Just as constructing a house requires careful consideration of its design and the future residents, the process of designing a website involves similar deliberations. Information architects, akin to architects in construction, are responsible for shaping the blueprint of a website. Information architecture (IA) encompasses the skill full organisation, structuring, and labeling of digital content. In this article, we will explore practical examples of effective information architecture (IA).
Site mapping is the process of creating a visual representation or diagram that outlines the structure of a website. It lists all the pages on the website and their relationships to each other. This visual hierarchy helps users understand the organisation and navigation of the website. Colours might be used to indicate the priority or hierarchy of pages, making it easier for users to grasp the importance and flow of different content sections.
Content inventory and audit:
Content inventory involves creating a comprehensive list of all the content elements on a website, such as pages, images, videos, and documents. Completing a content audit involves evaluating the quality, relevance, and organisation of this content. This is particularly useful when a website has accumulated a lot of content over time and that content has become cluttered and disorganised. Organising and categorising content through this process can help both the users and the website owners understand what content is available and how it can be better structured to meet user and business needs.
Let's say you're managing a corporate website with years of accumulated content. A content audit might reveal that there are redundant articles, outdated information, and content in various formats. After the audit, you can categorise and prioritize content. For instance, you could classify content into sections like "News," "Product Information," "Blog," and "Resources," ensuring that users can easily find relevant information.
Information architecture diagram:
An information architecture diagram is a visual representation of how the various components of a website's user interface (UI) are interconnected and organised. It's like a blueprint that designers and developers can use to understand how different elements fit together. This includes not only the visible components that users interact with but also the underlying structure that supports those interactions.
Simple tree structure for clients:
Bogomolova's example of information architecture expands on basic site mapping by introducing elements like child pages and activities. Priority levels are denoted using numbers, which provides a clear understanding of the hierarchy. This way of representing information helps both designers and clients to understand the importance of different content sections and how they relate to each other.
Representing actions visually:
Information architecture and user journey maps share similarities, as they both visually represent how users interact with a website. They provide insights into user behaviour and guide the design process. While information architecture focuses on the organisation and structure of content, user journey maps delve into the steps users take to complete specific actions or tasks on the website. Both contribute to creating a seamless user experience.
Consider an e-commerce website. A user journey map could illustrate the steps a customer takes to make a purchase:
- User arrives on the homepage
- User searches for a product
- User selects a product
- User adds the product to the cart
- User proceeds to checkout
- User completes the purchase
This visual representation helps identify potential friction points in the user's journey, allowing for improvements in the website's design.
Things to consider
When building your information architecture diagrams, content inventory, or site mapping, keep the following in mind.
- Understand your audience: When developing information architecture, it's crucial to consider your target audience's needs, preferences, and behaviour. Without this understanding, the architecture might not align with what users expect, leading to confusion and frustration.
- Use it to align teams: Information architecture can be a valuable tool for collaboration across different departments. By incorporating data needs, activities, and page templates into the architecture, discussions between teams are sparked, and a shared understanding of the website's goals and structure is developed.
In summary, information architecture plays a pivotal role in designing user-friendly and effective websites. It involves creating clear visual representations of a website's structure, content organisation, and user interactions. By employing techniques like site mapping, content inventory, and information architecture diagrams, designers and teams can create websites that are well-structured, easy to navigate, and aligned with both user and business needs.