Information architecture (IA) is an important part of the overall UX design process. It lays out the visual elements hierarchy, functionality, navigation, and interaction for a digital product in the form of a blueprint.
Ideally, no website or app would be built without a well thought out information architecture that defines every path a user can take, ensuring they can quickly and easily find the information they need.
Designers who work on IA make decisions about organizing and labeling the content of a digital product and they couldn’t do this without having a deep understanding of the needs of the business and their target users.
How to Create Effective Information Architecture
When done well, information architecture becomes invisible to the user because they get the right information and content at the right time in their journey.
Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind when planning the information architecture of a new website.
- Define project purpose. When thinking about content structure and organization for a new project, start with defining its purpose. \ For example, the purpose of a news site is to get people to read as many news articles as possible and, down the line, the monetization goal may be to have people pay subscription fee to continue consuming the site’s content. These are the determining factors when laying out the IA.
- Consider user goals. You need to conduct research to understand not only user expectations and goals, but also their context while using the website/app. Ideally, you’ll be able to anticipate how user goals may evolve over time. \ When they land on a website, users typically have questions like: Where am I? What can I do here? Why should I do it? What can I do next? A good information architecture provides answers to these questions and a user can move seamlessly through the site, without experiencing any findability or usability issues.
- Have the content ready. There’s no point in starting the work on IA if you don’t have the accurate website content ready. After all, that is what you’ll be structuring! Without content, you will most likely spend a lot of time updating and reworking the information architecture as the project unfolds which will be a huge waste of time and resources.
- Plan navigation while constructing IA. The navigation system of your website or app controls how users move through content and its rooted in the information architecture. Therefore, its wise to plan the navigation system while you’re developing the information architecture of the product.
- Conduct Usability Testing. Put your draft IA in front of your target users and check if it works for them before you start to build the website. Usability testing just your IA lets you know if your groups and labels are working well and if there is anything you need to fix.
How Information Architecture Impacts UX
Most Web users have experienced IA related issues while using a website or an app without understanding the source of their frustration.
By default, we expect it to be easy to find the information we need when we land on a website. If the process becomes too complicated or if it takes more time than we’re willing to spend, we’ll abandon the site. And this is usually a point of no return.
For example, if a user looks through website pages and doesn’t find what they’re searching for or can’t figure out how to do something (book a demo, use a promo code for purchase, sign up for a trial, etc.) that’s poor information architecture and it’s extremely frustrating.
In terms of UX, you can’t facilitate engagement if the IA is as broken as in the example above. There’s no way around it - you need a good IA in order to have a good UX.
Modern websites and apps contain a variety of content types like text, images, and videos and good IA is now more important than ever for ensuring a positive user experience. No matter how amazing your content is, it won’t matter much if it is not easy to find and use.
So, make sure to focus your work on your users and develop an information architecture that creates a positive user experience and provides users the information they need at every step of their journey.