Euro IA 2007 was really great this year. Fantastic presenters and talks. Euro IA is maturing into a real quality event in all respects.
The idea is brilliantly simple: First, you have a core. This could be content, a feature, functionality, or even a work flow. Find what that is and design it first. Note that in doing this you necessarily have to get clarity from stakeholders and from the project team as to what it is that you should focus on.
Don’t start with the homepage, Are reminds us. This is also something I discuss in Designing Web Navigation too. To quote myself:
“Very often, a site’s navigation is created from the top down. The designer starts with the home page and determines all the ways to reach various parts of the site level by level. By the time the content pages are reached further down in the site, the system is more or less fleshed out, and the routes to those pages are already locked into place.
From a user’s standpoint, however, the home page may be the least interesting page on the site. It’s usually a mere stop on their way to where they are going. They care much more about the information and services your site has to offer. Of course, the home page often plays a key role in giving an overview, such as with Intranets and news sites, but it’s usually not the target page visitors are seeking.
Further, people may not enter the site on the home page. They may follow a link from a search engine, an online advertisement, or from another site. They may not have the chance to re-trace those top-down routes to content pages you’ve carefully planned out. Therefore you also need consider how people will get to your content from locations other than the home page. This leads a simple but important piece of advice:
Don’t start by designing the navigation on the home page“
Then you have to design the paths into that core and out of the core. The inward paths are about findability. Think of all the ways people can get to your core. The outward paths add value to the business. They expose related content or additional products.
As I commented at this session during the Q&A period, the best models are a.) simple and b.) obvious. All too often we think that if it’s not earth shattering, it’s not worth saying. But sometimes stating the obvious is a Very Good Thing. Try it.
And in terms of design models, the simplest are the best. People remenber them and can use them. Heck, I wrote this post pretty much without relying on the presentation or any of my notes. Stravinsky once said something to effect that there is a still all of good music to be written in the key of C. Web design still has long way to develop and continue maturing.