On June 24th, I was honored to be part of the TorCHI program and talk about information architecture on ibm.com. The talk was entitled There is a story behind every link:
Ever wonder how a large corporate web site navigation system is designed, and how it evolves over time? How certain links find their way to the corporate home page, while other ones do not? How major changes in the corporation's business affect the web site navigation? And how the IA of the corporate web site can give clues about how well the business is doing?
If so, then join Keith Instone as he tells stories about the information architecture of ibm.com. Example stories may include:
- The evolution of sitewide navigation categories like "solutions" and "services"
- Worldwide information architecture challenges
- The cultural shifts required to do something as (theoretically) simple as adding a "sign in" link to the masthead
- Tracking the evolution of a single web page as it signals fundamental shifts in how the business is operating "behind the scenes"
- The effect of selling off a key division of the company on the navigation system
- Balancing the strategic goals while handling day-to-day requests for changes to the navigation
- Techniques for dealing with executive home page link requests
The stories Keith tells will be in part determined by what you want to hear. Come prepared to select some high level links on ibm.com and see if Keith has any interesting stories to tell about them.
I prepared about 100 slides of possible things we could talk about, but, by design, the session was driven by what the audience wanted to talk about. Here is my (incomplete) list of what we covered:
- Sign in / register, country location in the masthead today (logic for placement today, and in the future)
- Who owns what, how to manage the millions of pages
- Solutions, services, products and corporate strategy over the years
- Masthead sign in challenges and compromises
- My IBM: use as anonymous user, gateway to various applications
- Who does the 3 prongs of user feedback: User research studies, analytics, qualitative user feedback
- Search challenges: technology/budget, tagging, UI (easiest of the 3)
- User-generated content (silos likely initially, integrated over time)
- Accessibility challenges overall, why the link in the footer
- Role based navigation (home page Learn about tab), task based navigation
- Standards for page design ("what we offer" module as an example)
- Content management, sharing, the "4th tab owners" of a solution page
- Tactical, medium-term, long-term planning for changes (add 1 link now, work with groups for better tactical changes later, save some things for a big, strategic redesign)
As it happens with these things, you really had to be there to get any value out of my artifacts from the talk. For those of you who were there, you can download (below) a PDF of screen grabs from some of the parts of ibm.com that we talked about. And I included some of the text slides that I prepared ahead of time that were relevant to what we discussed. I included the "history of the ibm.com masthead categories" slide that several people have asked for.
There are lots more stories to tell: I will have to save them for some other talk.