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Lesson 12 Modeling information architecture
Objective Describe a method for modeling information architecture.

Modeling Information Architecture

In this lesson, you will be introduced to a useful method for modeling information architecture, the transaction sequence diagram.

Organizing the flow

Web site development team members coming from a creative background may be familiar with the technique of storyboarding, or drawing out successive panels of a sequential activity. Team members from a business background may be more familiar with flow charts, which graph out a starting point, decision points, and resultant paths. There are different ways to conceive of the sequential flow of transactions that happen over the Web, and it is important to set them down in a concrete form.

Planning together

Early in the planning stage is an exciting time, as client representatives and Web development team members may have strong mental concepts as to how site clients will use and move through the site. It is useful to start documenting and comparing concepts so that the team can modify, test, adjust, and perfect the ideas presented. This document will also be useful for creative and technical team members to refer to as they design their particular elements of the site.

What is the tool?

The model we will use to illustrate the process is called the Transaction Sequence Diagram. The Information Architect should be heavily involved in developing the information flow in ways that make the process accessible and understandable to users. The following SlideShow will highlight the steps of a transaction, using the Transaction Sequence Diagram.

1) Homepage: User starts here, and then decides to look at product offerings.
2) Product selection: User browses through catalog pages, selecting products, and adding them to the shopping cart unitl they are finished choosing products.
3) Checkout process : User is ready to check out, and either logs in as an existing user, creates a new user profile, or checks out without registering, giving only the minimally required information, such as a name, address, payment information and shipping requirements.
4) Transaction script 1: The transaction processing software alerts user to any errors in their data, and/or moves into the final steps of the transaction.
5) Transaction script 2: Final steps of the process include asking for gift options, discount coupon codes or last-minute changes to the order.
6) Transaction complete: User sees a final screen, usually with an order confirmation, customer service contact information, and a thank you.

Transaction Sequence Diagram
Question: How does the Transaction Sequence Diagram help the information architect communicate with the clients?
Answer: The Transaction Sequence Diagram allows the information architect to use just one image to explain the paths that customers may follow as they work through the order process on the site.

Standard or innovative?

Most e-commerce transactions will resemble this transaction at the basic level. Your team should decide if you want to start with this model as the skeleton of your transaction process, or if you plan to have an innovative or radically different model. Your decision will determine if you will be using the existing, standard model, and developing the details from there, or if you will be starting from scratch. To start from scratch you will need to have in-depth conversations with your client about what purpose is served by using a different model; how their business goals will be met by presenting a new approach; and how you will train the customers to be comfortable with a non-standard transaction sequence.
The next lesson is the module conclusion.

Site Modeling - Quiz

Click the quiz link below to test your learning of navigation documents and site modeling.
Site Modeling - Quiz