For website design, a common part skipped by smaller businesses and startups that I’ve seen is to not have an Information Architecture (IA).
IA’s are a written list or diagram of the pages or touch-points your site requires and what information will be on them. They are created by establishing who will visit your site, what they will need, and where you will put that information.
Creating an IA for your website may seem like over-engineering if your site is small, but I often find it worth it even on sites as small as 5 pages because it organises your thoughts in a structured way, with many benefits.
It guides design
If you’ve been involved in creating a new website before, inevitably you’ve been stuck at a point where the team (or client) don’t know what to write on a page.
You try just winging it and it doesn’t look good.
A properly mapped out IA thinks through what information needs to be on each page ahead of time, in reference to who will actually use your website, so that the correct elements are on each page.
For example, will investors visit your website? If so, where will you put the information for them? What do they want to see? Are they as common as other users (such as customers?).
Thinking this through now will save you plenty of headaches down the road.
Having an IA in place also helps you structure out your ‘eventual’ website, even if you only have have budget to create a single or few pages to begin with.
Perhaps, for example, you’ll have a careers page in the near future as your startup and business grows. Knowing that you will, you will know not to over-invest in large sections of information about jobs and careers on the pages now but leave a healthy position for the menu item in your website’s footer.
About 60% of users will bounce off your website after looking at a single page. And will spend an average just over 2 minutes on your site. (Source). User time on your site is precious.
Because of this, keeping the information on your site relevant and impactful is going to be a relevant consideration.
Having planned out your pages, you can proactively organise where you will present certain ideas and points to readers, making the most of every impression.
How do you make an IA?
I am always looking to improve my own processes but here’s a framework I’ve found useful is to create a table with 4 sections.
The first three sections contain the 1) users (as a reminder) the 2) eventual main navigation menu and 3) footer menu.
Below this is the breakdown of pages (columns too, if you wish) with the sections on each. You can add sub-points to each section to make it easier for copywriters.
I hope this was helpful in giving you an introduction to information architectures. For more advanced information, I recommend Googling articles from dedicated high end design shops and reading more about the workshop processes they use to develop their own.