Step 2 - Define Your Information Architecture

Information architecture, or IA, is a term that's used for how webpages are organized within your site. A site's IA sets the framework for where pages should go, when folders are needed, how pages are named, how urls are formed, and how visitors navigate.

Here you'll be defining all the webpages and folders you need and how they're organized.

  1. Request and review the suggested IA from Web Services.

    If you'd like, Web Services can provide you with a suggested IA after your Web Workshop session. Start by reviewing this document with your team.

    If you have minor changes, like changing a few page titles or adding a few pages, then make those changes and go on to Step 3.

    If you have major changes or want to start from scratch, follow this step by step walk through.

  2. Or, start from scratch - Make a list of the information that needs to be on your website.

    Open an excel document and begin listing out the webpages you think you'll need based on the information you have to communicate. Don't worry yet about organizing everything just right, feel free to just list out things you know people will need to find on your site.

  3. Decide on level 1 categories—your main navigation items.

    Once you've got a good list, begin grouping your information into 5-10 main categories in the first column of your spreadsheet. These main categories should encompass your site information because all webpages will need to fit under one of these categories.

    This will become the first layer of site navigation. See the Level 1 categories for the Arden Hills Zoo (pdf):

    Level 1 Site Architecture

    Note that Level 1 items can be either folders or single pages. A folder is a container that holds additional webpages beneath. So you might have a folder called Services that contains pages for each service you provide. On the other hand, a main category like contact information may only require 1 page.

  4. Organize the rest of your info as level 2 or level 3 pages.

    Level 2 - Start adding pages underneath your level 1 categories (if needed). You will need to add rows to accommodate your level 2 pages. See the example below. Meet Our Staff is at level 2.

    Level 3 - You may need to go even deeper by making a few level 2 folders. See the example below. Zookeeper Nancy, Zookeeper Kip, and Harvey the Veterinarian are all level 3 pages. We are limited to 3 levels in our left-hand navigation. If this is a challenge for your site information, please contact Web Services.

    Take a look at the Contact Us area on the sample IA (pdf) to see an example of where 2nd and 3rd levels are needed.

    See how this appears in the site navigation:

    Level 2 and 3 Site Architecture

  5. Create titles.

    What you list on your spreadsheet will become the title of your webpage.

    Sample Page Title

    Review what you have and adjust to make sure that your page titles will allow visitors to predict exactly what they will find when they read the page. Be clear, predictable, and helpful.

  6. System name your pages.

    In the last column on your excel sheet you need to list the system name of every page. The system name for a Cascade page or folder is what will appear in the url for that page.

    Sample System name

    To keep things consistent for site visitors, follow these rules:

    • Use hyphens between words.
    • Never use underscores, spaces, or other characters.
    • Use all lowercase.
    • System names should be 3 words or less.
    • Use words that make sense. In almost every case, your page system name should use words found in your page title.
    • Don’t use acronyms or abbreviations.
    • Do not word-mash (howtoapply).
  7. Proof your work.

    You may want to run your site IA by your office one final time to include any last minute adjustments. There will be flexibility as you gather content for your pages to adjust your IA based on the needs of your information.

  8. Send your IA to Web Services.

    Web Services will briefly look over your IA and give you the go ahead if you're ready to start preparing your content!

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What should I have when I'm done?

Check out a sample of a complete IA spreadsheet (pdf) for the Arden Hills Zoo.