A client of mine recently asked me for some advice he could share with his internal team with regard to the Information Architecture (IA) we developed for their website redesign. In thinking about this, I realized that of all the things I’ve told clients over the years about how to effectively review and IA document, the tried and true method  is usually the following approach. Here’s the advice I give clients to help them effectively evaluate a proposed IA:

  1. Evaluate the Information Architecture document on its own merit, in and of itself. Evaluate it as a stand-alone deliverable, an outline.
  2. Don’t concern yourself with how this outline manifests itself in navigation or page design. Ignore the site for the moment.
  3. Your focus should be on whether or not the information is appropriate, in terms of volume, hierarchy and usefulness.
  4. Your feedback should tell us whether :
    1. All information is categorized properly
    2. All information is organized and grouped in a way that makes contextual sense to the user
    3. All information is organized and grouped accurately in terms of what areas of content are most closely related
    4. All information in the secondary and tertiary tiers is prioritized properly, according to level of value to the user and value to the business.

This keeps everyone’s focus squarely on the content: what it is, what it will mean to people, and how much of it there is. I want their focus to be on clarifying, prioritizing and organizing it.

You will need to say this more than once, as it is always tempting to think about how this winds up in a UI design. That’s natural; the brain can’t help itself 😉 But it is your job as a Designer or IA specialist or Developer to help the client focus on what matters most right now — and that’s information.

Socializing Information Architecture in this way results in shared understanding and keeps the project moving.