This afternoon, I’m giving a talk at work about Information Architecture (IA). I’ve long thought that IA (and User Centered Design techniques in general) shouldn’t be hidden under the Web professional’s bushel. IA helps content creators make their stuff easier to find, and nearly everyone is a content creator. Have a Facebook account? Twitter account? Flickr photostream? You’re a content creator.

The Web is not Aunt Mildred’s Closet

The underlying problem for most organizations’ websites (and certainly most library websites) is that no one has ever asked why the website exists in the first place. Who is it for? What do we want them to accomplish? Trying to decide if your website is a “success” is useless if you don’t have some idea of what you are trying to do. Simply printing out page views and making a colorful graph isn’t going to tell you anything.

In all organizations, once or twice a week someone stops by the office of the Web Wrangler™ to ask, “can we put this document somewhere on the Web?” The implication is that the person who created it doesn’t know where it should go, so stuffing it into the website seems like the easiest solution. The website then becomes the kitchen junk drawer, or Aunt Mildred’s closet, full of stuff that has no home, but collocated in one place for anyone who needs to find something.

Your website is not a junk drawer. It isn’t Aunt Mildred’s closet. Do you like rifling through your junk drawer? Have you ever found what you’re looking for in Aunt Mildred’s closet? What makes you think your users want to do this?

The point is that if you don’t know where something should go on your website, then your users certainly won’t know where it is. You created it! If you have content that doesn’t either help your users meet their goals or help your organization meet their goals, then it shouldn’t be on your website. It’s just clutter.

So today I’ll talk about how we can make our content useful once we know why we’re creating it in the first place. You can see the slides below. Feedback is always welcomed, via Twitter @mreidsma.