Information Architecture and Planning

JoAnn Hackos' course on "Minimalism" (user-centric, task-focused documentation) had useful guidelines for information architecture design. That topic-tracking tables she showed us became the foundation for the approach I now use. They made it possible to organize my work and keep track of what I was doing.


Planning

  • Create one or more tables to keep track of details like topic titles, filenames, associated metadata, related links, and the like.

  • Identify the tasks users need to perform, making entries in the table.

  • While doing that, identify the concepts users will need to understand to make sense of the tasks. Add those.

  • Identify reference information the user will need to vary the tasks, and add them.

  • Begin outlining your "documents" -- a collection of TOCs for the documents you plan to deliver, with the topics appropriately nested.

  • In the process, identify new topics you need to deliver and appropriate refactorings (breaking an existing topic into multiple pieces, so part of it can be used elsewhere). Modify the topic table(s) appropriately.

  • Give each document a column in a topic table. Mark the documents that each topic is used in. If there is a topic that isn't used anywhere, nuke it.

Writing

  • Start writing the topics, focusing on tasks first. Keep modifying the outlines and tables as you go along.

  • Get the tasks reviewed as your write them. Write concepts as they begin to become clear. Finish up by writing the reference information, when the project has stabilized.


Comments:

Eric, thanks for the info. Could you come to my staff meeting some time and show us examples of your work in planning and writing topics?

Posted by Cynthia Chin-Lee on January 05, 2009 at 08:10 AM PST #

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