April 4, 2007: The No-Knead Approach to Information Architecture (#3 of 5)
Back to the staff of life...
Step #2: Determine who your most important audiences are. Many
organizations--academic institutions, for example--already have an excellent
grasp of who their primary audiences are, but you'd be surprised at how many
don't. Ask yourself right now: do you know who they are?
It's unlikely that there are more than five that you should concern yourself
with. And it's unlikely that they map to your org chart. If you're
grappling with audience determination, you might consider segments that
apply to your entire organization, rather than mapping to your content
silos. For intranets, these might be functional roles that occur in all
departments. For commerce sites, consider segmenting users by where they
are in the customer lifecycle (e.g., leads, prospects, customers), rather
than tying segments to specific product groups. This approach could create
new opportunities to cross-sell products.
Of course, the issue of audience importance begs a follow-up question: what
do we mean by "important"? After all, your importance isn't necessarily a
function of size. As much as a college administrator might deny it, he'll
see a few dozen major donors as equally important--if not more so--than
hordes of undergraduates. So how do you define "important"?
This is one of those murky areas where information architecture and
management responsibilities blur. Decision-makers might already have clear
metrics in place for guiding such decisions. The university administrator,
for example, may be more focused on increasing revenue rather than
recovering sunk costs. So those donors may really be more important than
cost-cutting through eliminating administrative assistants whose time is
dedicated to answering the same ten undergraduate questions again and again.
Conversely, the business may not have a good set of metrics and goals in
place, complicating the definition of importance. In these situations,
information architects and other UX people are playing a greater role in
driving this discussion forward. We have no choice here, because we need
the answers to do our work. If you find yourself grasping for a sense of who
among your users are important, you might start arming yourself with
quantitative data derived from analyzing server and search data. Audience
definitions, and degrees of segment importance can emerge from basic reviews
of popular content and popular search queries. And because you're working
from statistical data, you may benefit from the "numbers don't lie effect":
arm yourself to the teeth with data, and decision-makers will take you more
So, to recap:
* Do you know who your site's primary audiences are?
* If not, does your business have metrics in place that will help you
answer this question?
* If not, can you start assembling data--and make recommendations--that
will help your business's decision-makers answer the question in an informed
Next time, we'll tackle the third of the four steps in the No-Knead Approach
(and my favorite): Determine each primary audience's 3-5 major needs.
BLOUG PERMALINK & COMMENTS