Saturday, January 16, 2010

Information Architecture for SharePoint Internet Portal – Overview

I will be talking about the Information Architecture, a huge concept and almost a standalone field in Information Technology world. I want to highlight this important topic, and its role in SharePoint Internet Portal projects.

This article just includes a general overview about information architecture, and does not include how to plan and build your information architecture for SharePoint portals; hopefully I will be writing about this subject in more details in next posts.

Information Architecture

If we need to come up with a general definition for it, we could say it’s the organization of information in an enterprise to maximize the information’s usability and manageability, and to analyze content and information included in your internet portal, and this is a very important early step in your project.

Implementation for Successful Information Architecture

Factors that contribute to a successful implementation of information architecture includes the following:

• How easy it is to find information?

• How information is stored and retrieved?

• How users navigate to information?

• How redundant or overlapping information is?

• What metadata is available for each type of information?

Poorly Designed Information Architecture

Poorly designed information architecture could lead to the following main problems and even more:

• Inconsistent use of metadata can make it difficult to search for and compare related items of information.

• Poorly designed and managed storage of content can cause a proliferation of duplicate versions of documents. As a result, users cannot identify the authoritative version.

• Poorly presented information can reduce the ability of some users to access the information.

Information Architecture – Example

When you design the information architecture of an Internet presence Web site, you might focus on how the site is organized into a hierarchy of sub-sites and Web pages, how that hierarchy is exposed in the site’s navigation features, and how easy it is to search for content on the site.

Information taxonomy

To make information in the web site easier to locate, you need to analyze content and create new information architecture, so we come up with the following:

• How the content is categorized

• How the content is stored

• How the content is laid

General Recommendations

Searching for a way to build proper information architecture, found many ways and approaches have been followed, one of these approaches is to engage your stakeholders using surveys and polls:

• Survey existing content and Web site structure

   - Analyze and record how information and content are distributed across current sites and sub sites.

• Survey user requirements

   - Needed information

   - Are they able to find that information easily?

   - Is there missing information?

• Survey business requirements

   - What information should they first encounter?

   - How will they explore information?


- SharePoint Internet presence governance plan (white paper) - by Joel Oleson.

- Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog: How We Did It:


  1. nice topic Hamzeh,thanks..
    i am looking forward for the next post,actually it's very important to follow best practices while constructing the portal's info architecture, since this will lead absolutly to achieve well organized,managed,categorized, easy to reach and searchable content.
    on the other hand, don't you think that client's requirements and needs sometimes could against or conflict with the best practices suggested by a professional ? i do !

  2. I know that you asked hamza but i would like to contribute :), we usually have best practice but what would stop us from applying them sometimes time constraints or even budget constraints. There are a kind of projects where you asked to trade off quality with number of features (more features with less quality); But a clever technical guy would try to balance between the number of applied principles and best practices and the actual time taken to achieve the features of the portal it self.
    And the question is still open for Mr. Hamza

  3. Actually you don’t have direct conflicts with your client in terms of quality; sure he’s always looking for good quality, but what always stop you are time and budget constraints, I think you need some help from your project management team to solve this (increase # of resources, ask for enough time ….etc).
    But even this does not help in some cases, and then you could go for one of two solutions or both:
    First one, don’t go deeply in the best practices and guidelines you are going to apply, keep it as simple as possible and try to apply general best practices.
    The second one as you had constraints in terms of time and cost, then you need not to engage your client in all requirements needed to come up with proper Info architecture; you have to use your past experience – specially for areas such as permission management and topologies – so you overcome time and cost constraints…. Hope this helps and thanks guys for your concerns.

  4. In our experience, the willingness of a client to allocate time and budget will be directly related to the business impact of the project. If it is a localized internal application that's focused on improving a local process, no one will want to hear to much about maintaining best practices. But if the project touches revenue, saves operating expense or reduces risk, a client will be much more interested in "best practice assurance". In every case, Information Architecture best practice and defined methodologies for it are critical. But the clients awareness of - or interest in it will vary from project to project.

  5. I totally agree with you; actually this is what happens on the ground. This is so helpful, many thanks Bernie.

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