Information Architecture (IA) is the structure, organization, or basically the design of your website. It is used to determine how different pages on your website will respond interact with each other and makes sure that information is organized so that the information can flow in a consistent and predictable process for each webpage. Some steps involved in Information Architecture (IA) are:
* Developing navigational structure,
* Providing clues to help use the site efficiently,
* Organizing the pages, and
* Assessing existing and needed content.
While working through the process of developing your IA, you will need to draw up a site map for the content you will use and a wireframe sketch will be created for use by your designers and developers as a guide for the site construction. You can consider the wireframe a blueprint for building the website in similar fashion to a blueprint for building construction. Why Do I Need Information Architecture?
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A website needs to be well-organized so that users can easily find important information quickly that are key to what they are looking for. It will also give the user a great experience when navigating the site with a coherent, intuitive and satisfying web design. When a website has intuitively organized information architecture, it helps to make sure that the website runs as smoothly as possible with slowdown, non-functioning links/features, and little downtime as possible. Using IA can also cut down on time consuming and costly tasks that may need to be done to configure your visual design; additionally it will identify important features that are required, as well as the number and location of your navigational links and where content should be placed early on during the process. Sites can face problems when growing quickly when using content management that allows for editors to add their own pages, causing confusion. To avoid this issue you must plan your organizational structure thoroughly to perform well under stress. Identifying the best or intuitive location to store this additional information will become simplified. Who Should Work On The Information Architecture?
Besides the person or the group that have been assigned to the development of the IA process, the key stakeholders, site users, and content owners should also be involved. Stakeholders are a person, group, or organization that interest or concern in the project and can affect, or are affected by the actions, objectives and policies of the project design. Site users are those who you choose to give access of using the website to, you can view information about the users who have accessed the website. Content owners are those who own content that may be displayed on or linked to your website. The content owners have the copyright to certain material that is uploaded onto websites. How Do I Create Great Information Architecture?
Step 1, Defining Key Stakeholders’ Goals:
First you must clarify the key stakeholders’ goals, which will drive the project. Key stakeholders are the people who determine the tone and choose decide the overall objectives that the website will need to deliver. They are also responsible for giving the approval needed to make changes during the various stages of development of the website. To define the goals set by the stakeholders’, you must identify the target audiences, determine the purpose of the site, and establish the functional requirements. To do this the following question should be answered: Who are the principal audiences with whom your key stakeholders want to communicate? Be specific. Examples: students, consumers, news media, external venders, age category, male or female, local or foreign, specific culture or religion, worldwide or a specific region, languages. Ask them to prioritize these audiences in the following way: * Primary: The audience that will be the main focus of your site. The site will be optimized for these users. * Secondary: This audience is important, but not on a critical level. What are the key stakeholders’ expectations in creating or redesigning this site? Examples: making navigating the site more intuitive (easier to use), explaining a list of services, features, and products you provide, gathering user feedback, attracting or serving new audiences, expanding consumer-product line, increasing site traffic, getting more site exposure through web partners. What specific functional requirements do the key stakeholders want included in this site? Examples: a search tool for finding information, icons/emoticons for community boards that members can use, a web forum, avatars, account log to keep track of purchases or personal settings, an FAQ for commonly asked questions or assistance, downloadable content such as PDF forms, personal message or chat function to communicate with other users. Step 2, Identifying Your User’s Goals and Expectations:
Try to imagine not knowing where to find any information on your site as a user who is not familiar with the website. Where would the user start? What would be easy and direct? The most important goal you want to achieve when designing a website is to predict a user’s needs and what their expectations are. In order to do this effectively, you must arrange and label information how anticipate your target audience will want to view information. Activity: Conducting user interviews and creating data sheets.
Interviews are very helpful in understanding what users’ needs are when they visit your site. Interviewing users will help you determine what personal habits you have that need to be excluded, so you can better serve your target audience by knowing what their behaviors motivations are. Even though your primary audience is the main priority, you should not neglect your secondary audience and select some interviewees from that group as well. This will help you by giving you a more detailed description of visitor behaviors and characteristics so that all potential users are catered to and feel comfortable navigating your site. If conducting interviews is not possible, you can still use the following questions to help you with determining the characters and needs of your users. The sufficient amount of users to interview is either seven to ten and usually enough to judge the majority user traits or goals that are relevant. These users can be real and/or imagined when asking these questions to. First, collect general information about each of your interviewees. Below are examples of the kinds of information you might want to gather. You may not need to gather all of this information as some elements may not be relevant to your project. Name
* Profession role/Role (e.g., faculty, administrator, reporter, student) * Name
Moving an Existing Website
There are certain steps to take before you can move your website to a new domain. First, it is important to give notice to your readers, visitors, users, and customers that your site will be down for a certain period of time for, migration. If possible, it is best to perform the migration during the night time so it will not be a big inconvenience. Second, you need to prepare your DNS (Domain Name System) to be moved. You can handle the migration of your DNS, or have someone else move it for you. Regardless of which method you choose you must ensure that your TTL (Time to Live) for all the DNS records are set to at least one hour. Making this setting should be completed no later than 48 hours before the move. This will help people to get to the new site much quicker while moving the site as the IP address switches in the DNS records, you can also add a new “A” record that points to the new server’s IP address to double-check the site before it comes back up. You can it “A” record “new.mydomain.com” and you can visit the website under that domain name so that you can test how it works. The third step is to take inventory, by making a list of everything that you will need to move. Obviously on the list of need to move is the database and web directory. You must make sure that you do not forget anything, like any special web server set up that your site may have, and any cron jobs running that the new server needs for set up. If you had another party develop your site it is wise to consult with them as not to forget anything. In the fourth step you need to put your site on “hold”. You will need to create just a small page displaying the logo of your site with a message stating that you are moving to a faster server including an apology, and the expected time that the website will be available again. This page must be put in place of your web directory so that no pages on your site can be accessed, which will result in data not being lost.
During the fifth step you will move all of your files and data over. With the databases idle, moving everything over is safe to do. Nothing will be lost such as anyone’s changes, posts, comments and what have you. This process is very time consuming, but it is a good thing to watch it so you can see if there are any errors that may occur. How you have your server set up will determine if it leads the correct web files and data. Most servers already have programs such as Plesk or CPanel installed to guide you through a list of instructions on how to set up your site and database for the move. The sixth step will have you set up Email, cron, etc. If you have your email going through an account that is on your server or you have cron jobs or any other setup to do, now is the time. Now, for step number seven, you will bring it back to life. Once you have everything set up, barred their being any errors, you must swap the IP address that is in the DNS to the new server’s IP. After this your site should be online at a very fast speed, of course if everything was done right in the previous steps. The eighth and final step will be to restore the longer TTL. Once a few days have passed, change the TTL in your DNS records back to the previous setting. Make sure that you do not forget to do this, because it can cause a problem for your DNS server. After following these steps correctly, your site should have been moved with minimum downtime and no major issues to deal with. The key to minimum down time is planning ahead before you move. Disaster Recovery Solution
Disaster recovery (DR) is very important, but most organizations today do not have the proper solutions in place in case of a disaster, because they feel that it is too expensive to have one and that is too complex and unreliable. Disaster recovery is like insurance for your files and other IT assets. Finding the best disaster recovery method will be in-expensive, provide great protection, and little hassle to implement into your system. The solution I have chosen is VMware, because it is considered a very reliable, cost-effective, and simple disaster protection solution for all virtualized applications. According to VMware’s official site, organizations who use VMware can efficiently meet core requirements for disaster recovery. These core requirements are: * Rapid recovery with automation
* Reliable recovery, non-disruptive testing automation and simplified testing of recovery plans * Affordable recovery without requiring a duplicate, idle datacenter Build a Foundation for Your Disaster Recovery
With VMware vSphere, you can get the best foundation for building disaster recovery solutions. VMware vSphere will aid you in cutting the cost needed for disaster recovery, also adding simplicity to your disaster recovery plans. The following key capabilities are provided with vSphere for improving disaster recovery: * Consolidation: Giving you the ability to consolidate hardware infrastructure at both the production and failover sites for reducing costs. The recovery hardware also as the flexibility to run low-priority workloads as well as test and development environments. * Hardware Independence: The virtual machines act completely independent from their underlying hardware on the failover site so costs can be reduced. * Encapsulation: vSphere is able to contain the entire system, which includes the OS, application, and the data. They are all encapsulated as a set of virtual machine files. By doing this, the entire system can be recovered fast in a single process, because they are replicated in the failover site. This will cut the recovery time down form what could usually be 40 hours to possibly less than an hour. * vSphere replication: vSphere replication is boasted as the industry’s first hypervisor-based replication, it is purpose-built for vSphere and site recovery manager. The replication process is easy to manage giving it the flexibility for recovery Point Objectives of 15 minutes to a max of 34 hours, replicating only the necessary changes for efficient network utilization. Centralize Management and Automate Recovery
Another great feature of VMware is its vCenter Site Recovery manager. The vCenter combined with the vSphere gives you a simple and reliable disaster protection solution for every virtualized application. vCenter Site Recovery Manager uses the vSphere Replication for cost-efficient storage-based replication to provide the organization with centralized management of recovery plans; it also enables non-disruptive testing, and automates the site recovery and migration processes. Key capabilities provided by vCenter Site Recovery Manager are: * Centralized recovery plans: Makes setting up a centralized and automated recovery plan simple by doing it in a matter of minutes using an interface that is integrated tightly with the vCenter server. * Automated failover and site migrations: Automates the entire site recovery and migration process. When initiating a disaster failover, business services are automatically recovered with as less manual intervention or no intervention at all. * Non-disruptive testing: You can perform failover testing as frequently as you want to make it non-disruptive to production systems. Organizations have the ability to resolve issues fast as it is easy to quickly identify any problems that may exist with the recovery plan. * Broad choice of replication options to best align costs with business requirements: VSphere features built-in Replication accessible through vCenter that allow for affordable replication, and storage replication for large, business-critical environments. In addition, vCenter Recovery Manager provides support of a broad range of storage-based replication products from the partners of VMware. Self-Hosting Alternatives
Traditionally data centers have provided companies facilities and the equipment for hosting websites with them. Hosting has been primarily related with data centers due to continuous availability, high bandwidth, on-demand disk space and reliable equipment. The exception is those with the technical skills to put up home servers in their basement. Nowadays retail internet connections have rapidly become faster with the uptime being high. Personal computers are now more capable and reliable than old “Server” grade machines of the past. For non-mission critical applications, you may want to self-host for retail infrastructure. The web hosting alternatives include: * Self-hosting
* Internet Service Provider (ISP) hosting
* Commerce Server Provider (CSP) hosting
* Shared hosting
* Dedicated hosting
* What functionality do I need for my website?
* What security concerns do I have?
* Server cost
* Security cost
* Backup and security cost
* When deciding which option to use, scalability concerns should be addressed. Self-Hosting
* When companies run the servers in house
* Most commonly used by large companies
* Must purchase equipment and handle security
* Server costs
* Setup and maintenance costs
* Backup and recovery
* Most expensive to implement
* Most secure because you control your data
* This is a web hosting service provided by your Internet Service provider (ISP) * ISP’s provide customers with both internet service and services for web hosting * Commonly used by individuals instead of companies
* Usually used for personal websites
* Losing popularity due to people preferring social networking websites CSP Hosting
* Commerce Service Providers (CSP)
* Offer Web server management
* Rent application software: databases, shopping carts, content management programs, etc. * A third-party web hosting service
* Most often used by small to mid-sized companies
* CSP’s handle hosting, maintenance as well as security of the servers Hosting Arrangement
* Shared hosting
* Client’s website is on a shared server with other websites hosted *
* Server provider hosts the client’s site on a private web server that is not shared with other websites * Has a higher level of security
* More expensive
* You must ask yourself what the advantages and disadvantages are of shared versus dedicated hosting? Hosting Plan options
* Web hosting
* Display web pages and handle web traffic
* Provide email services
* Pay for data transfer (site usage)
* Dynamic websites which are database driven
* Application server
* Handle application services (ASP, PHP, Cold Fusion, etc.) * Has more functionality
* Doteasy Web Hosting Services
Systems architecture is a generic term to describe discipline that handles objects (existing or to be created) known as “systems”, in a way that supports reasoning about the structural properties of these objects. According to Boris Golden (2012), “Systems Architecture is a response to the conceptual and practical difficulties of the description and the design of complex systems”. Depending on the context, Systems architecture could refer to the architecture of a system, i.e. a model to describe/analyze a system, architecting a system, i.e. a method to build the architecture of a system, or a body of knowledge for “architecting” systems while meeting business needs, such as a discipline to master systems design. The type of systems architecture that I have decided to use is software architecture. The software architecture of a system gives you a depiction of system to help you in understanding how the system will behave. Software architecture is the blueprint for both the system and the project developing the system. It puts the work assignments into definitions for the design and implementation teams to understand what tasks must be completed. The architecture caries the primary system qualities needed such as performance, security, and modifiability, which each of these cannot be executed without an architectural vision to unify them. The operating system that I will be using is Windows and IIS, because you can use open source software with it and I am most familiar with its interface.
After the website is implemented, you will need to perform certain tasks to support it. These takes range from regular system maintenance, making backups of every database, maintaining network cabling and server temperature monitoring, as well as monitoring network activity to detect malicious attacks, such as malware and distributed denial of service. Regular patch updates are also included. Performance Evaluation
Evaluating the performance of the website will be an ongoing process as changes happen consistently. The duration of the downtime and its existence will determine the success of the website’s migration. How quickly the website responds and how much up-time it has is what the performance valuation is based on primarily. Evaluating the order system will be done by the success of orders that have been submitted. Do customers have troubles ordering from the site? Does it list items that are out of stock? Other questions that will need to be answered are; does the financial request process successfully? And is a notification sent to the database about transactions that were denied? Use Case Name:| Item ordering (Bag of Chips)|
Summary:| The customer will enter in address and billing information to purchase a bag of chips for order from Tony’s Chips website.| Actors:| Customer|
Preconditions:| The website is complete and currently up and running.| Basic Course of Events:| 1. Customer logs into the website| | 2. Customer navigates to the item (chips)|
| 3. Customer clicks on the “Add to Cart” button|
| 4.Customer clicks on the option to “View Cart”|
| 5. Customer clicks on the option to “Check Out Now”|
| 6. Customer enters “Shipping Address” |
| 7. Customer enters “Biling Information”|
| 8. Customer clicks on the “Confirm and Send Order” button| | 9. The site displays the customer with a “Electronic Transaction Receipt”| | Customer logs into the website|
Post Conditions:| The new order transaction will be entered into the website’s database.|
When migrating a website site the proper time and resources are necessary to ensure that the process in successful. There are several tasks that need to be performed and a checklist of procedures that need to be documented within a blueprint for tracking the completion of the system. Routine maintenance will be the key to keeping the site running and limiting the downtime.
Golden, B. (2012). What is Systems Architecture? http://www.lix.polytechnique.fr/~golden/systems_architecture.html Homer, A. (2012). Components and Web Application Architecture, Technet.micrsosoft.com, http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb727121.aspx Maier, A. (2009). Complete Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture, UXBooth.com, http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/complete-beginners-guide-to-information-architecture/ Spool, M. J. (2008). Four Essential Skills for Information Architects: An Interview With Donna Spencer, User Interface Engineering, UIE.com, http://www.uie.com/articles/ia_essential/ Walsh, D. (2011). Self Hosting – All You Need to Know, Web Hosting Search, webhostingsearch.com, http://www.uie.com/articles/ia_essential/ © 2008 The Trustees of Princeton University, Princeton.edu, http://www.princeton.edu/communications/services/docs/IAguide2.pdf Copyright © 2012 VMware, Inc. Guide to Creating Website Information Architecture and Content, Vmware.com, http://www.vmware.com/solutions/datacenter/business-continuity/disaster-recovery.html