Information Architecture (IA)

What is Information Architecture? 

It’s how well you organise and structure your information. Users rely on your IA to find what they are looking for, easily and quickly.

From the titles in your main menu to the links you choose to distribute around your sections and items, everything should be considered to benefit your users. Good IA brings clarity and quality to your intranet’s user experience.

Before you start to build out your intranet, you should map your information so that you know everything is in the right place from the start.

Roles in Information Architecture

There are 2 roles with the permissions to influence IA. They are: 

  • Webmaster
  • Section manager

Using spreadsheets to establish your Information Architecture

Love them or loathe them, a good place to organise your content is in a spreadsheet. We recommend using Google Sheets or Excel.

Copy and paste your existing navigation titles and link all possible sections and items (pages, news, policies, etc.) together. This will help you analyse what can be dense and complex amounts of content.

It’s also much easier to methodically review content for each section; marking what is good and what is bad. You will inevitably identify what can be refined, moved or deleted.

When you spread out your content and its structure like this, it can feel overwhelming. Significantly, if you find it daunting and confusing so will your users, and the process you’re going through is necessary.

Once you have your navigation and structure arranged, create a system of folders reflecting each tile’s (Sheets and Excel) title and relationship.

Then, save your content (words, images, files, links, etc.) into the appropriate folders so it’s all ready to go when you build your intranet.

Spreadsheet done? Folders filled?

You’re well on your way to becoming an intranet master and the creator of an Information Architecture that is clear, consistent and quality.

Here’s a spreadsheet we’ve created for you to help you get started.

Organising your intranet and its sections

As we’ve discussed, it’s important for webmasters and section managers to know what content goes where and why. The following information is designed to help you organise the words, images, files and links (the content) in a way that makes your intranet accessible and user-friendly.

Starting with the primary menu

You might refer to the main menu as a primary menu or top navigation. It is the first collection of links a user sees and it is visible on every section, page, blog, group, etc. on your intranet.

You should carefully consider the titles of your main menu. Is there enough content and is that content important or popular enough to justify an ever-present place on your intranet?

Titles should be relevant to all of the sections, related sections and items. They should be simple and clear and not repeat things like the name of the business.

They should also positively influence the titles of all the other sections, subsections and items.

To create your main menu:

1. Go to ‘Administration’ from your workbar

2. Locate the ‘Structure’ category and select ‘Sections’

3. You will see the ‘Home’ section already set up as a default

4. Select ‘Create New’

5. Add ‘Name’ and ‘Weight’

Name and weight fields in new section create page

For weight, we recommend you add in increments of 10. 10 being the first link appearing in your navigation, 20 being the second, and so on. This means if you won’t change the order of links in the future, you only have to change the weight of one section and not (potentially) all of your links.

6. Leave the ‘Parent terms’ empty
7. Select ‘Save’

Check that your first link in your main menu has been added successfully.

Navigation options: What’s the difference

With horizontal dropdown navigation from the main menu:

Dropdown menu from reference section

With navigation in sections:

Example of navigation within sections

If you do want dropdown menus from your main menu, you need to do the following:

1. Go to ‘Administration’ in the workbar

2. Beneath ‘Menus’ select ‘Main menu’
3. Select the dropdown box beneath ‘Depth’
4. Change the number to 2 or 3, depending on whether you want sub-sections of sections to display. If so, select 3

Dropdown box beneath ‘Depth’ showing options of 1,2 and 3

       5. Check that ‘Show menu’ is ticked

       6. Tick to pin navigation bar (primary menu)  to the Invotra toolbar (recommended)

       7. Select ‘Save configuration’

If you do not want dropdown menus from your primary menu, you need to do the following:

1. Go to Invotra Admin

2. Beneath ‘Menus’ select ‘Primary menu’

3. Select the dropdown box beneath ‘Depth’ 

4. Change number to 1

Dropdown box beneath ‘Depth’ showing option 1 selected

5. Check that ‘Show menu’ is ticked

6. Tick to pin main menu to the workbar (recommended)

7. Select ‘Save’

With ‘Depth’ set at ‘1’, we strongly recommend that you use the ‘Section menu’ widget to give your intranet the clear structure users need to navigate. 

Moving onto sections

Normally, the first sections you create are the equivalent of a home or landing page. It is the introduction to an area and contains intros and links out to all other content that’s relevant to the section’s title.

Sections are commonly made up of two or three columns, with ideally, each column serving a specific function. For example, the first column does the navigation, the second contains the content, with the extra-navigational links in the third.

You do this by arranging the appropriate widgets into the appropriate columns in the appropriate order.

Navigation within sections

If a section has lots of other related sub-sections, use a navigation widget to give your area a rigid structure. This will add clarity, accuracy and speed to your user experience.

We recommend you organise your content into 3 to 10 titles – try not to use too many titles. Each subsection should have enough content to justify a place in structural navigation, eg. it will have lots of offshoots of content.

The navigation must also always remain the same. It is the anchor point for all of your content and a consistent map for users to, 1, know where they are, and 2, quickly move around that area of your intranet.

To activate your section menu widget:

  1. Go to your parent section and select the IPE, then ‘Customise page’

header toolbar with plus button for adding widgets

2. In the appropriate region, select the plus icon to add a widget

3. Search for and select ‘Section content’

menu displaying widget options

4. Select ‘Specific section menu’

5. In the ‘Parent item’, select the parent section

Alternatively, tick the checkbox next to ‘Use current term as a parent’

Specific section menu widget option for the parent page of the navigation to be shown

6. Leave the depth as 1 (for now)

7. In ‘Styles’ category, leave as ‘Navigation style 1’

8. In ‘Sort criteria’ category, select ‘Weight’

9. Select ‘Finish’ and ‘Continue’

10. Reposition the ‘Specific section menu’ widget, if required, using the drag and drop icon

11. Select ‘Save’ at the top of the screen

To add links to your specific section menu widget:

1. In your section, go to ‘Options’ and select ‘Manage’

2. Select ‘Add Section’

3. Add ‘Name’

4. Add ‘Weight’; this is important as it will determine where your link will appear in the ‘Specific section menu’ widget

5. Check the ‘Parent term’ too, as this is also linked to the widget configuration

6.  Scroll down and select ‘Save’

7. Find your parent section and check that your new child section is appearing in the specific section menu

Repeat these steps until you’ve built out your local navigations. Section managers have the power to do this in their own sections. Webmasters are the only users who can influence the main menu.

Using content types for navigational purposes

Think about your user needs and treat the likes of ‘Page’ and ‘Policy’ titles as part of your information architecture too. They should be endpoints in a user’s search for information as well as access points to useful, related content and external links.

To set up your ‘Section content’ widget as part of your navigation:

1. Go to your section and select the ‘In Place Editor’, then select ‘Customise page’

2. In the appropriate region, select the plus icon

3. Search for ‘Section content’ and select the widget

4. Tick to ‘Override title’ and add, for example, ‘HR Guides’

    Section content widget options with override title option selected

5. Select the appropriate heading style – keep it consistent

6. Select the appropriate content type you want to display 

Content types option on specific section widget with list selected

7. Choose and select your widget style

For navigation purposes, we recommend ‘General style 2’ and that you add summary text.

8. In ‘Sort criteria’, choose how you want your pages or policies to display

Sort criteria for section widget dropdown

If you’re adding numbers at the front of each page or policy you may want to sort by ‘Title’ as above, or if you want a less rigid sorting, select another more relevant option.

1. In ‘Sort criteria’, choose how you want your pages or policies to display

2. Select ‘Continue’ and ‘Finish’

Now, you can start to add your pages and policies and they will appear in your section as links that will become part of your navigation.

Using related content and related external links for navigation

Good user experience includes making it easy for users to find relevant information. This is where you do the hard work for users and signpost related content.

You can do so under titles such as ‘Related content’, ‘Elsewhere on the web’ or ‘Downloads’. If you do have a list of internal and external links, separate them so that a user is not unexpectedly leaving your intranet or vice versa.

You need to add the ‘Related content’ and ‘Related external links’ widgets into your sections or items using the In Place Editor. You can then add internal and external links in the Options > Edit screens for both sections and content types.

Suggested links

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