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Lesson 3 Determining needs
Objective Describe how user needs determine information architecture choices.

Website Information Architecture

As you learned from the design process for signs and metaphors, you must never lose sight of the needs of your end users. There is no one correct methodology or approach for implementing information architecture, but there is one primary goal:
develop site navigation and architecture that users can interpret intuitively so they can use the site effectively.
To evaluate the information architecture needs of a site and to build an effective site, your team will need to do the following:
  1. Understand the users' needs and what influences their interpretation and use of the site.
  2. Organize the information into a clear, workable structure before designing and developing other components of the site.
  3. Design navigation systems that support the content and the needs of users.
  4. Supplement the navigation with alternative navigational features such as search, site maps, and indexes.
  5. Ensure good communication of ideas between team members, the client, and end users.
  6. Test, retest, and update aspects of the site as the understanding of the user's environment increases.

Know your Users

As with designing signs and metaphors, understanding the users' needs is critical. The best way for you to understand that perspective is to have users tell you and show you what they need to interpret and navigate through a site comfortably and effectively. When you ask users to try using an alpha or beta version of the site, certain patterns of use typically surface. For example, if nine out of ten users do not click on a logo that you've placed in the upper left-hand corner of every page on the site, chances are that visual element needs to be redesigned to better communicate its purpose.
There are a number of approaches your Web site development team can take to evaluate your users' needs. They include the following:
  1. Conduct an audience analysis and study it with the goal of gaining as much relevant information as possible about the audience.
  2. Speak with those who know the audience well (for example, marketing).
  3. Have users participate in discussions about the design and architecture of the site.
  4. Create several usage scenarios for the site. Make a list of the kinds of users and imagine the kinds of things that they would be interested in. Validate the usage scenarios with users.

A key tool for helping evaluate the information architecture needs of the site is the Site Planner.
Question: If your primary navigation feature is a nav bar and hyperlinks, what are alternate navigational features you can build into your site to help your users?
Answer: Search engine, site maps, indexes, text only version of site .
In the next lesson, you will see how the Site Planner is useful in designing information architecture.