WebDesign & Review * Features_ * Creating An Information Model

JoAnn Hackos, PhD, is President of Comtech Services, a content-management and information-design firm based in Denver, which she founded in 1978. In her new book, "Content Management for Dynamic Web Delivery," Dr. Hackos explains the content-management strategy that she developed for companies such as Nortel, Motorola, Cisco, and others and walks readers through the stages of effective Web content management.

Creating An Information Model

Funny. Here is what our customers need to know and not one group even comes close to this!

An Information Model provides the framework for organizing your content so that it can be delivered and reused in a variety of innovative ways. Once you have created an Information Model for your content repository, you will be able to label information in ways that will enhance search and retrieval, making it possible for authors and users to find the information resources they need quickly and easily.

The Information Model is the ultimate content-management tool.
Creating your Information Model requires analysis, careful planning, and a lot of feedback from your user community. The analysis takes you into the world of those who need and use information resources every day. The planning means talking to a wide range of stakeholders, including both individuals and groups who have information needs and who would profit from collaboration in the development of information resources. Getting feedback requires that you test your Information Model with members of your user community to ensure that you haven't missed some important perspectives.

You need to learn

  • what an Information Model is
  • why an Information Model is critical to the success of your content-management system
  • how to create an effective and usable Information Model


It's very easy to tell when a Web site you're trying to navigate has no underlying Information Model.

Here are the tell-tale characteristics:

  • You can't tell how to get from the home page to the information you're looking for.
  • You click on a promising link and are unpleasantly surprised at what turns up.
  • You keep drilling down into the information layer after layer until you realize you're getting farther away from your goal rather than closer.
  • Every time you try to start over from the home page, you end up in the same wrong place.
  • You scroll through a long alphabetic list of all the articles ever written on a particular subject with only the title to guide you.


Sound familiar?

What does it feel like when a well-designed Information Model is in place? Oddly enough, you generally don't notice a well-conceived Information Model because it simply doesn't get in the way of your search.

  • On the home page, you notice promising links right away.
  • Two or three clicks get you to exactly what you wanted.
  • The information seems designed just for you because someone has anticipated your needs.
  • You can read a little or ask for more -- the cross-references are in the right places.
  • Right away you feel that you're on familiar ground -- similar types of information start looking the same.


Did all of these pleasant experiences happen by accident? Not in the least. Finding the information you needed quickly and easily requires a great deal of advance planning. The basic planning and design tool is the Information Model.

What is an Information Model?

An Information Model is an organizational framework that you use to categorize your information resources. The framework assists authors and users in finding what they need, even if their needs are significantly different and personal. The framework provides the basis on which you base your publishing architecture, including print and electronic information delivery.

An Information Model might encompass the information resources of one part of an organization. For example, your Information Model might provide a framework for categorizing your corporate training materials or the technical and sales information that accompanies your products. Your Information Model might include engineering information produced during product development, policies and procedures used internally in the day-to-day conduct of business, information about customers used in your sales cycle or about vendors used in your supply chain. Some of the information resources you bring under content management might be available across the corporation for internal use, such as human-resources information. Other information resources might be specific to the needs of one department or division of your organization.


Content Management for Dynamic Web Delivery
by JoAnn T. Hackos
John Wiley & Sons

About the author:
JoAnn Hackos, PhD, is President of Comtech Services, a content-management and information-design firm based in Denver, which she founded in 1978. In her new book, "Content Management for Dynamic Web Delivery," Dr. Hackos explains the content-management strategy that she developed for companies such as Nortel, Motorola, Cisco, and others and walks readers through the stages of effective Web content management. She can be reached at joann.hackos@comtech-serv.com. For more information about her new book, visit http://www.comtech-serv.com

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