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 top navigation 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 intranet’s user experience. 

Before you start to build out your intranet, you should map out 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 content types (pages, news, policies, blogs, 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 in Google Sheets or Excel, create a system of folders reflecting each tile’s 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 primary menu as a 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 consider the titles of your primary menu. Is there enough content and is that content important or popular enough to justify an ever-present title on your intranet?

Titles should be relevant to all of the sections, subsections and content types that hang from them. 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 primary menu: 

  1. Hover over your profile and select ‘Invotra admin’ beneath ‘Advanced options’

      2. Locate the ‘Structure’ category and select ‘Site sections’

Site section admin page with option to add new and all existing site sections listed

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

     4. Select ‘Create New’

     5. Add ‘Name’ and ‘Weight’

Site section creation page with fields for name, weight and parent terms

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 primary menu has been added successfully.

Configuring your primary menu

There are two types of primary menu to choose from. You can have dropdown menus, with sub-menus from your primary menu. Or, you can have no dropdown menus and use a section menu widget instead within each parent section you create.

Navigation options: What’s the difference

With dropdown navigation from the primary menu:

dropdown navigation shown with site section child pages listed under the primary menu

With navigation in sections:

navigation in sections shown with child sections listed under parent pages

If you do 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 the number to 2 or 3, depending on whether you want subsections of sections to display. If so, select 3

Admin page for primary menu with show menu and pinning checkboxes and depth dropdown

       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

Admin page for primary menu with show menu and pinning checkboxes and depth dropdown

      5. Check that ‘Show menu’ is ticked

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

      7. Select ‘Save configuration’

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

Moving onto sections

Normally, the parent sections you create are the equivalent of a homepage. 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 subsections or ‘child 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 content offshoots.

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 your area on your intranet.

To activate your section menu widget:

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

Content widget area with add and editing icons

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

      3. Search for and select ‘Section content’

List of all widgets available to add to a region with navigation widgets of section menu and specific section menu shown

     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 menu options for parent item, with dropdown list

      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. Drag and drop ‘Specific section menu’ widget, if required

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

To add links to your specific section menu widget:

  1. In your site section, go to ‘Options’ and then select ‘Manage’
  2. Select ‘Add Child 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 user who can influence the primary 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 PlaceEditor’, then select ‘Customise page’
  2. In the appropriate region, select the plus icon
  3. Search for ‘Section content’ and select the widget

     Section content widget options with title overide checkbox and list of content types shown

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

     5. Select the appropriate heading style – keep it consistent

    6. Select the appropriate content type, you want to display 

Section content widget options with list of content types shown

   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

Section content widget options for sort criteria with sort by and sort order fields

If you are 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 other important 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 content types 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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