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phase one - the research phase

The Research Phase is where the act of "discovery" occurs. During this phase, I'll seek to learn as much as I can about your company, your short and long term business and web site goals (which aren't necessarily always the same), your brand identity, and your thoughts on the project.

Some of the questions I'll ask during this phase include:

  • What are your short and long-term goals?
  • What's your business plan?
  • What's the schedule and budget?
  • Who are the intended audiences?
  • Why will people come to the site?
  • Why will they come back?
  • What types of tasks should users be able to perform?
  • How will content be created and managed? And by whom?
  • What's the current technical infrastructure?
  • What worked in the past? What didn't?
  • Are detailed site statistics available? Up to a year's worth?
  • How about user feedback? Any suggestions, complaints, etc.?
  • Are there any office politics that might hinder this collaborative effort?

You ought to be asking yourself (and your people and stakeholders) questions like these before work in this phase begins—they're great food for thought. Knowing as many of the answers to them as possible will help get the ball rolling.

Now let's take a look at what our work here will result in:

the Requirements Document

I'll seek to understand your requirements and beliefs about the project, but also to understand your objectives and be a smart advisor of how best to achieve those objectives. The Requirements Document is a detailed outline of exactly what the site must do (the instruction set) from both a business and technical perspective (by contrast, the Functional Specification document, the primary deliverable of an Information Architect, details how the site will achieve what is laid out in the Requirements document).

your Competitive Landscape

The Competitive Landscape is a document that includes an overview of competitive sites on the web. Each site described in this document will contain a URL, a screenshot of the home page, a one paragraph overview of the site, a target audience list, brand positioning, brand attributes and features, partnerships, strengths, weaknesses, and threats. The Competitive Landscape aids in developing the User Experience Strategy. link to Project Definition link to Functional Specification link to Interface Design link to HTML Site Shell

the User Experience Strategy

The User Experience Strategy is a short 5-10 page document which outlines a high-level architectural and navigational approach for developing your web site. This document will include a recommended approach, high-level assumptions about the target audience, target audience goals, user types with accompanying example scenarios, architecture implications and preliminary wireframe(s). The User Experience Strategy establishes the basis upon which the Functional Specification will be built.

Next in this series: Phase 2: the Strategy Phase

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What's an "information architect?" | the five phases | strategy phase
design phase | implementation phase | putting it all together



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