Plan information architecture for Web content management (SharePoint Server 2010)
Published: September 16, 2010
A Web site's information architecture determines how the information in that site — its Web pages, documents, lists, and data — is organized and presented to the site's users. Information architecture is often recorded as a hierarchical list of site content, search keywords, data types, metadata, and other concepts.
Analyzing the information to be presented in an Internet or intranet Web site is an important early step in the site planning process, and this step provides the basis for planning the following:
How the site will be structured and divided into a set of subsites.
How data will be presented in the site.
How site users will navigate through the site.
How information will be targeted at specific audiences.
How content will be tagged and how metadata will be managed.
What the authoritative source is for terms.
How search will be configured and optimized.
Although this article contains some guidance about how to analyze the information architecture requirements of your SharePoint Internet or intranet site, you will want to include an information architect or analyst on your site's planning and design team to ensure that your Web site plans fully consider the information architecture needs of your organization.
In this article:
General planning recommendations
It is useful to divide information analysis for Web site planning into the following stages:
Survey existing content and Web site structure Your current Internet or intranet site reflects its current information architecture. Analyze and record how information and content are distributed across your current sites and subsites. Look at logs or other analysis tools to see what content is most frequently accessed and least frequently accessed.
Survey user requirements Survey the current site users and intended site users, and record the kinds of information that they create or use. What information do they need in their daily work? Are they able to find that information easily? Does the current Web site structure help them understand the relationships among the different kinds of information that the site contains? Is there missing information? Note any problems the users have in finding or using information with the site's current architecture.
Survey business requirements Survey the managers of the business unit or organization that the Web site is being designed for. What are the business needs of the site? Should the units or divisions of the business be reflected in the information architecture of the site? How will information be shared across business units, or will it be isolated within one unit? If the site is targeted at customers, what information should they first encounter? How will they explore information about products or services?
Use your analysis to create a detailed outline of your organization's content needs.
Plan the structure of your site
Your information architecture will determine the structure of your Internet or intranet site. By dividing the information architecture into business processes, projects, or large content groupings, and by using those divisions to sketch out a hierarchy of sites and content within each site, you can plan where information belongs within that hierarchy. For more information about how to plan the structure of sites based on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, see Plan sites and site collections (SharePoint Server 2010).
Plan for social computing and collaboration
The social computing and collaboration features in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 are built upon a database of properties that integrates information about people from many kinds of business applications and directory services. Your information architecture research should include information about users. This information can come from Microsoft products and technologies, such as Microsoft Exchange Server, the Active Directory directory service, and Microsoft SQL Server. It can also come from directories for tracking people in industry standard formats, such as Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), or from line-of-business applications such as SAP.
By collecting user information, you can create unified and consistent user profiles across the organization. This will help you plan My Sites, which are special SharePoint sites that provide a rich set of social networking and collaboration features that are personalized for each user. Self-service site creation enables users to create their own My Sites. As you plan for collaboration features such as My Sites, consider whether you should enable self-service site creation. Which users should have permission to create sites? Will there be a specific Web application where My Sites are created? What kind of quotas are needed? For more information about My Sites, see Plan for My Sites (SharePoint Server 2010).
The people-related concepts that are recorded with your information architecture will also help you determine how to create a group of site users based on the business processes they participate in, the distribution lists and social networks they belong to, the content they are likely to create or view, or the organizational structure in which they work. For more information about how to plan for social computing and collaboration, see Plan for social computing and collaboration (SharePoint Server 2010).
Plan for managed metadata
Managed metadata is a hierarchical collection of centrally managed terms that you can define and then use as attributes for items in SharePoint Server 2010. As you plan your information architecture, consider the term sets that are needed to help categorize SharePoint items such as custom columns that are associated with documents and lists, or "Choice" or "Lookup" columns in an existing SharePoint Server site. For more information about term sets and managed metadata, see Plan terms and term sets (SharePoint Server 2010). You can use metadata navigation to improve list view navigation. Metadata navigation expands the capabilities of list views and combines it with a Key Filters control, which makes it easier for users to find content by filtering a view of documents to a subset based on one or more navigation filters. As you plan your information architecture, consider how users will likely use the site hierarchy to navigate document libraries, in addition to the filters that users will use to further filter data displayed in library list views. For more information about metadata navigation, see Metadata navigation overview (SharePoint Server 2010).
Plan for business intelligence and business data
Your information architecture includes the business intelligence and business data that your enterprise uses. By using business intelligence applications and tools you can organize your vision of organizational goals, processes, and performance requirements in a useful manner, and you can present that data as meaningful information. By using SharePoint Server 2010, you can present business data in the context of your site structure so that it is available to those audiences that need it. For example, on an enterprise's intranet site, employee payroll data — which must be available across the enterprise's divisional boundaries — could be presented on the enterprise's central site so employees could see their own data.
Data that is used by a limited audience could be presented in the sites that are used by that particular audience. For example, a customer support team could view and interact with customer support incidents in a site that is used only by that team, and a sales team could view customer data in a site that is dedicated to managing customer relationships. As another example, an enterprise’s technical support team could use business intelligence features to view metrics on technical support tickets, such as how many tickets are assigned per support technician, how many are open or resolved, and what the satisfaction level of the customers is.
As you plan your information architecture, determine what business intelligence tools your enterprise needs and where the data in your existing business applications should be exposed in your enterprise's Internet and intranet sites to be available to users who need it. For more information about business intelligence planning, see Business intelligence planning (SharePoint Server 2010). For more information about business data planning, see Business data and processes planning (SharePoint Server 2010).
Plan for search
As you plan your information architecture, in an information architecture survey, keep track of concepts, search terms, and properties that your site's users will use when they search for information on your site. You will want this data when you are creating the search schema for the site.
Remember that users might search for content by using broad conceptual terms to describe what they need. Your information architecture survey will be useful as a tool to help map users' terminology and concepts to the underlying information that they are looking for.