Information Architecture (IA)

What is Information Architecture (IA)? 

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 content types, everything should be considered to benefit your users. Good IA brings clarity and quality to your site’s user experience.

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

Relevant roles:

  • Webmaster
  • Section manager

Using spreadsheets to establish your IA

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 content types (pages, news articles, policies, etc.) together. This will help you analyse what can become 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 needed.

Once your navigation and structure is 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 site.

Spreadsheet done? Folders filled?

You’re well on your way to becoming an IA master and the creator of something clear and consistent.

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

Organising your site 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 site accessible and user-friendly.

Starting with the main menu

The first collection of links a user sees and visible on every section, page, blog, group, etc.

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

Titles should be relevant to all of the sections, related sections and content types. 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 content types.

To create your main menu:

1. Go to ‘Administration’ from your workbar

2. Locate the ‘Information Architecture’ and select ‘Manage sections’

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

4. Select ‘Create Section’

5. Add ‘Title’, and if you have them a ‘Description’, ‘Image’, ‘Attachment’

6. Make sure that ‘Relate section’ is empty

7. Add an order, we recommend using increments of 10

Note: 10 being the first link appearing in your navigation, 20 being the second, and so on.

8. Check the box next to ‘Published’

Alternatively: Uncheck this box and ‘Enable Preview Mode’ in your profile menu

9. Select ‘Save’, ‘Save and close’

Repeat these steps until you are happy with your main menu.

To add subsections:

1. Go to ‘Administration’ from your workbar

2. Locate the ‘Information Architecture’ and select ‘Manage sections’

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

4. Select ‘Create Section’

5. Add ‘Title’, and if you have them a ‘Description’, ‘Image’, ‘Attachment’

6. In ‘Relate section’ choose the section this one is the subsection of

7. Add an order, we recommend using increments of 10

Note: 10 being the first link appearing in your navigation, 20 being the second, and so on.

8. Check the box next to ‘Published’

Alternatively: Uncheck this box and ‘Enable Preview Mode’ in your profile menu

9. Select ‘Save’, ‘Save and close’

Repeat these steps until you are happy with your main menu.

Navigation options: What’s the difference

You can choose to have dropdown navigation from your main menu or use local navigation menus within each section… or both.

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 ‘Subsections’

4. Change the number to 1 or 2, depending on how many subsections you want to show

5. Check that ‘Show menu’ is ticked

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

7. Save

If you do not want dropdown menus from your primary 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 ‘Subsections’

4. Change the number to 0

7. Save

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 social feeds or 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 subsections, 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 section

2. Select ‘Edit’, ‘Widgets’

2. In the appropriate region, select the ‘Add widgets’ icon

3. Search for and select ‘Section menu’

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

6. Choose to show subsections, be checking ‘Show siblings if childless’

7. Choose depth

7. In ‘Design’ tab, leave as ‘Navigation style 1’

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

9. Select ‘Add’

10. Move widget if needed

11. Select ‘Save’

To add subsections to your section menu widget:

1. Go to your section

2. Select the overflow menu and ‘Create subsection’

2. Add ‘Title’, ‘Description’, etc.

3. ‘Relate section’ will be auto-filled

4. Add ‘Order’

5.  Save

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 internal and external links.

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

1. Go to your section

2. Select ‘Edit’, ‘Widgets’

3. Select ‘Add widget’ in the appropriate region

4. Seach for ‘section content’ and select the ‘Content type’ category, select ‘Section content’

5. Change ‘Title’

6. In the ‘Display’ tab, choose which content types you want to display

7. In the ‘Design’ tab, choose the design and configure the settings such as ‘Show more’ link

8. In the ‘Sort’ tab, choose to sort by published date, created date, etc.

9. Select ‘Add’

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.

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