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The 5 basic elements of Sitecore information architecture marketers need to consider before building a new website

Senior Consultant

October 26, 2017

There comes a time in every website project where you have to consider the structure and organization of the site’s content. My hope for you is that happens earlier rather than later. In fact, if I was making wishes I would wish that it is the first thing you consider before you ever have a single conversation about wireframes, design or development requirements.

Over the years I have noticed that teams only consider their content (e.g content audits, analysis of the value) from the perspective of the site visitor but they struggle with keeping the “invisible” Sitecore considerations in mind. It is completely appropriate to keep the site user in mind but it is also critical that all members of your project team consider the elements of Sitecore that will support the content presentation. This is important because the organization of content in Sitecore may affect how content can be presented to your site visitors.

This article hopes to help you understand the basics that you need to consider when planning your content strategy.

Element #1 - Your website navigation:

The collection of user interface components that users access to move around your site. This includes the Header, Navigation, Footer, Breadcrumb. This is generally the most straightforward element of content strategy planning. If you understand the user goals and your business objectives it is usually a relatively easy exercise because you are working with large “buckets” to group your content.

Element #2 - Your website's structure and organization (i.e. information architecture):

The underlying organization, structure and labels that support the user navigation and content maintenance. The Sitecore content tree, taxonomy and profile tags are all part of the information architecture. This is where you start to get into the weeds. You have to (or your trusty Nonlinear team member has to) start thinking about the details.

  • How will the content be organized in Sitecore in order to support efficient content maintenance?
  • How will the content be organized to support content security and workflow?
  • How will the content be organized to support reuse or roll-ups based on topics?
  • What is the volume of certain types of content? Do you post this type of content multiple times a day? Once a year?

Element #3 - Your Sitecore components:

These are the granular content items in the Sitecore tree that are used to build a page. They can be Page Specific – only accessible for editing and placement on the page where it is created. Or they can be Site Specific. This means they are only accessible for editing and placement in the site where it is created. Finally, you have global components. They are accessible across your Sitecore ecosystem and could be used within any of the sites you have.

I admit we are getting a little ahead here. Generally, components are determined once you have page wireframes in place and start to break them down into flexible, reusable pieces for content authoring in Sitecore.

Element #4 - Your website's content:

These are the elements that make up the component display. In the example shared below, the component is made up of fields for the Title, Description, and Image. The content is the words and pictures used to populate those fields. Again, a little ahead of ourselves here. But it is an important concept to keep in mind throughout the project. If you know this is coming you are better prepared to look at the wireframes will a critical eye. For example, an image is included – Does your team have the capacity to find and format images for this content. What will happen to this content display if you don’t include the image?

Element #5 - Your Sitecore components' personalisation:

The final consideration is the potential personalisation of the components on the page. There are 3 types of personalisation in Sitecore:

  • Rules-based implicit personalisation – ability to target content to anonymous visitors through simple rules based on known information – i.e. their location, keywords that brought them to site.
  • Persona or Profile-based implicit personalisation – ability to target content to visitors based on the “category” into which they have been placed - i.e. based on interactions the user has with site.
  • Explicit personalisation – ability to personalise against profile attributes of a known user – i.e. logged in.

When planning your site’s content, you will want to consider what “content” will be personalisedand the variations that will be required to support the personalisation rule you have established.

Hopefully, you can see everything you will need to consider when planning your site’s organization and are better prepared to have conversations about your content plan.

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