Websites aren’t supposed to be messy, especially when it hinders your users’ ability to find what they need quickly. Yet, many companies ignore the important step of information architecture when building out their website and content. So, what is information architecture, and why do you need it?
Information Architecture (IA), at its core, “focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content effectively and sustainably” according to Usability.gov. IA then plays a pivotal role in creating your website’s wireframes, prototypes, and navigation. In fact, good IA should be invisible to the user. More importantly, lousy information architecture will become a tangled mess leaving your users frustrated and resulting in them navigating off your site. For IA to help your user, there are three factors you must consider when creating your structure.
- User – The user interacts with your website, so it’s crucial to research their behaviors, goals, and needs diligently.
- Context – The context considers the where, when, why, and how behind why the user is interacting with your content.
- Content – The content is what the users interact with. Remember your users’ needs, goals, expectations, and behaviors while creating content.
To help inform your information architecture, consider completing the following activities:
- Content inventory – Locate all existing content on the website.
- Content audit – Review the effectiveness of your content.
- Information grouping – Define the relationship between the content and the user.
- Taxonomy development – Determine a standardized naming convention for the entire website.
- Descriptive information creation – Create a “Related Links” list to help aid discovery.
Why You Need It
With a better understanding of information architecture, we can now focus on why you need it in two simple words, user experience (UX). As we all know, UX is essential to the success of users engaging with your website. Well-thought-out and executed IA makes your website easy and enjoyable for your user to engage with. As mentioned above, good IA should result in your user not knowing it’s there. Unfortunately, bad IA won’t go unnoticed. When navigation is clunky, and the user can’t seamlessly find content that contextually makes sense, they will likely leave your site.
Keep in mind the vital relationship between information architecture and navigation. One without the other will result in bad UX. Navigation with IA as its foundation is key in ensuring your user can easily find what they are looking for in the proper context and with ease. Start with defining/redefining your IA, then move on to navigation. Starting with IA is much easier at the beginning of your website redesign than in the middle or after the fact. Beginning with IA will allow you to grasp the complexity and volume of your content, which will help inform your navigation, wireframes, and prototypes.
In conclusion, information architecture is vital in creating a seamless user experience on your website. By organizing, structuring, and labeling content effectively and sustainably, information architecture ensures that your website is intuitive to navigate and allows users to find what they need quickly—feeling intimidated about messing up this critical step? Let our team help relieve stress and set you and your website up for success.