Every year, companies are leaving millions of Euros on the table by not creating well thought out information architecture. Money is lost because customers are not able to navigate around their websites. Customers leave unsatisfied and go elsewhere to find the products and services they need.
Moving from page to page through a website, you are using the website navigation. It’s not something people think too much about but getting the navigation wrong is like expecting someone to find their Hotel in a new city without a map.
Users can easily get lost trying to find what they are looking for. Frustration sets in and in two clicks they’re gone to your competitor’s website. There must be web-graveyards full of abandoned shopping carts.
Website Information Architecture is important in helping you design a site such that the user can achieve their goals and get where they are going with as little effort as possible.
So what is Information Architecture?
Information architecture (IA) is the creation of a structure for a website, application, or other projects, that allows us to understand where we are as users, and where the information or content we want is in relation to our position.
Much like the architectural plans of a building, IA describes the skeleton of the project. Content, Visual elements, functionality, interaction and navigation are built according to the IA principles. IA principles are the guides to good IA such as the principle of front doors.
This principle states that one must assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page. Learn more about IA principles here.
“Every year, companies are leaving millions of Euros on the table by not creating well thought out information architecture.”
From the point of view of the team or teams designing and building of a website, the IA provides the important role of keeping everyone on the same page during development.
Much like you find on a building site where all the contractors be they builders, plumbers or electricians, everyone needs a blueprint to follow. The AI informs the client, the project manager, the UI designer, the developer and the content creator what information goes where.
IA as part of the Design Process
IA fits into our process as follows:
- Client brief
- Discovery / research
- Information Architecture
It’s important to note that throughout the process the IA is a document that may change to make improvements to the overall user experience. When changes are made, it is vital to make amendments to the original IA document so that designers, content creators and developers are kept abreast of any changes.
“Getting navigation wrong is like expecting a person to find their Hotel in a new city without a map”
The structure depends on a number of factors. First of all, the specific needs of the target audience are paramount as user satisfaction is the priority of IA. If you are considering a redesign then a look at traffic stats will give you an indication of how people are using the site and what path they take to get to where they are going.
Heat mapping can also help by offering you a visual image of where users are moving around the site.
You have to think about the user journey and consider how you can simplify it. Consolidating pages such as products and services might shorten the users journey. Also consider how you label menus and buttons.
Your users shouldn’t have to think about what’s behind the next click, it should be intuitive.
Are IA and UX the same thing?
AI would be best described as a particular part of the User Experience (UX) process. IA is the description the content structure of the design which will then produce the a wired skeletal frame or blueprint (known as wireframes). of the project.
These are the basic building materials on which a UX designer builds the project.
Good IA makes a product easy to use providing its combined with good design thinking. Design thinking is a method for the practical, creative resolution of problems using the strategies designers use during the process of designing.
The two together will give the product a strong user experience.
IA are the content and information plans on which UX is built. UX design takes the plans to another level, providing a useful, relevant, meaningful and enjoyable experience. Achieving these goals and meeting business goals is the difference between apps and websites that succeed and those that fail.