Architecture vs. Design

In the last few posts we’ve talked primarily about the graphic design of the new homepage, subhomes, and templates. That’s because lately that has been where most of our efforts have been directed. Plus, it’s fun.

But “underneath” the graphic design of the site there is another type of design: information design — or information architecture– is the art of designing the structure, hierarchies, and relationships of the content and functions that make up a website.

As the old saying goes, “You can’t hang the drapes before you build the house.” (Well, maybe it’s not an old saying, but it is a saying because I just said it.) The information architecture discussion and work has to happen first because it informs the graphic design.

Our new redesign relies on a simple persistent navigation scheme (“persistent” because it will “persist” through to the subhomes and templates) that uses similarly large concept “chunks” (Academics, Student Life, etc.) to create the initial structure. And yes, “chunks” is the technical term amongst information architecture circles. A secondary menu features a mix of audience-specific navigation and task-driven navigation.

With that architecture in mind, the design can now go to work making the primary navigation look like it is primary, and the secondary items look secondary. In this way, things like font choices, sizes, weights and colors are not just aesthetic decision, but actually help create meaning and structure. They say, “These items go together. This is more important than that.”

–lori