Information Architecture (IA) is not necessarily the most important thing in an organization, but I think it should be right up there. Building an IA is no simple task, but can be well worth the time it takes to plan and implement.
In my eyes, one of the main goals of defining an IA for an organization is to create consistency of terminology.
Learn about IA design by watching SharePoint 2010 MCITP Administrator Training
A Common Problem
I don’t know about you, but I have worked with too many companies that do not have such consistency. An example I often run into:
User X maintains an Excel spreadsheet of an organization’s departments and user Y does the same, yet the departments in each user’s list do not match. Sure, the phrases “Office of the CEO” and “CEO Office” are obviously referring to the same thing and we humans have no problem figuring that out. However, since we store a lot of our content in computers these days, something this simple can cause confusion.
Figure 1, below, is a scaled-down example of what typically happens on a network file share. Given this structure, how do I know which folder contains the files I need? Unless I put them there myself, I really don’t and I’ll end up looking in each folder until I find what I need. While only on a small scale, this wastes time.
Figure 1 – Two folders for the same department
Wasted time = lower productivity = less $$ = unhappy executives
IA Artifacts in SharePoint 2010
In the realm of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, there are several artifacts that can be used to facilitate building an effective IA. Here are the main artifacts:
- List Columns
- Site Columns
- Site Content Types
- Managed Metadata Service Application: Content Type Hub
Create a centralized list of departments that’s been signed off and agreed to by the business stakeholders and make that list accessible to all users. In our example here, let’s say that the business stakeholders have declared the official department name to be “Office of the CEO.”
Why It Works
Confusion has been eliminated because now we know the “answer.” There’s no more need to question which folder I need to dive into; there’s only one so that must be it. Furthermore, I now know to use “Office of the CEO” going forward instead of “CEO Office.” Assuming it’s well documented and effectively communicated and enforced, we’ll all be on the same page going forward.