Planning Information Architecture in SharePoint 2013

Planning of Information Architecture (IA) is the most overlooked aspect in SharePoint projects. Knowledge Management (KM) and IA are often thought to be synonymous. But to enable effective KM in an enterprise, IA is the way. If searching information within the enterprise itself takes longer for a person then that time is non-productive and hence a loss for an enterprise. From an external user's view, a usable and findable website keeps the visitor spend more time.

As shown in the following figure, from a SharePoint perspective, knowledge can lie in documents, blogs, community forums and so on.

SharePoint perspective

How to surface this knowledge using Search in the planning and designing that goes into Information Architecture? At a high level the following are some of the aspects of IA that needs to be planned. All of the following aspects allows the user for seeking known items, re-finding material and helps in exhaustive research and exploration.

SharePoint perspective1

While planning for IA, some of the other functional/non-functional requirements that needs to be accounted for apart from performance and scalability are as shown below.

SharePoint perspective2

A website in SharePoint 2013 could be topic-based, task-based, search-based as well as information-based.

Instead of requiring separate pages to be authored for each category in the taxonomy, the SharePoint 2013 framework provides a templating and inheritance mechanism that creates the landing pages for each navigation link. You can use the topic pages feature to customize the landing page experience. An example of a topic-based website is as follows:

SharePoint 2013 framework

An example of information-based:

information based

An example of search-based: The following snapshot is from a training from Microsoft but it gives the idea of a search-based website in SharePoint.

search based

The foundation of almost all good information architectures is a well-designed hierarchy also called a taxonomy. It depends on whether this hierarchy should be deep level or shallow level. If it is too narrow and deep, users need to click through an undue number of levels to find what they are looking for. If a hierarchy is too broad and shallow users are faced with too many options. The information architect must carefully choose how well to design the taxonomy for a context. In SharePoint 2013, while planning for IA, the following services need to be planned for:

  • Managed Metadata Service
  • Work Management Service
  • User Profile Service
  • Search Service
  • Secure Store Service
  • Machine Translation Service

As we see, planning IA for websites at the right time will reduce future costs and enhance usability and the user experience.