Information architecture is the process of categorizing and labeling content in a way that makes sense to your users so they can navigate your site with ease and find what they need. It's impossible to attain good usability without having a solid information architecture.
We utilize the following tools and methods to make sure your users can find the information they are looking for on your website:
A content inventory is basically a listing off all the content that currently exists on a website. The page address and title as well as other important meta data are all documented in a spreadsheet. After compiling a content inventory we gain an in-depth knowledge of exactly what information is currently available and how it's organized.
Your users are truly the only ones that can tell you if your navigation fits their needs. Get their input on your architecture upfront by conducting a card sort. A card sort is a usability test that focuses on understanding exactly how your users think about the contents of your website. During a card sort a user will sort a pile of cards, labeled with a piece of content, into different categories that make sense to them. When they are finished they will label these categories. After conducting a few card sorts with different users you will start to see patterns and overlap in how your users think about your content. You can use the data collected from this exercise to build an architecture that reflects how you know your users would look for information on your website.
A contextual inquiry involves spending time with your users and watching how they live and work. The idea is to study and observe people in their own environment in order to better understand how your product can fit into their routine and help them. It entails leaving the office and entering the homes and workplaces of your users to uncover their needs.
A user flow shows the path(s) a user can take to complete a task. Decision logic is usually also included in this chart (either user decisions or system decisions).
A site map documents the pages that will be on a website and their relationship to each other. Visually, they resemble organizational charts. Site maps can also convey certain characteristics about the pages themselves, such as: whether or not they are dynamic or static, the type of layout or template they will use, if the page contains a form, etc. Site maps are typically relied on as the roadmap for your website.