Information Architecture, often written as IA, is the organization of information into a hierarchy to make it easier to use. IA gives structure to information including content organization, site structure and navigating hierarchy in website redesigns.
The importance of Information Architecture to the user’s experience
The term ‘Information Architecture’ dates from 1975 and is attributed to the American architect Richard Saul Wurman — around the same time, the term ‘internetworking’ was first abbreviated to ‘internet’. Now, more than half a century later, the internet is vast and new content is produced at an unimaginable pace.
For people to be able to sift through and process all that data, there needs to be a logical hierarchy and structure to the internet. On a macro level, that includes the structural elements of the internet such as top-level domains and URLs.
But IA is an important principle on individual websites as well, as it helps to lend logic to the site structure and navigation, as well as identifying areas where you need to fill in more detail. This leads to better decisions about usability and user experience, improving your site’s UX design in an informed way.
Information Architecture VS UX: What’s the difference?
User Experience is not the same as Information Architecture. However, IA can help you to make intelligent decisions about UX design. Good user-centered design makes it easy for users to find the information they want. That requires a logical framework for your website, good navigation and well-structured content.
It can also include technical solutions such as a sitemap that lists all your pages as part of a visual hierarchy on a single screen. But it also crosses over into the visual design of your website’s interface, the use of contrasting colors to make text more visible, and usability features like making sure navigational links are easy to tap on mobile screens.
Like UX, Information Architecture is as much an art as it is a science. Many of the decisions made about website wireframes, site structure and usability are highly subjective. This increases the opportunity to improve site navigation and UX design using IA, by keeping human users and human interaction in mind as a foundation when organizing your website hierarchy, framework and content.
Benefits of information architecture
Information Architecture should make the information you provide to your users easier to digest. It can also help you to structure your website and identify areas where you can add more useful content for the benefit of your end-users and to boost your SEO.
IA has applications across the remit of sales and marketing:
- Sensible site structure helps to make your website navigation more intuitive
- Logical content organization inspires intelligent website redesigns
- Better user experience increases retention and conversions
Good online marketing starts from the first wireframe stage of the website redesigns. IA helps you to make smarter choices about usability features including your page layout, navigation and site structure, ultimately driving visitors more effectively along your sales funnel toward conversion.
When designing your website framework, remember timeframe as well as wireframe – pages should be laid out in a way that gives end-users time to process the information on the page. This helps to avoid overwhelming your website visitors and direct the customer journey comfortably along your conversion paths.
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