I have to say, I’m really enjoying the Information Architecture (IA) work I’m doing right now. I’ve always enjoyed doing IA, but most of my previous projects dealt with small to medium sized websites. Nothing on the scale of, say, a large online retailer of “urban” clothing, accessories and other assorted items. The most interesting aspect of this particular undertaking is having to consider so many different variables. And then having to find the right way to incorporate all of those variables into a finalized set of wireframes.
One of the variables that seems to be making the largest impact on my IA work is statistics and user metrics. For example, knowing that a significant number of our users are on 1024×768 (or higher) means that we can move beyond the old 800×600 layout restrictions. However, that’s an easy one. But you can imagine how much impact things like shopping cart abandon rates, paging preferences, most active links per page, etc, etc can have on where elements get placed and how they function.
Another interesting variable is having to consider bandwidth usage and its associated cost. Sure, it would be nice to have larger product photos, but will the increase in file-size (and thus bandwidth charges) be offset by increased sales? Or can the increase in file-size/bandwidth be offset by removing some images in other areas? A bit of math can usually help you make these decisions, but sometimes it’s not that simple.
All in all, IA of this level tends to be a delicate balancing act between what you (as a designer) feel is best, what the stats are telling you about user behavior, and what is possible from a fiscal and technological standpoint. And I LOVE IT!