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so long story short: I'm working my way through a side project and am at the stage of considering the information architecture of the site.

From what I've learned, information architecture ought to be done between user research and tangible deliverables like wireframes/user flow charts, and conducting a content inventory/audit is a crucial part of being able to being able to proceed with the greater process.

I have currently completed my initial user research/surveying and have finalised the concept/features of the site. However, I do not currently have an actual working site with 'content' per-se.

And so my question is, if the information architecture (content inventory/auditing > card sorting/tree testing > site mapping) of a site is indeed supposed to be done as a precursor to wireframes, how am I supposed to have existing 'content' to proceed with the first step of it with?

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Having a concept/features does mean you have an idea on what content is going to be on your page. Without having this in mind you are not able to come up with wireframes.

You do not have an inventory of an existing page but you certainly should have one by analysing your research data. With this inventory you should be able to do things like card sortings / tree testings etc.

In the beginning of projects it is often the case that things might be missing. But work with what you have. Make some assumptions. Even with this assumptions, you will learn about the mental models of your users by performing cardsortings etc.

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According to "The Pocket Universal Methods of Design". A content inventory tells you what your content is and an audit tells you what it should be. For these reasons a content inventory and audit is usually done:

  • When beginning a website redesign
  • When merging/splitting multiple sites
  • When preparing content for a multichannel distribution or a content management system.

In this case, I think there are better methods to use as you don't have any actual content to inventory and audit. You could create an inventory of things that you are planning to design (maybe in a spreadsheet) before putting them into wireframes and evaluate their importance. This way you would have some sort of guideline of how much weight to give each item when creating the wireframes.

Like with card sorts, you don't may not have that content or pages created yet, but you can still create a list of what you will have and have participants organize it.

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Don't overthink it.

The content inventory/auditing > card sorting/tree testing > site mapping idea is based on fundamental psychological research and thus should always be followed, it is a practice developed for specific needs of specific people in specific industries.

It is completely ok to go forward to wireframe w/o having all the content (skipping content inventory entirely if it feels silly due to lack of volume). I recommend looking into the MVP approach, which is a philosophy both very much aligned with UX concepts as well as better fitting for your use case.

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