Home / Resources / Techniques / Structure
Icon or Spacer Macromedia Website Production Management Techniques Phase 3: Structure
User View

After you have finished developing screen schematics for the main and secondary pages, the next step is to think about the site from an interactive or user view—how one screen relates to the next in an interactive way. This may even include what is industry-termed paper prototyping—developing a basic clickthrough of the site on paper using screen schematics instead of HTML. At this stage it is also valuable to think about what tasks a typical user would perform when visiting your site. This includes registering, ordering, searching and other tasks requiring a number of screens and steps in order to get through the entire process. Outlining these tasks from beginning to end gives you another look at the site from a user perspective, and allows investigation of usability at an early stage with real users.

User View
Shows how one screen relates to the next, from an interactive or user point of view. Also shows main user paths (search, login, purchase etc.) in a site, also called user scenarios.
Paper Prototyping
One of the earliest forms of testing for usability is often using a paper-based clickthrough of a site. Paper prototypes are non-html screen schematics that a user can use to determine whether navigation, naming and labeling work. These screen schematics can also be used to test how one screen interacts with the next by flipping through an entire path using multiple pages.
Creating User Scenarios
Think about a typical user and once again detail their needs and how they will move around a site. Take many things into consideration including alternatives such as competitive sites, the telephone, or their next door neighbor—who can they call or where can they go for similar services or products? List specific tasks within a site. Determine the main actions a user will perform when visiting your site. Develop user scenarios around these tasks. Tasks can be as simple as "contact us for more information" or as elaborate as "pre-qualify yourself for a home loan". The complexity of the user scenarios will differ from site to site and will also vary due to business objectives such as advertising or information gathering. By revisiting the user profiles and basic scenarios created during Phase 1: Discover and Phase 2: Defining, you will also be able to double check your initial assumptions behind the project.
Determining User Paths
Create user paths based on the user scenarios. Again, address the user and his or her ability to move through a site and recognize simple choices in navigation, aided by visual and navigational conventions. Users generally want to get to their targeted goal quickly and easily. Fewer screens and a simple path help to attain this goal. In this user view, we begin to see how many screens are necessary in order for the user to complete his or her task. Take time at this point to clarify, delete and restructure your paths for a positive user experience.
Testing with Users
Put screen schematics in front of a possible user as early in the process as possible. Get feedback on naming and labeling, navigation and general content layout. You will not be able to perform full scale one-on-one usability testing at this point, but you will gain some valuable insight, comments and knowledge by showing screen schematics to typical users. User testing can explore some of the designer's and client's assumptions and expectations about what works and what does not. Because there may be some surprises, early testing is about getting in front of users and getting feedback before you get too far into the process to turn back.

The structuring stage is complete. You have created a content site map and a set of screen schematics and have outlined user tasks within the site. Be sure to get signoff and approval on each deliverable before moving into the next phase. The client will be anxious to see the look and feel of a site, but don't underestimate the importance of the structuring stage. With signoff and approval, it is time to move into the next stage—Design and Prototype

To give us feedback or join the discussion, please visit our Production Management Online Forum. We'll work to be sure your interests are covered in future revisions.

Analyzing Your Industry
Understanding Your Audience
Goals and Objectives
Creating a Project Plan
Establishing Requirements
Site View
Screen View
User View
Design and Prototype
 Build and Test
Evaluate and Maintain
Online Forums