VerseOne believes that the relationship with customers is an on-going collaborative partnership and has developed a tried and tested information-gathering methodology which ensures that projects run as smoothly as possible and deliver effective, practical results.
In order to ensure that VerseOne has an in-depth understanding of a project's aims before beginning the work, the project manager will guide the customer through the Information Architecture Process. This process is designed to ensure that both the customer and VerseOne's project team have the right information to make the web solution reflect the customer's corporate culture effectively and achieve the goals and objectives of the people using the system.
At VerseOne, Information Architecture is defined as:
“the intelligent structuring of information that enables a user to find and exchange information with the minimum of effort.”
In short, Information Architecture is a methodology to ensure that customers' web products become the effective tool that they want it to be.
The Information Architecture Process is divided into several stages, the progression of which helps the customer and VerseOne to define the direction and scale of the project, from its aims to its design and content.
An important part of designing any web service is defining clear aims for the project. This involves separating “the means,” “the reason,” and “the ends”: defining the aims clarifies the project goals and outlines the understanding of what the project should achieve. Setting these goals for the project design is a great way to flush out deeper, possibly unknown, intention that will help the customer and the designers make better decisions and dodge any surprises that crop up later in the implementation process.
Customers can create several aims in order to capture secondary and tertiary goals, but no single web service should have more than a handful of high-level aims. Of course, various departments or teams might have their own objectives, but these should be reconciled with the overall aims of the whole project.
Knowing one's audience helps to define what the important areas of a web product are: for example, service users might be a primary focus for external online communications. As such, customers may want to ensure that there are prominent links to information about services, procedures, and policies, as well as parking and opening times, among other things. Addressing the abilities of the audience will help determine how they are accessing a site and whether any special Accessibility considerations need to be taken into account.
Understanding target audiences will also help VerseOne's designers to understand the priorities that attached to the web service, and to respond and advise accordingly.
All of the sections of the Information Architecture Process mentioned above not only help VerseOne gain a deeper understanding of a customer's project, they also enable the designers to know what is important to the customer. VerseOne's designers will use this information to undertake exercises based on established processes, such as Attention Mapping, in order to design the overall look of the site.
This part of the process also takes the customer through likes and dislikes about web services in general, web products currently in use, and how corporate branding should be incorporated into the new design.
The final part of the Information Architecture Process will be to draft a sitemap for the web product. People will grow fond of a web service where they can accomplish their goals without having to expend too much effort. Users' mental energy should be spent on solving their problems, not searching high and low for specific pieces of information.
Drafting the sitemap helps the customer and VerseOne to categorise the importance of content items and assign hierarchical relationships. A good rule of thumb is that no piece of information should be more than three clicks away from the user's current location on the site; VerseOne works with customers to categorise content and determine the relationships of content items to one another, and to the organisation and structure of the site as a whole.
Based on the Attention Maps, sitemap, and hierarchy of content, VerseOne will produce wireframes of the new site, allocating all of the elements of the page and outlining the way the site will appear on a computer screen.
Finally, VerseOne will incorporate the specifications for the site's look and feel to produce a fresh, creative, and Accessible design.
VerseOne works with the customer through every step of the Information Architecture Process, from a simple survey to a full workshop, to ensure that the company build a dynamic, Accessible web service that embodies the customer's organisation's goals, identity, and ethos.
Last updated: 16 May 2012