Information lets a user discover the content on a page design that they want want to see.
Too many choices, isn’t it?
The design of the website is cramped making it hard to identify all the options available.
Now let’s take a look at another webpage.
A clear and useful page for the user.
So why the difference?
The answer is Information Architecture. Information architecture is the process of categorizing and organizing information to create structure and meaning. Information architecture is the creation of a structure for a website, application, or other project.
We are living in a world exploding with information, but how do we find what is relevant to us at the time that we need it? I believe that good information architecture is key to helping us navigate through the mountains of data and information we have created for ourselves.
What Is Information Architecture And Why Is It Important?
“Information architecture is the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.” — The Information Architecture Institute
A good information architecture (IA) uses scalable hierarchy and familiar nomenclature to make content easy to find.
An effective information architecture enables people to step logically through a system confident they are getting closer to the information they require. Most people only notice information architecture when it is poor and stops them from finding the information they require. Information architecture is considered to have been founded by Richard Saul Wurman.
Today there is a growing network of active IA specialists who constitute the Information Architecture Institute.
Benefits of good information architecture:
For users, information architecture solves the most basic problems of finding relevant information to them at any given point, in an intuitive way.
· Reduces cognitive load
Too much information on a screen with no clear navigation can make it difficult for a user to focus. Too many options can overwhelm where a user chooses not to make a decision at all.
· Right information, quicker
IA creates a spotlight on the required information and the user make choices faster.
· Focus on the task If the user is provided with a clear path of navigation, they will find it easier to accomplish their goal without too many distractions.
· Reduces frustration If the webpage contains information in an organized manner, then the user will complete their task on their own. Or else they may contact the supplier due to frustration.
FOR A BUSINESS:
Keeps customers on their website for longer.
Increases the chance of customer conversion.
Reduces risk of customers going to a competitor.
Reduces cost of support when a user can’t find something.
Search Vs Navigation
How To Do It The RIGHT Way?
Here is a brief list of considerations and processes to use when you are designing the information architecture for a product or service.
Define the company goals and users goals
Identify what tasks they are trying to achieve Try to create a hierarchy with minimal sub-levels.
If you can achieve this, then the user can access any information on your site with a maximum of two clicks.
Map out your site navigation to see if you can organise into a minimal number of sub-levels or categories.
Don’t use jargon in the navigation language.
Understand the language of your audience. Test with your users to ensure they understand the correct meaning of the language used.
Always indicate to the user exactly where they are within the site
so they can easily navigate back to a previous page. Breadcrumb navigation is one example of how to do this effectively
For example, a top-level hierarchy heading may be displayed with a larger font size. These visual differences can guide the user’s eye to more important information first. It can also be the job of the visual designer to help differentiate these areas.
Methods To Test Your Navigation:
Card sorting is a generative UX research method that reveals users’ mental models by having them arrange topics into groups that make sense to them.
Card sorting sessions can be classified as one of two types — open or closed. Open card sorting is the more flexible option of the two. Here, users are free to organize the cards you supply into groups that make sense to them, and then come up with their own names for these groups. They are also free to rename cards or make their own suggestions for new cards if they wish.
This type is best when you want to understand how users would group your content. Gathering their ideas and suggestions for names and labels goes a long way to making your website more intuitive.
The alternative method, closed card sorting, is where the categories or labels are fixed. This is useful when you want to understand how users fit content into an existing structure. It’s also used when new content needs to be added to a website.
As an example, consider an e-commerce website and the top-level categories they might have for their products, such as technology, home and garden, and sports and leisure. Now suppose that the store has started stocking a new range of products that have just been launched. Which top-level category on the website should these products be added to? Involving users in a closed card sort could help you to arrive at an answer.
By using a wireframe or prototype, ask participants to complete a specific task by navigating through the site. You can use a clickable wireframe to test this by observing how clear it is for a user to carry out the activity. An example task (refer to the wireframe below) might be to register on the website and then make a booking for a single event and publish it.
Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It is also known as reverse card sorting or card-based classification.
A large website is typically organized into a hierarchy (a “tree”) of topics and subtopics. Tree testing provides a way to measure how well users can find items in this hierarchy.
The test is used to determine how and why users use a website (or a product). It is one of the qualitative testing techniques. The answer to the question ‘why?’ is such valuable information that can help you design and get better results.
1. Treejack is a tool that allows you to validate your navigation structure. It asks the participants to indicate where they would look to find specific information and provides you with insightful actions.
This visual sitemap generator is more than just that—sure you can create, customize, edit, and share your interactive sitemaps, but you will also be able to take care of your content inventory, content audit, and keyword tracking. Integrated with Google Analytics, display and share all of the most important data related to your website.
3. For you Mac fans, xSort enables creating and grouping various content listings using a computer version of the tried-and-true 3×5 index cards on a table theme. Handy for use when conducting card-sorts, it’s easy enough to use for almost all your participants and will help identify from the user’s perspective the proper grouping of content items.
4. WebSort.net and PlainFrame.com – while these sites also offer paid licensing, there are free versions of the studies that you can run and gather some great feedback on your IA.
Apart from these, a simple piece of paper and pen or pencil can be is simple to use, fast and effective for IA. Listing out content items, then asking others to draw circles around similar groupings is a great way to facilitate information architecture analysis and optimization. Online white boards, Excel sheets and powerpoint are simple tools that can be used for organising information.
Why is IA Important?
We live in a time where our access to information is unprecedented. It is instantaneous, it is global, it is everywhere, it is the Internet. News stories are broadcast as they unfold, communication with friends and family in other parts of the world has never been easier, and Google has become our personal library of virtually limitless topics. Information is king and queen.
A Final note,
While creating a new website or developing an existing one, the effective structure and organisation of information across the site is essential. Information architecture can be best understood by comparing these two images:
Organizing books doesn’t just make it easier to find what you’re looking for — it also makes you more likely to actually pick up a book and read. In the similar way, a well structured website appeals the user more and results in a good profit for the company.
Crafting content and structure with the user in mind should be a primary consideration.Information architecture is about putting the user at the heart of the design process to ensure that the site is being built for them. A good website structure that intuitively works for users is much more likely to be valued by any search engine.
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