Monday, February 1, 2010

Guidelines to create successful information architecture for SharePoint Portals

In previous post, I have been talking about a general overview of the information architecture and its role in SharePoint Internet Portal projects. Also we went in brief to talk about its definition and factors that contribute to successful information architecture.

In this post, I’m going to talk about some more details about the information architecture, and highlight some guidelines to come up with successful information architecture.


The concept beyond information architecture is to define how your site's content, such as Web pages, documents, and lists, is organized and presented to users. This goes beyond appearance issues, such as color, font, or navigation.

Create Information Architecture

To categorize and analyze your content, you need to consider the following steps through the process of creating your information architecture:

- Gathering relevant information.

- Plan Information architecture.

- Document your information architecture.

Gathering relevant information

At this step you have some essential questions that you must answer, after gathering relevant information from your client. The following table shows some of these questions and categorizes them by high-level requirement.




·        Who are your users?

·        Where are your users located?

·        What languages do your users understand
and want to use?

·        How do they want to use your information?

·        How are your users grouped?

·        External customers

·        External partners

·        Internal divisions

·        Internal departments

·        Internal various locations (national and international)

·        Will you need to target information at specific users
or audiences?


·        Do you require multiple farms?

·        How many top-level site collections do you require?

·        What subsites do you require?

·        Will you require a multitier publishing infrastructure?

·        Will you have a common security infrastructure for all users?

·        What are the site-specific security requirements?

·        Are there any unique subsite security requirements?


·        Do you want to use a common brand across your sites?

·        Do you want to design your own:

·        Master pages?

·        Site or List Templates?

·        Page layouts?

·        Style sheets?

·        Custom controls?

·        Web Parts?


·        Will you use the default navigation tools?

·        Will you require custom development for personalized


·        What information types will your users want to work with?

·        What metadata will you require?

·        What additional content types will you require?

·        Will you implement search?

·        How will you configure search?

·        How will you optimize search?

·        Will you need to integrate LOB or other external data?


·        What are your auditing requirements?

·        Do you have defined information management policies?

You could go in more details for the Topology section, but actually you could deal with this section as non-functional outcomes from the Information Architecture design.

This is not a comprehensive list of items that you should cover; the development of information architecture is a sizeable undertaking.

Following are some good recommendations on how to start the process.

Plan Information architecture

You can divide the planning into three main processes:

• Survey of existing systems

If you have an existing WCM environment, you can gain a lot of information by analyzing the sites and defining the current information architecture and usage. This does not mean that you simply copy the structure that currently exists, but rather that you can use elements such as logs to identify what is used, what is popular, and what is not required by the business and users.

However, it is important to note that logs are not always an accurate reflection of business value and usefulness, because they do not necessarily reflect usability.

• Survey user requirements

It is essential to analyze user requirements. In addition to your focus on information that users require and how they use it, you need to define how they want to see and find that information. To this end, you must resolve navigation and location issues. These decisions might affect the topology, as remote users or low-grade communications infrastructure can adversely affect your design. The people-related information recorded with your information architecture will also help you to determine how to group site users based on the business processes they participate in, the distribution lists and social networks they belong to, the content they are likely to create or view, or the organizational structure in which they work.

• Survey business requirements

Ultimately, Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a business server. You must ensure that you understand the business drivers that are influencing your information architecture. The business rules will have a major affect on your security and consequently on whole structure. For example, you may have Internet and internal customers. This may enforce physical structures, such as multiple farms, but you may also need to manage the information architecture, such as branding or content types, for various internal and external business units.

Documenting Your Information Architecture

You must document your information architecture carefully. The architecture will certainly change over the lifetime of your sites, with new information, user, and content types arriving as your business develops. As with any documentation you write, it is important to be to the point and to develop information architecture documentation during the lifetime of your design, development, and implementation phases. Reverse engineering of documentation almost always leads to poorer quality, which does not help with future development.

Because you must gather information architecture content before you start your design, this should be the first system documentation that you produce. Microsoft provides a fast-start worksheet to help you define and develop your information architecture, which you can download from the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Information Architecture Worksheet.


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