web sitemaps

5. Wireframes (aka Wire Frame, Page Architecture, Low Fidelity Mock-Up, Page Schematic)

Wireframes (combined with Site Maps) are the bread and butter tools of information architects. They are useful for conveying the general page structure and content requirements for individual pages.
Wireframes need to achieve a happy medium between being too precise and too loose. What is meant by this is that a wireframe that is too precise or detailed may leave little creative room for the designer. A wireframe that is too loosely defined can easily be misinterpreted by designers and developers. The format used should be dependent upon the audience.

Using detailed wireframes will frequently flush out new requirements and questions that nobody has thought about yet. They also help to keep a paper trail of functional and design decisions that are made. Wireframes are sometimes used to get people thinking and generate requirements. Wireframes will sometimes end up evolving into the default requirements document for a Web site.

Sample Wireframes (pdf)
Sample Wireframes 2

Read more about Web wireframes

6. Paper Prototype (aka Low Fidelity Prototype)

Paper prototyping involves using screen shots and/or hand sketched page diagrams to quickly elicit user feedback and identify interface IA problems. Using a paper prototype involves conducting a usability test using a low fidelity prototype. These prototypes can be created electronically using programs such as MS Word, Excel, Visio, or various WYSIWYG editors. However, in many cases paper prototypes are nothing more than loosely hand-sketched designs. The quicker these paper prototypes can be created, the greater the benefit. Paper prototypes shouldn’t incorporate specific design elements such as color, style, fonts, detailed graphics, etc.

You may be hesitant to present something that might resemble a 6th graders art project to a client. However, with a bit of education the client will be appreciative of the time and money you are saving them.

7. Story Board (aka Storyboard)

It’s debatable whether a storyboards are anything different than a set of wireframes, but they can tend to illustrate more of a process than a wireframe does. However in many cases IAs add usage and process notes to wireframes. You may also see storyboards (or something resembling them) referred to as Blueprint, Schematic, Grey Model, Interaction, Interaction Wireframe, IA Requirements Document, Design Document Story boards typically combine information from process flows, site maps, and other IA deliverables. They can be used to illustrate a single screen or a whole system or site. They usually offer screen shots or some type of graphical representation of the screens, combined with a narrative description. Storyboards help to document the functionality of the site and describe how users will potential use the interface. These deliverables can be used by programmers, project managers, upper management, and clients to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Storyboards often turn into the initial requirements documents that programmers begin coding from. These deliverables provide an excellent chance to get client buy in and sign-off on the proposed function laity and IA of a site. Story boards can be similar to a detailed wireframe, and there is a lot of crossover between the two.

Sample Story Board 1

Sample Story Board 2

8. Style Guide

Style guides are used to document baseline design requirements for a site. They usually define font classes and a wide range of various design conventions to be followed. This deliverable would generally be considered the responsibility of a designer, but in some instances the Information Architect may be covering multiple roles. HTML Wire frames are a good solution to solve multiple needs; deliverables for clients or management, and functional templates to start programming from.

Sample Style Guide (pdf)

Read more about Web style guides

Above material about Information Architecture from Web Information Architecture Deliverables and Diagrams.


“Wireframes, also referred to as content layouts or page schematics, are non-design oriented sketches (don’t worry about colors or button shaped, this is all about information) of unique pages showing rough navigation, copy layout, graphic allocation, key headers and any other elements that need to appear on a page. Wireframes show a certain hierarchy of information but do not dictate exactly how something should be represented.”

“Wireframes should rough out the form of the product. Form is shaped by three factors: the content, the functionality, (“form folloes function”), and the means of accessing or navigation to those two things, Thus the wireframe needs to include placeholders for the content and functionality as well as the elements for navigating them (buttons, switches, menus, keystrokes and so on).”

Wireframe examples:
Example 1
Example 2

Template: to use when you create wireframes for your Midterm Project
Wireframe template in Illustrator


Create a wireframe of the home page (Section A) and the Who We Are (Section B) using the sitemap and content outline for Monday May Design. You can use the wireframe template for Illustrator discussed in class.

Please be sure to review the wireframes we discussed in class. Remember, a wireframe is not about design or layout but rather represent the hierarchy of information. They are useful for conveying the general page structure and content requirements for individual pages.


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