Information Architecture Best Practices

Video created by brianna.walsh Employee on Aug 3, 2020

    Information architecture best practices

    Thanks for joining this session on information architecture and global navigation. This session assumes that you have a good understanding of Jive. If you are new to Jive and have not reviewed at least the Jive Basics sessions, please do so before this one.


    The two most common uses for the Jive platform are as an interactive intranet and as a business collaboration platform. Many companies use it as both. This tutorial is meant to help you understand the options and best practices for structuring your community to enable users to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other - and for your community managers to be able to easily manage their content.


    We recommend taking some time to plan your community before you jump in and start building it. Keep these points in mind:

    • Start simple - don’t create more structure than you need at the beginning. You can always add more structure if you need it later.
    • Starting small and building as you go (vs. a big-bang launch) allows you to learn and adjust as you go - minimising the amount of work if you need to make changes
    • Keep the hierarchy as flat as possible
    • Put your users at the center of your focus and let them help guide the growth of the community - watch their usage patterns to help determine if you need to make changes. How do they go about finding things?
    • Stay flexible and agile enough to make those changes
    • Make sure that you have owners and/or managers for each place you create. You don’t want to end up managing the entire community yourself - this can create bottlenecks and outdated content

    The most important idea for you to leave this session with is that your community’s site architecture IS NOT the global navigation. The way you structure your community can be invisible to users - who are most interested in finding what they need quickly. The items in your global navigation should be the things that most employees need to access the most. This is probably not a list of all departments in the company. But it might be that they need the travel expenses form all the time. Consider creating a “Resources” or “QuickLinks” dropdown that includes links to the most commonly used content.
    Now, let’s get started on planning your community’s structure. Follow these steps and feel free to use the examples shown if they seem like they would work for your organization.

    1. First, identify the high level topics that are required for your community to achieve your goals for it.
      • We recommend thinking about this from a user’s point of view. Base your topics on items they need to do their jobs. Examples for an intranet might be
        • Policies, guidelines and forms: a 1-stop shop for all the documents and forms that employees need to be employees, such as the employee handbook, benefits info, links to HR platforms, etc. We recommend naming this topic something friendly like “Working at the company”
        • Corporate information and news: corporate strategy and mission, executive team bios, office and department info, company-wide news and announcements. This could be called “About the company”
        • Templates and assets: letter and presentation templates, branding guidelines, approved images
        • Product information: marketing materials and specs
        • Resources for using corporate tools and platforms: IT documentation and FAQs for phones, printers, desktops, videoconferencing equipment, etc.
        • Office info: lunch menu, conference rooms, business continuity policies, how to get there, where to stay (for visitors), office news and announcements
      • Try to steer away from creating topics that follow your corporate structure. Employees often don’t know or care about who owns the resource they need. Posting a travel expense form under a topic called Finance doesn’t help them find it. Grouping it with other forms makes more sense.
      • For business collaboration, topics may be
        • Team collaboration: small teams who want to work together privately - or openly
        • Department-only news and content: limited access places for members of specific departments
        • Communities of practice: cross-functional or cross-department places for sharing tips and tricks, best practices, etc on a common topic of interest like “excel gurus” or “artificial intelligence”
        • Project management: places where collaboration and discussions related to a specific project are kept

    You may wish to create a spreadsheet for yourself that looks something like this where you can organise your topics. Thinking about this without trying to figure out the type of Jive place keeps you from getting into the weeds too early.

    1. After you have identified your top-level topics, you’ll want to add some more information about each one to help you decide what kind of place you’ll need.
    • What types of information are related to this topic? What content will you be supplying? Are there policies and guidelines? News and announcements? FAQs?
    • How much content do you already have - or plan on creating - related to this topic? If you don’t have a lot of content for each topic, consider combining topics that are related.
    • Who is the target audience? Is it a large group or a small team?
    • What activities do you expect users to engage in? Will they ask questions? Will content owners add news and announcements regularly?
    • Who is the content owner/manager?
    • If you are still undecided about which topics to launch first, you may also want to add a row for the importance of this topic. For example, policies and guidelines are usually one of the most important topics for employees. Consider making this a top priority.

    If you have gone far enough to think about sub-topics, you can copy and paste this table to a new sheet and do the same exercise for each sub-topic. If your top level topic is Policies and Guidelines, you may have sub-topics based on the type of policies you have (payroll, benefits, wellness, time off, etc.)
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    Before we get to the next step, let’s talk about some info architecture concepts and definitions.

    • Jive places: Think of them as content and activity containers similar to shared drive folders or Sharepoint sites. They are a means of grouping things together based on a topic. The type of place you choose for any topic depends on the activities and content that will be happening there.
    • Official content: this is content that is owned by a small set of subject matter experts and available to all employees or a large set of employees. The key is that you don’t want this content to be available to be edited by anyone except the content owners. Examples are: policies and guidelines, employee handbook, official news and announcements either from Corporate Communications or from department or location communicators.
    • Storefronts: Jive places where this official content lives. We recommend using spaces for the storefronts because they can be permissioned so that only the content owners can create and update the official content, and all (or a majority) of employees can view and comment, or ask questions. Another benefit of using spaces only for storefronts is that the orange space icon becomes identifiable to users as official, or intranet, places.
    • Categories: as we’ve learned in other sessions, categories are a light-weight content filtering option available in any place. They are a good alternative to creating subspaces when you don’t have a lot of content for each sub-topic.
    • Groups: for smaller groups of users where everyone has the possibility of creating and editing content for the purpose of collaborating. While spaces can also be used for this, groups are easier to maintain and the purple icon then becomes the identifier for collaboration places.

    An often-asked question is how a team would work on a document together but not let everyone else see it while they are working on it - without emailing it back and forth. The solution to this plays to Jive’s strengths as both a collaboration platform and intranet. Here is an example of how a group and a storefront, or space, work together: the HR team must work on a new policy. However, they don’t want other employees to see the new policy as they work on it together. So, they collaborate on the new document in their HR Team private group until it is ready to be published. Then they create a clean copy that is posted in the Working at the Company storefront for all employees to read.

    1. Now we are ready to make decisions about the type of places for your topics.
      • In general, any of your topics that will have official content which is available for all or a large subset of employees should have a storefront, or space.
      • For topics that involve more egalitarian content-creating and editing possibilities, or that are for more informal knowledge sharing practices, use groups - this is commonly what is used for the business collaboration topics.
      • However, even if this topic fits into the group category, if you need to restrict access to this place to more than 100 users, it may be easier to create a space and use a Jive permission group populated by an AD group to control access (if this option is available to you).

    It can help to use a decision tree like this one as a guide:
    4. If you have sub-topics you will then need to decide if using categories and/or multiple custom tile pages will create the best user experience, or if you need to use subspaces. Some considerations besides the amount of content are:

    • Do you want to be able to push content from this sub-topic to the home page of Jive? Categories can’t be used for the push news streams
    • Do you want users to be able to follow this sub-topic separately from the top-level topic or other sub-topics? Categories can’t be followed.
    • Do you need to restrict this content to a different audience than its parent? If so, you will need a subspace
    • How much time can you spend managing landing pages? Each subspace will have a separate landing page to manage. If you don’t have a lot of time, consider using categories.
    • Using a decision tree like this can help you decide:

    After you’ve finished this exercise, and if you were to create a traditional site map for your community, it might look something like this:

    5. Next is to create a naming convention for your places, content and tags

    • Keep your storefront names consistent and descriptive (without being too long) - especially if you have a lot of sub-topics. It is possible to name two subspaces with different parents with the same name. But this will make it very difficult for users who search to differentiate between the two. Be sure to include something about the parent space in the name in this case.
    • Content titles should also be as descriptive as possible. Consider including a department or location in the title.
    • Tags for official content should contain the department and/or location, and any other key words that may not be used in the title or content area.


    6. The final step before starting to build is to review the Storefronts Use Case session which contains more details on creating the storefronts themselves.


    You now have a solid background on best practices for creating your community structure. We recommend that you also review the Corporate Communications use case session and that you build out the Phase 1 structure of your community and populate it with at least some content before you work on the home page and the global navigation.