Information Architecture (IA) is defined as…
“The art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.“
On the web, information is exponentially growing at a pace that is almost impossible to keep up with. Companies these days need personnel and proven architectures in place to get their message out to the minions of prosumers in a highly efficient manner.
Notice I said prosumer instead of consumer. Applications are becoming so robust and complex that users demand total access and they want to take a much more proactive role in the development of something rather than just reading and/or making a simple purchase. With the continued development of blogs, wikis, forums, social networks, etc., it’s very apparent we are all ravenous for information and want more when it comes to being online.
Having said all that, I am going to be writing a series of posts on Information Architecture that can be applied to the creation, development and delivery of applications to the masses.
I’ll start by discussing content. Nine times out of ten content is the main holdup of a website’s development process. Who knows a client’s business better than them? Yet, getting them to provide any form of content can be like pulling teeth. When this happens, I find it helps to hire a professional. It’s vitally important for us to be able to guide/educate our clients, provide a clear development process and then place value on that process. I often suggest that clients outsource the writing and/or photography to professional adept at helping them show their business in the best light. Not only does it make the client look good, it also means that I’ll get content for the site in a timely manner.
After a client has reviewed the development process and agreed to a contract, I will start out by meeting with the client and put together a simple site map. We can personalize the site map to get the ball rolling.
It is important to ask tons of questions and figure out the things they like and don’t like. Compare these notes to the functionality document you wrote your quote off of and you have a pretty good start on figuring out what you’re going to need. It’s important to be creative and provide suggestions. However, the more information you have from them the better. I’m going to show you how to get it and organize it all.
Please keep in mind, there is no one way to get content from a client and develop out the application. However, helping them put together things like maps, inventories, wireframes, heuristic reviews, usability tests, personas, etc… will make everybody’s life a lot easier. I will be going through all of these and more in upcoming posts.
Before I go, I will share with you the way I lay out my two contracts for clients to choose from. After almost 12 years of developing, these are what I use nowadays and will not bend on the terms whatsoever.
1. 50% Up Front, 25% After Design Approval and 25% After Launch.
2. 100% Up Front with a 10% discount. (You will be surprised on how many clients will go for this one!)
You will notice that with either contract, you have 75-100% of your money before one line of code is written. Both of these, along with a well organized development process, will keep everyone on track and place value on the entire development cycle.
More to come…