Most of us have been to that website that made us so frustrated we wanted to shut our computer off because either the information we were looking for was nowhere to be (visibly) found, or we needed to go on an adventure through the jungle of a website to get to it.
"How do we make our site perfect?"
No website is ever going to be perfect for every type of user. Someone might want a link to be slightly bigger, or the navigation menu to be located along the side of the screen instead of the top. Changing the usability to appease one user might make another user frustrated! The best way to handle this problem is to define the goals of your site. Who do you want to reach out to? What is this segment of your user population looking for? How do they want to navigate your site. Why are they coming to you?
The answers to all of these questions is the first step of the Information Architecture process.
After site goals are defined, research can be done on the segment of the population being targeted. It is useful to know what users are looking for, and how they would go about doing it. Content can then be grouped based on these factors, and navigation should reflect some of the major user types search behavior. Creating a “site metaphor” also gives the user an idea on how the information is organized by relating it to a topic the user is familiar with.
Just as structural architects and engineers collaborate to create beautiful buildings in the world we live in, information architects and web engineers can collaborate to give us beautifully designed websites. Instead of making users put on their explorer hats and grabbing a machete, give them a tourist destination… one they are sure to come back and visit again.