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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld

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In Defense of Research

The design or redesign of any complex web site should begin with research leading to the formation of an information architecture strategy. Through research, we aim to learn enough about the business goals, the users, and the information ecology to develop a solid strategy. By creating, presenting, and refining this strategy, we can work towards consensus on the direction and scope of the site’s structure and organization.

This strategy will then serve as the roadmap for all subsequent design and implementation work. It will not only drive the information architecture process, but also guide the work of graphic designers, content authors, and programmers. While each of these teams will take different paths, the information architecture strategy ensures that everyone is headed toward a common destination.

Sometimes these are separate phases. Sometimes they are combined into a joint research and strategy phase. Either way, it’s important to have the same team of people involved in performing the research and developing the strategy. In cases where these are done separately, the research team tends to lack direction and focus, seeking answers that are interesting but not necessarily actionable, while the strategy team lacks the richness of direct interaction with users, opinion leaders, and content. Only a small percentage of the hands-on learning can be conveyed through formal presentations and reports.

What happens if you don’t make the time for research? ...

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