Baking the best IA
Building an information architecture that meets the needs of users and business is a specialised craft. It is a lovely mixture of art and science with a dollop of psychology added in for fun.
The following steps provide a brief overview of the process and will help you start to navigate your own IA practice. Developing a feel for IA takes time and practise. Start now!
To start your IA journey you need a number of ingredients. The first ingredient is a through understanding and working knowledge of the above concepts. Taxonomies, wayfinding and branding are some of the key concepts you should get your head around. Don't feel like you need to rush into your new IA before you do so. Being better informed will give you a better product.
Your second ingredient is a number of reports, strategies and data sets that will give you the specialised knowledge of your users, the tasks they need to complete, business drivers and your current content set for example, analytics, user research findings and content analysis.
Once you have those ingredients sorted you can then start to kneed your content into the most natural and appropriate categories and relationships by card sorting, buidling protpypes and testing with users.
Your final IA will not just be a spreadsheet or site map. You will also have a rationale deck and a migration doc to guide the team build content or tools into the new IA.
To produce the best results, work with a suite of tools. Mix and match to meet your specific needs.
The taste test
I suggest that building the IA is only half of the job, being able to sell your new IA to senior stakeholders is a crucial step in the process. Executives needs to understand the decisions you have made and that the new IA is not going to cause problem for users. You will also need to manage political discussions about the importance of various departments and organisational functions.