A blog series focused on crafting meaningful structure in your Digital Workplace
(Part 1 of this blog series can be found here.)
In the first part of this series, we explored the concept of information architecture (IA) and the benefits of doing it right. In Part 2 of our blog series, we are going to provide some best practices for collecting insights that will make the process of creating your IA easier.
Before you can even begin to think about IA for a digital workplace, there’s some crucial groundwork that needs to be done first. You must understand your organization’s business goals, the range of content you’ll have to work with, and the people (users) who will be accessing the information.
a. Assess your business goals
Let’s start with the business context of your IA. To start, you need to know your company’s digital workplace vision. Ask yourself and those involved in creating your digital workplace the following questions to gather valuable business-related insights:
- What central business challenges do you want a digital workplace to address?
- What business objectives do you want to accomplish with a digital workplace? (e.g., automating business processes, enhancing company culture, boosting employee engagement)
- What are the existing systems for managing information?
- What business resources are available, and what are the constraints?
b. Understand where your users are coming from, so you can get them where they need to be
Understanding where your users are coming from helps you get them where they need to go through a well-defined IA. Effective IA reflects the way users (employees) think. You need to know how your people want to relate to content to create a structure that supports what they want to do or where to want to go within your digital workplace.
A digital workplace that understands nothing about its users will end up with users who understand nothing about their digital workplace, resulting in low employee engagement and slow adoption of your digital workplace.
There are several User Research Methods to help you learn about your employees’ behaviour and needs, including their information retrieval habits, and their opinions on how information should be grouped. These methods include:
- Card Sorting (discussed in Part 3 of this blog series), which offers insight into how users categorize information
- Contextual interviews, where you observe users in their normal work environment
- Focus groups, to learn about user attitudes, ideas, and hopes for the digital workplace
- Individual interviews
- Usability testing of current systems, to identify frustrations and problems
Involving users in the creation of your IA is not optional. You need to know exactly how they use their current information systems, how they feel about them, and how they would like to see information presented in a digital workplace.
c. Inventory your content – every single piece
The third critical step in the groundwork of developing an effective IA is completing a content inventory, on both a broad scale and a more granular one. Your list will be extensive, including not only text documents but images, processes, and applications. Once you’ve completed a content inventory, you need to assess how all this content flows – or doesn’t flow – across your organization, including:
- Where it’s stored
- How it’s used
- How it’s connected
- Who owns it
- Who can access it
- Who can change it
- What language is used to describe it
- What content will likely be produced in the future
At the end of this process, you should have a solid foundation of knowledge to build an IA that makes sense for your end-users, including:
- Your core business challenges and goals.
- How your users interact with information, and how they want to interact with information in the future.
- The volume, type, and lifecycle of existing and future content.