MainSoftware Technology Solutions BlogBeginners Guide to Information Architecture in Web Design

Beginners Guide to Information Architecture in Web Design

Beginners Guide to Information Architecture in Web Design

Information architecture is a task shared by designers, developers, and content strategists. This article explains what information architecture is and why it is a valuable aspect of the user experience.

What is Information Architecture

The information architect is very rarely given a job title. However, it is a valuable and necessary area that crosses several roles. Information architecture is a more challenging field to define than content strategy, which is the job of content strategists, or interaction design, which is designers’ job.

Information architecture creates a website, application, or another project to understand the users and where they need information. Information architecture creates sitemaps, hierarchies, categories, navigation, and metadata. When a content strategist divides content into categories, he engages in information architecture. When a designer draws a top-level menu to help users understand where they are on a site, they also practice information architecture.

Regardless of the task at hand, here are some of the questions we ask when creating an information architecture:

  • What is the users’ flow through the site?
  • How does the app help the user catalog their information?
  • How is information presented to the user?
  • Does the information help the client?
  • Does it contribute to decision-making?

To answer these questions, an information architect must focus on the target audience, the technologies associated with the website, and the data presented on the website.

Critical Processes for Information Architecture

Information architecture is a website, library, or store of a concrete foundation to a house. To create the best foundation, we need to create an IA document.

The document creation takes place in several stages, listed below—it is a worthwhile investment for companies.

The process below is for creating an IA for a website, but you can quickly adapt it to non-digital products.

Define company goals

To determine the goals of creating an IA, you can ask yourself two questions:

  • Why do you want to do this?
  • What do you want to achieve?

Work with all key stakeholders to determine this. They should be involved and agree with the final version.

Goals generally fall into three categories:

  • Make more money;
  • Cost reduction;
  • Help people make better decisions.

Think about whether any restrictions affect the objectives.

Define users’ goals

Follow UX practices interview users, create personas, create scripts and answer questions:

  • Who are the people who will use the site?
  • What will these users do on the site?
  • What are their goals?

Use the storytelling method so that stakeholders can easily visualize and understand what you are explaining. Find best-case and worst-case scenarios and consider how to prevent the last.

This is also an excellent time to think about any restrictions users may have, such as what technology they are using?

Analyze competitors

Sometimes reinventing hot water over and over isn’t necessary, and it can hurt you. Do your best and make sure you know your competitors.

Think about their information architecture.

  • Where do they display information?
  • What information is the common denominator?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • What makes it suitable, and what makes it bad?

Define the content

The business needs clear content understanding. Review it first and decide what to keep and get rid of if the website already has content. If the site is new, start from scratch.

Beginners Guide to Information Architecture in Web Design

If your website already has content, you can do one of the following:

  • Full inventoryWrite down everything you have on the site. This can take a lot of time and maybe even a team of people, but it’s the most rewarding. When you choose this option, include all pages, all downloadable content, and any multimedia or interactive content.
  • Partial inventoryPartial inventory is still better than nothing. Focus on essential parts and higher levels.
  • Content auditThis approach gives us a minimum of information, but it is faster and easier. Focus on determining how useful, accurate, and compelling the content is.

Main Information Architecture Principles

Creating the website information architecture example should not be done in a vacuum. Many factors to consider, ranging from user behavior to perspective, are based on the understanding that the architect’s attention should be focused solely on the structure — on what to show using maps and block diagrams.

The architect should understand the site’s functionality and have a complete content list. Then he starts optimizing IA using these principles:

  • Object Principle: Content should be treated as a living, breathing thing. It has lifecycles, behaviors, and attributes.
  • The principle of choice: less is more. Keep options to a minimum.
  • Disclosure Principle: Show an information preview to help users understand confidential information if they dig deeper.
  • Samples principle: show content examples when describing the content of categories.
  • Front door principle: Let’s assume that at least 50% of users will use a different entry point than the home page.
  • The multiple classifications principle offers users various classification schemes for viewing site content.
  • Focused Navigation Principle: Keep navigation simple and never mix things up.
  • Growth principle: Assume that the content on the site will grow. Make sure the site is scalable.

There are many things to consider. For example, IA can be a complex task requiring ongoing maintenance depending on the website’s size. Otherwise, it could mean failure.

Why Does Information Architecture Matters?

Every website has an information architecture – anyone who considers this concept when building a website will have a significant advantage for its audience.

Good IA helps users quickly find what they need. Bad IA is like a maze where users get stuck.

Here are reasons why it’s crucial to integrate strategic information architecture plans into site designing or to redesign:

  • IA is crucial for a good user experience (UX). Web designers use the structure created by IA to plan anything from navigation to individual pages structure. If they know how the information should be communicated, they can optimize the design around that information.
  • IA provides a bird’s eye view of the whole website. No matter if you’re building your website from scratch or want to add a few features, this approach will help keep the broad context and information in focus and make sure it makes sense to keep going.
  • IA helps to achieve the site goals. Business needs conversions. A good information architecture guides visitors through the sales funnel and gets them to achieve business goals.
  • IA has a significant impact on search engine optimization. Good IA can improve SEO in many ways, reduce bounce rate, improve your site’s appearance on result pages, and increase on-page engagement. This is far from the only variable in SEO, but it plays an essential role in boosting your rankings.
  • IA reduces long-term marketing and Internet costs. Every bit of money you spend on ads will go further if the user lands on the site and finds what they are looking for.

A website designed with good AI is much easier to update, improve and develop in the future. Minor redevelopment means less money spent.

How to Design Information Architecture

Information architecture is similar to a flowchart: add shapes and combine them with lines organized into a single document. In the standard flowchart, the forms correspond to the relevant requirements (rectangles for procedures, diamonds for decision points, and so on), but you don’t have to follow this nomenclature. The essential factors in building your information architecture are where each structure component is hierarchically placed and how they are labeled and displayed. The UX strategy goal is to organize and simplify information to absorb it more easily.

The two most essential factors in information architecture are its purpose and usability. Information architects want to simplify information for users to make it easier to use it. Placing components in order with labels indicating their functions facilitates information. Information architects must consider how users interact with it and what information they need to perform specific tasks.

Main Steps in Information Architecture Development

Let’s look at some typical steps in the information architecture process.

Define content

You can start the information architecture process by identifying your content and creating an overview list. Make an information list that is not yet on the site and that users might find helpful. Use this information to make proper information architecture decisions.

The next step is to transform the information into an information architecture by simplifying and organizing the information. Organizing and arranging information architecture is essential so site visitors can easily use data. In IA, you must decide what labels and components to use and where to simplify the information. You also need to consider how the user interacts with the information, what they need to complete specific tasks when planning future content, and include it in the plan.

Define company goals

Company goals are essential in information architecture because they help define the content and information structure. Information architects must know the company’s purposes to create an effective IA that meets users’ needs.

When designing an IA, this interconnection between users and company goals is essential and should be considered. Information architecture can be adjusted based on user feedback to help you understand how they interact with information and their needs.

Define user goals

Defining user goals is a critical process for information architecture. Information architects need to understand what information to find and complete tasks quickly. The first thing is grouping the data according to its purpose and objectives, e.g., workflows or a list of services offered.

I often interview users to find out about the user’s goals. This is an essential part of the user research process. It helps me with information architecture because it gives users a voice and influences your product.

Moving Forward with Information Architecture

IA is a complex process that information architects must constantly work on. An information architect needs to provide an orderly display of information and an efficient hierarchy of all data to help users quickly determine the relative information importance.

When you think about information architecture, consider the information the user wants and needs:

  • Group it according to its purpose;
  • label it properly;
  • analyze competitors’ information architectures for inspiration;
  • show a visual hierarchy with color contrast or font-weight/size;
  • display by importance not to overwhelm newbies scanning content searching for specific information.

This should also give enough time to digest what they have already observed before moving on to more complex topics.

Ivan Kolesnikov

About the author:

Ivan Kolesnikov

Experienced professional in programming.

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