Setting Up Site Categories
The first step to determining your site's architecture is to decide what the category names will be for each section, as well as the number of sections that you want. It's good to think about what areas will need to be persistent, versus what areas will change.
For example, many sites that use ecommerce will have persistent links for the shopping cart, tracking, shipping, and/or billing information. Many people use index cards or sticky notes to write down category ideas. This is a great technique because it allows you to move subjects around easily and change your mind. Plan to spend at least a day or two on a small siteor weeks on a larger siteto make sure you've tried every possibility and scenario. This is a case when it's really great to encourage others to contribute their ideas.
Just as you would conduct user testing of a finished web site, it's a good idea to test your information architecture ideas on a few trusted colleagues or potential end users. There are many tools like Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand that help you organize ideas. Here are some other alternatives:
figure 1 Scribbles do fine as well. Most of the time people map ideas out on paper before they make a more formal site map.
figure 2 Index cards or sticky notes work well because you can change your mind and rearrange topics easily.
figure 3 This site map was laid out in Adobe Illustrator and was wider than a single screen to map out.