Before you build - create a blue print

For planning strategically your next website project, I found Karen Donoghue's book, Built for Use, very useful in thinking ahead before you pen down that creative brief and to encourage the Web developer to see the whole picture before code.

Here's an exempt on Information Architecture:

“Information architecture (IA) is a highly refined skill, a creative process that blurs the line on the boundary between art and technology.

In metaphorical terms, the IA is the road map that translates business strategy into actionable experiences to satisfy distinct audience segments. Incorrectly planned and executed, it can collapse, resulting in a bad customer experience. The results? Customers can't find products and services, can't initiate and complete transactions, and can't build trusted relationships, all resulting in the loss of the ‘Three Rs’: reputation, relationship, and retention.

Although it's possible to accelerate other stages such as ‘look and Feel’ (a product with bad graphical treatment can often get by with a decent architecture), a flawed architecture strongly impacts a product's usability in critical areas such as navigation and transaction completion. Attempting to skip the IA phase and move directly to envisioning screens is attempting to substitute tactics for strategy…

Envisioning the user experience…depends on rigorous IA. Companies make a big mistake when they attempt to skip or accelerate the architecture process and proceed straight to screen design. It's impossible to design the ‘look‘ of a screen, or the navigation or the user interface, without understanding the flow of the experience, the structural requirements, the patterns of usage, or the types of scenarios that would typically drive customers to engage in the experience. Ultimately, it's the customer who suffers. This stage can be beset by challenges: inappropriate or lacking skill in IA and envisioning; lack of understanding about the technical environment; insufficient input about customer needs, goals, and tasks; or a timetable accelerated beyond the breaking point.”