Information Architecture – Why the First Page Comes Last

Alex Walker

The home page, the cover page, the landing page, the site root. Whatever you call it, it’s generally core to the way your users perceive you, and central to how your site operates. Clients are always obsessed by it, and when you begin designing a new site, it seems easy and intuitive to start by banging a logo in the top left and continue laying out your home page below it.

Easy, yes. Intuitive, maybe, but not necessarily useful for achieving your design goals

As Derek Powazek points out his new IA article on ALA, it’s the deepest ‘atomic elements’ of your site — the units of content like the articles, the news, the search results and the product pages — that provide the best bedrock from which you can build up towards your home page. In reality, I think these ‘deep pages’ are usually the easiest to get started with because they have a clear purpose and goal from the start.

In thoeory, as your content pages take on a more solid form, the decisions you make automatically start to feed into the way the category and/or home pages will work. In some ways they design themselves.

If you already work this way, this short article won’t be rocket science to you, but I get the impression that simple IA approaches like this are less well understood than they should be.

It’s great to see this kind of thinking on display to a large audience. Nice article, Derek.