A proven approach to planning information architecture for a WordPress theme. Here’s how we do it…
A step-by-step approach to planning the structure of your WordPress web theme content.
WordPress information architecture, foundational – not an after thought.
Definition: Information architecture [or, IA for short]
- (informare =”to give form or shape”)
- (arkhitekton=”master builder“)
In the modern web development sense of the phrase, IA, is the discipline by which a digital/web publisher strategically arrays the pieces of content belonging to their chosen message across all user platforms, for the purpose of…
…help(ing) users find information and complete tasks. – Usability.gov
Regardless of the bottom line transactional purpose of your website, e.g. commercial (or otherwise), your mission of delivering top quality content which hits the mark with your readers will be consistent.
WordPress content management software, by definition and by our experience is a market leading web-based tool for such a job.
Whether for small or large-scale complex information architecture tasks, WordPress is a trusted instrument of choice for many wanting to pull together all content into meaningful and relevant presentation.
When developing a WordPress theme, especially one which you hope will perform in gaining good visibility online via search engines, information architecture must be considered core competency.
There are many methodologies which adopt one approach or another in answering the question for how to establish optimal information architecture for a web development project, including:
But if we think about things in the right order, Google search engine, being a tool, is merely an aid in performing a task on behalf of a user. The user being the driver and the tool being the means. The latter chases the former.
The following is the mission of Google search:
Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. – Google Inc.
The following should be the mission someone looking to make their website friendly for Google search:
Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site. – Google Inc.
The centre of the entire process is the user.
This should be the leading edge in your development thought towards your WordPress web development project from an information architecture point of view.
The following is our way of conceptualising how you would successfully approach assembling your WordPress web content (NOTE: when building a theme you’ll want to ensure that you have built in a content flow which minimises friction when the publishers get to populating the website):
The theme or main topic of your website is the starting point for ‘all things information’, regarding it.
The question to ask here is:
what is the common topic which connects all content planned for your website?
If you are developing a WordPress web theme which is tailored to suit a specialist expertise or niche, then your theme design should aim to present the eventual content in the most useful manner.
Planning this strategic thought from the top down will deliver even more successful results once users are involved.
Be very precise about your theme and take your time to properly establish strategy, nullifying any uncertainties with deep consideration.
How broad a scope of content will your WordPress theme have to accommodate even at the furthermost point of use? With foresight, plan the layout for the most advantageous long-term structure of content.
Redevelopments are costly, especially where the content arrangement is completely uprooted and re-formatted retrospectively.
With longevity in mind as well as reducing the ongoing cost of upkeep and iteration, set a solid IA understanding from scratch.
How layered you intend your web content to be is another consideration, that if made early enough can save a lot of muddling about and lost time (and/rankings) later on.
It isn’t so much that you will need to scope the exact number of layers of content you intend to produce, but rather how you might want interrelated topics to interact.
This is where your navigational planning will bear dividend in the long run.
Having some understanding of the directional flow of the website will help your users primarily find what they need and also as a knock-on effect improve your search engine rankings.
According to Google, a website’s home page is considered the head of the entire content flow of your website. Hierarchy is a core concept in web content management – WordPress itself is constructed using such engineering principles.
Even its processes underpinning theme template selection is programmed according to strict hierarchy rules.
Adhering to solid and well thought out hierarchical navigational design will only enhance the usability of your web theme.
Context is different to content theme. The main topic of a website might be easy enough to divide into related sub-topics.
However, there are often very meaningful interrelated points of relevance which users would be benefited by if coupled and highlighted.
Web users need to be able to get to what they want to see without having to work it out themselves.
Users arrive at a website seeking help and the architecture of the website’s information should be made to reflect this need and to serve it.
e.g. a restaurant dining room floor built 3 floors away from the kitchen, logistically is very inconvenient to delivering quick and responsive dining experience. The restaurant is in risk of losing custom.
Following user’s train of thought or more importantly forming the user’s train of thought for the topic which your website addresses – encourages longer duration, greater frequency and repeat of use.
As the users grow in understanding related to the subject matter in hand, you’ll want to ensure the architecture of the web theme you make to facilitate further growth.
The pace at which the users grow with your knowledge-base will differ depending on many factors, but essentially you’ll want to to ensure that all levels of proficiency are catered for.
Also making sure, bookmarking in other words, users finding the place the left off last with ease will encourage use. Fragmented viewing sessions of users is often how your web theme will garner user interaction as users assimilate a handling for it’s content by convenient fly-by drop-ins, over time.
Piecemeal content consumption can be a highly distracting experience if the information architecture of a web theme is disjointed.
When WordPress theme developing think … the more joined up (where it makes sense), the better.
Example simple information architecture overview:
e.g. Sandwich shop website
- Sandwich makers
- Areas served
- How it works
- Lead times, logistics and housekeeping
- Preparation & Freshness
- Web App
- Contracts for ongoing arrangements
- What we’ve got…
- Photo gallery
- What’s new? (changes to product or service)
- What we’ve been doing recently…
This concludes our advice on information architecture planning for WordPress web themes. Follow on to the next in the series to see how IA and visual front end design interact.