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Information Architecture for E commerce & Enterprise Websites

Method At A Glance /

LEARN / Review goals, users, and context

We begin by listing as many stakeholders as possible that represent who might be coming to your website. Being thorough, and capturing as many stakeholders as we possibly can. More is more!

We attempt to rank these users into two categories: Impact and Revenue. Remember, even if you are not a non-profit, you are creating impact! Users in the Impact category allow you to fulfill your purpose and mission (employees, supporters, collaborators, etc.). Users in the Revenue category allow you to sustain your efforts financially (customers, donors, investors, etc.). Some users may fall within both categories.

If you already have a website, begin by attempting to write your existing sitemap from memory. Take note of the pages that you left out. How important are they? To who? Look at your analytics, and speak to your users. Where do people spend their time. Why do they come to your website?

Vote on the top 3 users in the Impact category, and the top 3 users in the Revenue category. In total, you should now have 6 profiles to move forward with. Create a profile for each of these 6 users with the following template:

NAME: What’s their name?
BIO: Age? Location? Occupation/Role?
VALUE: Do they create IMPACT, REVENUE, or BOTH for you?
PURPOSE: Why are they on your website? What are the key things they need from this website?

Taking a minute or two to draw a quick sketch of each user can be fun and useful… trust us!

INVENT / Imagine necessary pages, features, and flows.

    Why are they on your website? What are the key things they need from this website?


    Review your user profiles, and isolate the “purpose” row for a moment. Extract all of the various needs you’ve encountered and write each, individually, on a post-it note.

    Now it is time to begin an affinity mapping exercise. Take all of the individual post-it notes and begin grouping them into categories. Let this happen naturally. Look for patterns. Also, consider making a catch-all category named “miscellaneous” in order to capture any that don’t fit nicely into a given category.

    PROGRAM / Organize and refine, informed by user needs

    Review your affinity mapping work that you just completed in the Invent phase. What kind of content or features are missing?

    Add any additional thoughts based on your organization’s goals into the mix. Use this work to create an initial site map. Divide the site map by the following:

    PAGE / A dedicated space for content to live.

    CONTENT / Written or visual content that conveys a message.

    SECTION / A dedicated section that exists within a page.

    SUB-PAGE / A dedicated space for content to live, accessible by way of a page (i.e. pop-up).

    CALL-TO-ACTION / A way to activate users and help them navigate towards what they want.

    RECOMMENDED FEATURE / A more technical com- ponent that enhances the experience/content.


      In this stage, we are primarily looking for feedback that will confirm our assumption(s) of what is easy- to-use, or easy-to-follow.


      Best Practices

      • See IA as integral to the creation of a strong User Experience. As a result, allow yourself time to do the IA well, and budget time for iteration based on user feedback. IA is ultimatelyabout understanding what your users are looking for, and it is important to remember that your users can be internal or external to the organization.
      • The reality is there are a lot of websites and apps on the mar- ket. Do not take for granted the fact that a user has madetheir way onto your site. Ask yourself how that user can achieve their purpose on this site as fast as possible.
      • Do not do this alone. Actively include your users. We recom- mend talking to a minimum of 5 people to learn more about their needs first hand. This doesn’t have to be an hour longconversation. You will already start to see some patterns after 3 conversations.
      • A great IA is clearly articulated and easy to understand with little direction. As a result, a great IA is as short as possible, and contains clear call-to-actions. At the end of the day, the purpose of organizing your information strategically is allabout inspiring some kind of action from your users.
      • Site maps can go wrong when you aren’t redundant enough. Being redundant is critical due to different users coming to your site with different needs at different times. This said, sitemaps can go wrong when you try to do too much. Re- member that websites are not storage lockers. Doing an IA project for an existing website is a lot like spring cleaning.
      • Think about the readability of your site map so that it can be easily shared with other team members and advisors. Use icons to call out certain features. Have a legend. Consider color coding.




      Our own work has been influenced by a number of amazing people and organizations. We highly recom- mend supporting them, and checking out their work for more inspiration! Card Sorting: Uncover Users’ Mental Models for Better Information Architecture by Katie Sherwin and the Nielsen Norman Group. 2018.

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