Good web design is not just about the exterior or interior design of your website. While the look and feel of your website is important to your brand, there are many more elements that need to be taken into consideration.
If you are building a new website or updating an existing one, the principles are much the same as if you were building a new home or renovating an existing one. In either case, you want an outcome that suits your needs, the needs of your customers, your budget and some sort of return on investment.
Building a solid foundation for your structure
Let’s take the scenario of building a new home. You have the plot of land and now you want to put a house on it. You have an idea of the type of design (look and feel) you want but more importantly, you want a solid foundation on which to build your structure.
Unless you’re a builder or an architect, chances are you don’t know where to start so you might ask friends or family for recommendations or you might shop around for some building quotes. You meet with 3 or 4 building companies or architects and you choose one.
What makes you choose a particular building company or architect depends on several things namely price, timeframe, and reputation but ultimately, your decision boils down to how the builder or architect responds to you and your personal needs. This may not be apparent from the outset but as your project gets underway, you want a relationship with your builder or architect that is built on trust, understanding, knowledge and open communication.
Along the way where obstacles may arise, you will want to work with someone who provides solutions to suit you and your family, rather than them. The best solutions will be provided because the builder or architect has a handle on the “big picture”. They have a knowledgeable overview of all parts of the process, they understand the capabilities of the resources they need and have, and they know how these resources interact within the process. The same can be said of an Information Architect (IA).
What is information architecture (IA) anyway?
One definition I’ve seen says that information architecture is the practice of designing and organising information structures. To me, this is just one part of what an IA actually does. Just as a building architect is a person trained in the planning, design and supervision of the construction of a building, an information architect is a person trained in IA planning, interaction design and supervision of the construction of a website.
This is not the same supervision as might be allotted to a Project Manager. Just as a building architect designs a blueprint for the construction of a new home and supervises how that house is put together, an information architect designs a blueprint for the construction of a new website and supervises how that website is put together.
As Peter Morville (the “founding father” of information architecture) puts it, Information Architects build bridges between: