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Determine the information architecture of your site

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

In this article:

What is information architecture?

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, 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:

  • 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 search will be configured and optimized.

Although this article provides some guidance on how to analyze the information requirements of your 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 take into account the information architecture needs of your organization.

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 and least frequently accessed.

  • Survey user requirements   Survey the current and intended site users and record the types of information 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 types of information the site contains? Is there missing information? Note any problems the users are having 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 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.

Using information architecture to plan the structure of your site

Your information architecture analysis 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 subsites and content within each site, you can plan where information belongs within that hierarchy. For more information about planning the structure of Internet and intranet sites based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, see Determine sites and subsites.

Using information architecture to plan for people and personalization

Your information architecture should include information about users. This information can come from Microsoft products and technologies, such as Microsoft® Exchange, the Active Directory® directory service, and Microsoft SQL Server™. It can also come from industry standard directories for tracking people, such as Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), or from line-of-business applications.

Collecting user information will enable you to create unified and consistent user profiles across the organization. This will in turn help you in planning My Sites, which are special SharePoint® sites personalized for each user.

The people-related concepts recorded with your information architecture will also help you determine how to group 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 planning for people and personalization, see Plan for personalized content and sites.

Using information architecture to plan for business data

Your information architecture includes the business data your enterprise uses. By using Office SharePoint Server 2007, business data can be presented in the context of your site structure, so that it is available to those audiences that need it. For example, in an enterprise's intranet portal solution, employee payroll data — which must be available across the enterprise's divisional boundaries — could be presented in the central portal site for the enterprise.

Data that is used by a limited audience could be presented in the subsites or portals used by that particular audience. For example, a customer support team could view and interact with customer support incidents in a portal site used only by that team, and a sales team could view customer data in a portal dedicated to managing customer relationships.

Use your information analysis research to help you determine where the data in your existing business applications should be exposed in your enterprise's portals and Internet sites, so that it is available to site users who need it. For more information about business data planning, see Determine business data and business intelligence needs.

Using information architecture to plan for search

As you plan your information architecture, keep track of concepts, search terms, and properties that your site's users will use when searching for information on your site. You will want this data when creating the search schema for the site.

Keep in mind that users may 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 they are looking for. For more information about search planning, see Plan search (Office SharePoint Server).

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007 .

See Also

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