n our experience there are three elements that together form the architecture of a web site or system: the data structure, the site organization and the screen wireframes. The first of these is the back-end, the latter two are the front, often referred to as the information design.
The essence of developing the data structure is mapping a client’s vision and requirements to a relational database, complete with all fields. Unless you’ve already done and documented it, this is invariably done through extensive conversations.
Often discussed simultaneously with the data structure is the user side of things. The site organization is comprised of the navigation structure, often expressed in menus, and of the process flow, such as the results upon completing forms. And as the user-centric discussion shifts back and forth from the site as a whole to each individual screen, the result is a collection of screen wireframes.
An excellent primer on the topic of information architecture is Jesse James Garrett’s “??The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web??”:http://www.jjg.net/elements/. Two of the steps mentioned above, site organization and screen wireframes, together form the 2nd and 3rd levels on “JJG’s Elements of User Experience diagram”:http://www.jjg.net/elements/pdf/elements.pdf.