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I've been asked to produce an IA for a large travel company and specifically the groupings of destinations.

I have: by country THEN by state region THEN by capital city and major population center (if applicable)

I have also split the IA so that there is a shortcut menu 'popular destinations' which are ad-hoc, popular countries such as USA/UK and /or capital city or things like 'north africa' 'caribbean' etc etc.

I've been trying to find consensus online but the evidence stops at the region / state level where a huge amount of variation comes in.

How should I organise the IA? Am I on track? Anything I'm missing? Is there any published research I can look at?

notes: selection of destination will be by mega menu or drop down. Maps not in spec.

edit: I'm not so interested in the mode of interaction but the amount of destinations and their organisation to include in the IA. edit 2: it turns out that region definitions vary depending on the activity; huge variation and enormously hard to legislate for. Would you advocate stopping at nationally recognised state/region definitions?

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Even state/region is hard. Taiwan is a major business travel destination, and yet its country status is murky. Taipei's city status is not so disputed, but calling it a capital city gets you back into the country discussion. – MSalters Mar 13 '12 at 11:39
Have you looked at the old visitor stats? If it's a new project, try to do some card sorting or, in the worst case, copy others. – dnbrv Mar 13 '12 at 14:57
done all of the above. What makes this project hard is that they have information across 4 domains and stats for 1 and then slightly variable language variations and no user research ... and a slightly strange business model which makes copying that bit harder... – colmcq Mar 14 '12 at 9:36

What's the purpose of the travel site -- business travelers, golfers who travel, families, singles? That's another way of asking, "Who is the audience?" If it's a specialized audience, skew for their particular weltanschauung. If it's a general audience, use generally accepted geographic divisions -- the UN, wikipedia, etc.

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I think you are going to need more than just country/state/region IA, because people have many different reasons for travelling, and might be at various stages of planning when they hit your site.

For example -- If Sally is interested in historic architecture (or hiking, or wine tasting) but doesn't know where to look, a geography-based IA won't be helpful for her.

I would start creating some personas for people with different goals to make sure you are able to organize the information well.

Edit: also sometimes cities can be major travel destinations (think Paris), so it probably would be a good idea to include at least popular cities.

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I would have thought a drop down searchlet would be a nice solution here. Something like this:

I allows the user to filter via typing in all/part of a location name and also provides the option of simply laying out all options in the form of a drop down.

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I've edited the question: I'm not really looking at mode of interaction yet – colmcq Mar 13 '12 at 11:20

@colmcq if it is allowed, you can further divide based on gender survey. Because, men and women have their own perception of travel place/experience etc. I have seen this in some survey sites. Also, you can include inhabitants wise data, example people of particular group (like chinese , indians etc) staying in large number etc..

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How about providing and alternate grouping by destination visit purpose, for e.g., "visit with kids", "honeymoon destination", "religious importance" etc.

Over a period of time, you can provide further help to the users by saying: "people who searched for honeymoon destinations also looked at..." or "also bought tickets to...".

As a user, I would expect to filter searches done like this by country, state etc.

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I'd probably start by looking at what some other travel companies have done...

Rather than having to build your own site to test - you could do a bit of informal testing on what is already out there to see what works best.

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  • First, ask your target audience what they considered important when the went on their latest trip. I'll bet you'll find a ton of insights from them).
  • Do a quick site inventory of the competitors - how do they structure the content?

You could also group the destinations by

  • Interest (golf trips, skiing, cultural trips, adventure-oriented, partying, senior trips etc)
  • Price range
  • Length of the visit (2 weeks or weekend trips)
  • By travel distance (some people such as people with kids might hate to fly for 9 hours)
  • Temperature and time of year (some people would love to travel to northern Europe but not during the winter)
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