We’ve all had this experience. You land on a website hoping to find information or a product and you’re instantly overwhelmed. You scroll through the menu and think what you’re looking for is on a certain page, but it’s not. You read through pages of content that’s disorganized or confusing. You go down a rabbit hole of searching before you give up and close the tab.
This frustration is caused by a chaotic information architecture. Take a look at how your website’s structure can provide the best user experience possible.
Information architecture or IA refers to the organization of content and the ways it’s displayed on a site. In an ideal scenario, the IA of a site allows users to easily find the information they’re looking for.
While IA can refer to the items in a menu or navigation, it also is the blueprint of the content layout on each page. What is the hierarchy of information on the site, application or digital experience? How does the content flow and connect? IA, to put it simply, is the intersection of users, context and content.
Typically, a UX designer and content strategist will work together to map out a site or app’s IA. This ensures that both the design and content are being created from a user’s perspective and can work together in a seamless and consistent way.
Information architecture is the foundation of every web project. Everything on a site or app is built using IA as the foundation which sets the stage for optimal design and user experience.
If you make a fundamental change to the IA after design and development begin, it can have a snowball effect into other areas of the process. In addition, making changes after the initial IA strategy has been completed puts you at risk for an inconsistent site — hierarchically and content-wise.
When there is no set strategy behind the organization of a site and its content, it can create chaos, disorganization and turn users away.
There are many elements of high-performing information architecture that all designers should know.
A good IA means that users are more likely to find what they’re looking for quickly and without frustration. It can prevent the loss of sales or the creation of disgruntled customers.
It also guides the users through the journey that you want them to take on your site. IA factors in your most relevant and meaningful calls to action. Is it to get a quote? Schedule an appointment? Your content will be structured around those conversion goals.
Having an IA at the start of the project means that as your business and site evolve, the content and structure can evolve within a clear set of rules.
Developing information architecture typically happens after an audit and discovery process but before wireframes and designs are drafted. The audit and discovery will tell us how users are currently interacting with the site and what they’re looking for and will guide us in improving the experience. Those processes, and the creation of IA, then helps drive the wireframes and how things need to be structured or laid out on a page.
First, you must create your project goals and work towards those. Ultimately, how do you want your users to act when they’re on the site? These goals may be specific to each page or you can start at your high-level mission. But these will drive the outline of your site and how content flows.
It’s helpful to create mental models that place content where users might think it should go. For example, the address or contact information should live on a contact page.
Work through the site content as a user would: you’re brand new to the site and have never interacted with its information before. Where would you logically go for certain details? How might you expect the content to progress on a page?
It can be useful to think in terms of “buckets” of content — pay attention to how sections should be organized and how they relate with one another.
In addition to keeping user experience at the forefront of your IA, make sure to rely on historical analytical data to help support your updates. Site behavior tools, like HotJar and Crazy Egg, can be useful for this, as well as good old Google Analytics.
Information architecture can change as a product or site develops, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s important to continually review the analytics and your goals to ensure your site’s IA makes it easiest for the user to find and engage with what they’re looking for. Having a clear IA strategy at the onset will mean that anyone looking to enhance the site’s content has a roadmap of how to do so while keeping the experience cohesive.
Are you looking to create a powerful information architecture on your website or application? Contact Integrity’s UX design team to begin.
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Ensuring the things you rely on will work as expected cannot be a matter of chance, it must be part of the plan. This requires ongoing maintenance, updates and upgrades.