Information Architecture: The Basics of Building and Designing for the User

a man doing online shoppingWhen designing a structure, an architect considers more than just the building design. They also factor in the functionality of the structure, its integrity, sustainability, and security. All these are aimed toward one goal: to give the occupants a good experience in the building.

It’s the same with information architecture or IA.​

In a video, Cask LLC said that customer experience is one of the top business priorities today. This is why IA is everywhere — from the websites people visit and the applications they download to the printed materials handed to them. The main objective of IA is to give users a satisfactory experience, allowing them to get the information or answers they need, hassle-free.

Apart from architecture, IA is also rooted in psychology. IA specialists employ cognitive psychology to improve structure information. Specialists use, for example, the Gestalt principles or visual hierarchy.

People may have the misconception that IA is all about coding, website design, and content creation. But, in reality, it involves a lot more. IA specialists are responsible for arranging many parts of a website, an application, or a project to make it more comprehensible to users. For example, when a content strategist divides a bulk of content into several categories, this is information architecture.

User Research​

IA specialists cannot build for the user without knowing what the user wants or needs. For this reason, the first step toward structuring information is to research and analyze the target users. Information architects rely on usability tests, stakeholder interviews, and user interviews to create a user persona.

Research allows architects to learn why and how a user will use a website or an application and how the information provided will be utilized. User analysis also lets IA specialists identify which mental model they will use, as well as decide on data cataloging and website design.

App or Web Navigation​

An easily navigable website contributes a lot to a good user experience.

Information architects are responsible for identifying how information is presented and how it can be accessed. In order to make a website navigable, an IA specialist uses the results of user analysis and identifies the relationships of content with each other.

It’s also important to determine the hierarchy of information – that is to say, which information a user will need most and which information they are least likely to access. Planning for good website navigation starts at the sitemap, where website developers organize categories and subcategories.

Wireframing​

Wireframes are basically the first draft of a website or application design. It’s a two-dimensional representation of a web page’s interface and a guide on the location of content and features on the web page. Wireframes mainly focus on space allocation, content prioritization, and options availability.

When designing a wireframe, the designer does not use color, images, or styles. Although wireframes vary, there are standard elements that should be found in every site’s wireframe. These elements include the logo, headers, body content, contact information, and share buttons.

Labeling​

Usually, a content strategist organizes relevant documents, pages, links, and ideas. Content organization is important for navigation and site structure because it can help users access information more easily.

Items can be organized by file type, genre, subject or location. There is no standard for labeling, but it has to be appropriate for users. A good strategy is the subjective organizational approach, in which items are grouped by subject or genre. On the other hand, those who aim for a more straightforward approach can organize items chronologically.

In anything a business does, whether product design or information dissemination, user experience should always be the number one consideration. When a business meets a user’s needs, it provides a positive experience, which, in turn, can keep consumers loyal to the brand.