A technical architecture document is not only helpful for planning, but can also be used to automate the creation of content types and other site elements. This cuts down on development time, allowing for rapid prototyping. This process plays well into a content first approach to web development and helps the client understand the power of structured content.
As information architects, we love tools that help clients think about the structure of their content. One which we’ve found particularly helpful is what we call our Technical Architecture document. It’s a spreadsheet that defines the structure of the site. This approach is not uncommon, especially within the Drupal community; however, we have promoted this spreadsheet from information architecture tool to site generator. By automating a once manual process, we’ve introduced some really exciting opportunities around rapid prototyping and efficient product iteration.
Google has developed a wide range of products to help teams collaborate on projects. Here at Aten, we use Google Drive to foster collaboration between Aten employees and the awesome organizations we work with on a daily basis.
Most non-profits are great about establishing a vision, mission, and goals for their organizations. All too often though, that strategic work ends up divorced from an organization’s online presence and communications approach. When you’re in the throes of the non-profit hustle and staff are strapped for time with deadlines looming, the website, blog, or Twitter account is oftentimes the first thing to be neglected. While this reality is understandable, an organization’s content is crucial to its success.
Providing clear and compelling navigation is key to a site’s success. Testing that navigation with an online survey for real users to complete ensures that you'll answer your audience's questions.
During our Information Architecture process, we help clients organize their content and create a content creation plan for the different types of content to use on their new website. Our clients have experienced authors who are experts in their field, but writing for the web has its own challenges. Ginny Redish explains it well in Letting Go of the Words, “People come for information that answers their question or helps them complete their task.
As a creative organization, we are always looking for ways to improve our processes while at the same time give our customer the best value for their dollar. For a while, we strayed away from using wireframes during the information architecture and design stages. Too often, wireframes influence the design direction of a site, and we didn’t want that to be the case here at Aten. We have great designers that are up for the challenge of giving the site well-balanced visual appeal.
As an information architect I like to straddle the line between web design and librarianship. Both areas require the individual to understand the importance of organizing information so that it is user-focused and easy to browse. During their training, librarians focus on learning how users find and interact with information. They understand how to organize information and add valuable labels to groups of similar items, topics, and ideas. Many Library and Information Science (LIS) masters programs are adding information architecture classes to their course catalog.
On Monday evening my colleagues Chris Coughlan, Jon Clark and I had the pleasure of representing Aten at the annual membership meeting of the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The RMSLA is a board-run association, which strives to enhance skills and promote value for individuals in Special Libraries and Information Organizations. Special Libraries are just that: special.