Thursday, December 15, 2011
Information Architecture Methods
There are few methods that are used in information architecture. Some of common methods are: site maps, annotated page layouts, content matrices, page templates, personas, prototypes, storyboards, wireframes.
Site maps are perhaps the most widely known and understood deliverable from the process of defining an information architecture. A site map is a high level diagram showing the hierarchy of a system. Site maps reflect the information structure, but are not necessarily indicative of the navigation structure.
Annotated page layouts
Page layouts define page level navigation, content types and functional elements. Annotations are used to provide guidance for the visual designers and developers who will use the page layouts to build the site. Page layouts are alternatively known as wireframes, blue prints or screen details.
A content matrix lists each page in the system and identifies the content that will appear on that page.
Page templates may be required when defining large-scale websites and intranets. Page templates define the layout of common page elements, such as global navigation, content and local navigation. Page templates are commonly used when developing content management systems.
Persona is a fictional character with all the characteristics of the user. Personas are created after the field research process, which typically consists of members of the primary stakeholder (user) group being observed on their behavior, and additionally answering questionnaires or participating in interviews, or a mixture of both.
Prototypes are models of the system. Prototypes can be as simple as paper-based sketches, or as complex as fully interactive systems. Research shows that paper-based prototypes are just as effective for identifying issues as fully interactive systems. Prototypes are often developed to bring the information architecture to life. Thus enabling users and other members of the project team to comment on the architecture before the system is built.
Storyboards are another technique for bringing the information architecture to life without building it. Storyboards are sketches showing how a user would interact with a system to complete a common task. Storyboards enable other members of the project team to understand the proposed information architecture before the system is built.
Wireframes are rough illustrations of page content and structure, which may also indicate how users will interact with the website. These diagrams get handed off to a visual designer, who will establish page layout and visual design.
Wireframes are useful for communicating early design ideas and inform the designer and the client of exactly what information, links, content, promotional space, and navigation will be on every page of the site. Wireframes may illustrate design priorities in cases where various types of information appear to be competing.