In the modern information age, we’re all experiencing information, or cognitive overload. The sheer volume of information we’re exposed to and the frequency with which it arises can be an issue, but researchers tend to agree that it’s not the volume of information; it’s how it’s organized that’s the problem.
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make when it comes to their websites is not prioritizing information architecture. While the design aspects of a website are fun, glamorous, and ultimately vital to the success of your site, it’s important that you don’t jump straight to the design and forgo the important process of building a solid information architecture and understanding the purpose behind your site and its content.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing a partner agency for your web design or development project. Here are some things to consider before making your selection:
What are their core services?
An agency that has the ability to complete all aspects of your project is going to be more qualified to give you the best solutions and the results you want.
- Do they offer comprehensive design, development and support services that are up to industry standards?
- Have they had experience with web projects that require complex problem solving or customization skills and advanced coding capabilities?
- Are they able to develop mobile applications that are consistent with your other marketing platforms?
The goal of a content audit is to understand the current state of your website content, i.e. what content is relevant, what can be merged with other content and what can be safely removed. You can then analyze the information and organize the content based upon your users feedback, industry trends and site analytics. Theoretically, it seems a very simple process, but in practice, conducting a site audit can be a messy exercise if you don’t have a plan in place. Some reasons to conduct content audits include:
Every successful project begins with a Discovery phase. This is the part of the project that includes research, analysis, exploration and planning. The goal here is to grasp the bigger picture, define business goals, establish project scope, acknowledge constraints and define success.
Unfortunately, this phase is often overlooked so as to save time and/or money. Without the discovery process, you risk consequences such as overspend later on in the production phase or misguided development. Not all development agencies use a Discovery phase, but they should. Beyond projects with very simple objectives, a designer or developer couldn’t possibly understand your business well enough to give accurate estimates without a detailed analysis. Most project managers would agree that if the requirements are identified early on in the project cycle, this would result in reducing the project schedule and/or budget. It also results in project deliverables suitably meeting the business user and technology requirements. Reworking and fixing errors adds unnecessary time, cost and avoidable headache to your project.
One option is to go forward with in-house discovery. Think about it: it’s already your job to think about how you can best serve your users. You probably know the subject matter better than anyone else and you already have some of the research you would need on hand. But, proceed with caution. Be mindful of your assumptions and internal bias. This process takes time and effort and it can be frustrating to admit failures to make the improvements necessary for success. In-house discovery is as effective as the people conducting it. Lack of discovery experience or blind spots in a team’s collective knowledge will limit the value of the process and its outcomes.
Another option is to work with an agency that can assist you with the discovery process. Our process begins with a discovery phase to fully articulate the goals, constraints and measures of success for your project. We set out to bring clarity to your vision and concept. We meet with you and your key stakeholders to ensure that project goals and stakeholder expectations are fully aligned and that all potential opportunities are explored. We work together to develop real understandings of what achievements are expected in terms of outputs and outcomes.
The goal is to develop a blueprint or detailed plan that reduces the risks of your project. At the end of the discovery engagement, you’ll walk away with the following deliverables to inform the production process:
Revised Information Architecture
This is how the content should be organized, classified and expanded/reduced to match the goals and stakeholder expectations.
This is how the content should be arranged on a webpage to let the target user access the most relevant information with the least amount of effort, letting the user navigate your site naturally. Wireframes give you a glimpse of how visitors will interact with your site. At this stage, we focus exclusively on the user experience and functionality of your site.
Detailed Project Requirements
The project requirements document is the foundation for all subsequent project deliverables, describing what inputs and outputs are associated with each process function. The requirements document also includes the system, performance, integration and interface requirements for your website project.
Launching your website project with a discovery phase is one of the most important things you can do to set them up for success. Following discovery best practices would result in reducing project costs, shortening the development cycle, enhancing team productivity and most importantly, a better website.