Engineering a web-site, step 3: Goals, users, structure

Engineering a Drupal web-site, step 3

By on July 9, 2010

Continuing a description of the Information Architecture (IA) process, in this third article of “Engineering a web-site” series (dedicated to the design and development of site for the Baptist Union of the Dnepropetrovsk region using Drupal CMS), I describe the final goals for the site, the audience, how that was broken down to specific tasks, and how it was translated into the final site structure.


You can find the description of preliminary design stages in the previous articles of the series, one on studying the peers, and one on interviewing the key site users.

The Goals

Teaser site, used prior to launch
A static teaser site was published during the development process, to make sure the basic information (contacts etc) is already available, and so that the search engines start indexing the site in advance.

Based on key user interviews and investigation of other similar sites, the following goals were defined and agreed with the decision-makers, ordered in descending priority:

  1. Inform the visitors about the life of the Regional Union, including both the past events and the future event announcements.
  2. Offer resources for educating people serving in the main directions of church ministry. Some resources need to have their access limited to specific user groups.
  3. Provide reference information about the Regional Union — about its departments, churches, contact information.
  4. Allow the site visitors to communicate with each other and with the Regional Union office — in order to receive answers to their questions, as well as to establish contacts.
  5. To explain what the Bible talks about important issues of the contemporary life, in order to bring the Good News of Salvation to those people who don’t know God, and also to equip those who would like to share the Good News.

The Audience

The next step in addition to the above goals is to define the potential audience of the site, as follows (with their potential goals of the site):

  1. Church members (check the news, find out about future events, find a church by geography, study provided education materials, find out more about the Regional Union, ask a question, participate in a discussion of a topic or of an article on the site).
  2. Ministers (goals the same as above, with addition of possibility to contact some other pastors or the Union leadership, find pastoral or ministry resources with restricted access, leave a request to add new resources.
  3. Content editors (in addition to above tasks, they may need to add and edit new content, moderate the discussions, respond to questions).
  4. Guests (the tasks are different from the above groups – find out more about what the Baptists believe in, find an answer to an interesting topic, ask their own question to start a discussion, contact somebody who can help find what they need).

The Structure

One of the “mockups” (also called “wireframes” sometimes) created in Balsamiq tool in order to visualize how the various page types may look. You’ll notice that some things changed in the process, generally in order to simplify the site.

Based on the above goals and audience, several possible user scenarios were created (too wordy to post here, but I can share examples if you’d like – just ask in the comments below the article). This led to defining content types which the site would hold, and, finally, designing the site structure and navigation for the site users to complete their goals by easily finding the needed content types and functions in the site. These are the resulting site sections and their purpose:

  1. Home – introduction to what the site is about (for first-time visitors), as well dashboard-type summary of all the site activity (for both new and returning vistors),
  2. News – articles on past events and announcements of the future events, as well as an easy access to news archive.
  3. Library – educational materials, by ministry type.
  4. Forum – for discussions, including a restricted-access sub-forum.
  5. About Us – to contain information about the Baptists, the Regional Union, and its departments. Additional content type in this section is listing of churches (which turned out very easy to do using Drupal’s user-filtered Views).

Additional “helper” screens were also included in secondary navigation – Contact, Help, Sitemap pages, and the Search form. For each of the above page types the required functionality was listed, to make sure that the site goals and audience information above is not lost in the increasing number of details describing the future site. For example, it was noted that users should be allowed to comment any material on the site, and, for their convenience, they should be able to subscribe to receive site, material and discussion updates via e-mail.

After all of this was reviewed, discussed with the decision makers and (finally!) confirmed, it was time to continue with the site development – which will be described in the final article of the series, to come soon, so stay tuned (subscribing via RSS, for example). Also, I would be happy to hear feedback on this approach – whether you are using similar process, or perhaps something different – you can leave your comments below the article (no registration required).

You can find the other articles of the series here: