Purpose driven design


The first step to making a website is to ask a lot of questions.

Overall, you need to understand the following before even touching code:

  • What are the goals of this website?
  • Who are the users and what are their needs?
  • How will you create content?
  • What is the operating context?

Information Architecture is a blueprint

The main purpose of Information Architecture is making information findable and understandable.

When I start a new project, I begin my research with Content, Context and Users.

  • ContextWhy? Where?
    • Background Research — goals, plans, schedule & budget.
    • Meetings — understand the current operations & organization of who I'm working with.
    • Technology Assessment — decide on/learn hosting platform, set up dev tools, perform gap analysis.
  • ContentWhat? How?
    • Heuristic Evaluation — assess design accessibility and design choices.
    • Content Analysis and Mapping — gather docs and media to investigate, map relationships.
    • Benchmarking — assess how well the website performs & compare to similar ones.
  • UsersWho?
    • Analytics — see metrics about website usage.
    • Personas & Use Cases — investigate audience, user flows and needs.
    • User Interviews & Testing — conduct usability tests and understand user needs.

From Nothing to Something

The goal of collecting the information above is to shine a light that lets you see the overall situation. Questions that weren't clear before start to make sense as more knowledge is gathered and ideas start to take shape.

Eventually it becomes possible to craft a strategy. These are the lessons learned and an attempt to organize information into an actionable plan that others can understand. Once a plan is ready, it's time to present it to anyone who will be working on the website so that everyone is on the same page. This requires meetings and collaboration.

The strategy guides design planning and creating what will become the actual website. These are the first drafts and documents that will guide actually creating the website prototypes according to a vision.

Afterwards implementation is possible based on all the work that was done to plan the new website or redesign. It is important to document how the website works for administration. i.e; maintenance and future developments so that the website still meets its goals as it grows.


The real process of architecting a website is less linear than what I've presented, but this is the general course I try to follow since it is the most effective. It all starts with understanding goals and mapping things out though.

My experience has been much better when I take the time to research the full project scope before I set off creating any ideas. Getting the order right helps sort out questions in advance instead of getting stuck with no direction, or focusing on superficial issues and missing the deeper structural ones.

Plus it makes project maintenance soooo much easier when there's a plan with an actual vision, instead of a hodgepodge mess of ideas that come and go.

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