Information architecture at a glance

by Monica Ferraro on 3 March 2015

Saturday 21st February was World IA Day 2015. IA standing for information architecture. World Information Architecture Day is a one-day annual conference hosted by the Information Architecture Institute and held in different cities across the world. The aim is to bring professionals together and discuss a different theme every year. This year’s theme was ‘Architecting Happiness’.

What is Information Architecture?

The Information Architecture Institute defines IA as: 'The art and science of organizing and labelling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.’ Here at Webcredible we define IA as: ‘The design of a structure for interactive information and content. It maps relationships, hierarchies, labelling and navigation schemes based on users expectations and needs’. In simple terms, information architecture is the way we structure and organise information and content in websites and digital products, to help users finding information and completing tasks easily and quickly. Users need to know where they are and where they need to go to find what they are looking for, what is around and what to expect. To achieve this, we need to have a good understanding of:

  • Structure and layout: what each page or unit of content should contain, and in what order
  • Scheme: used to give meaning to the structure. How we categorize and structure information
  • Labelling: how we represent information – talking the user’s language and using a vocabulary that is consistent and easily understood
  • Navigation: how users browse and move through information, and find their way around the website
  • Search: how users look for information
  • Content: the data that makes up a digital product, including: text, images, videos, etc

Fitting it all together

To fit all of this together we can use the following techniques:

  • Tree testing: is a method to test the findability of different parts of a website. Participants are asked to try to ‘find’ items based on their categorisation and labelling only
  • Card sorting: This helps to organise content into a topic-based schema. Participants are given some cards with a piece of content written on each and are asked to sort them into groups that makes sense to them
  • Page Description Diagrams: PDD is a method for documenting the content required fora specific page without specifying an exact layout
  • Underpinning all of this is a thorough understanding of the audience, business and organisational goals, so we can deliver right information to the right user at the right time

These are only a few of many techniques used to ‘Architect Happiness’. If you want to learn more about Information Architecture, and other research methods, we have a training course that can help.

Why is Information Architecture important?

Usability is most definitely one of the critical success factors for websites and digital products. Good information architecture is essential for an information-based system that makes sense to the users. It helps users find necessary information, carry out tasks and achieve their goals. Resources

  • World IA Day 2015
  • The Information Architecture Institute
  • Architecting happiness

 

Keen to find out more? Check out our training course on IA!

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