Before you get all fidgety after listening to the term ‘Information architecture’, let us inform you that it is nothing but, a simple, yet important, part of effective UX designing.
Information Architecture has, over the years, become a fundamental study in many spheres; and, has a major part to play in graphic designing.
Consider this, your target consumers are accustomed to finding exactly what they need and where they expect it to be, when they visit your website or mobile app.
Now, if we the consumers are having a tough time finding the content they are looking for, they’d give up within a few seconds and move on.
This is why near perfection has become a must to survive in the competitive tech environment.
The job of an information architect is to maintain a competitive advantage by making sure things are where they should be; which is not always easy.
As a standard part of the UX design process, designers create information architecture when working on a website or mobile app. In the process, they define every avenue and path that users can take through an app or website. And, this makes information architecture much more than just a sitemap to show what page leads where.
So, what exactly is Information Architecture and why is important for successful graphic design? We discuss this, and more, in this article.
What is Information Architecture?
In simple terms, “Information architecture (IA) is a science of organizing and structuring content of the websites, web and mobile applications, and social media software. It is the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.”
Think of it as what builders and architects do while using a blueprint to construct every part of a house.
From physical structures to more complex inner workings like electrical and plumbing, Information Architecture describes the hierarchy, navigation, features, and interactions of a website or application.
And just as blueprints are the most valuable document for an architect to use in the construction of a building, Information Architecture can be the most powerful tool in a designer’s arsenal.
So, what is the need of Information Architecture in graphic designing?
Well, Information Architecture aims at organizing the content offered to the consumers in order to make it simpler for them to get adjusted to the functionality of the product and could find everything they need without much effort.
In all honesty, even compelling content elements and powerful UI design can fail without appropriate application of Information Architecture.
When you have unorganized content on your web page or mobile site, it makes navigation difficult and inexplicit, such that the users can easily get lost and feel annoyed.
And, it is no secret that if the users face first bad interaction, they may not give the second chance to your brand.
How do you, then, design an appropriate Information Architecture?
The method of structuring your web content depends on various factors.
You begin with considering the specifics of the needs of the target audience; since, IA puts user satisfaction as a priority. The challenge, when building IA, is in understanding how your app or website actually works from the user’s perspective, and how to organize that information into a readable, legible format.
The structure, also, depends on the type of the product and the offers companies have. For example, if we compare a retail website and a blog, we’ll see two absolutely different structures both efficient for accomplishing certain objectives.
Here is a step-by-step explanation of designing Information Architecture for your website;
Step 1:Group and label the content
Content is the heart of your website and, therefore, it should be taken seriously at the very start of the project.
It’s simple, you should build your website around the content; not the other way around.
Once you have all your content, prioritize it, group it, and label it accordingly.
Step 2:Define navigation and create site map
Now, once you have your content sorted, the next step is to define a clear navigation path in order for the website visitors to get to the content in simple steps. This is where your IA will come into the action.
Information architecture isn’t really visible to the visitors, but it presents a backbone of the website, and can be visually presented in spreadsheets and different types of diagrams and is then called a sitemap.
To create a sitemap, you need to have content, which is grouped and labeled, and then presented in a diagram.
Once that is done, you can create navigation – collection of UI elements that are connected in a meaningful way. Those can be anything from global navigation – menu, to local navigation, breadcrumbs, filters, footer, etc.
Step 3:User testing
Test early and test often!
Information Architecture best practices
Having a well-designed Information Architecture depends on some basic practices that one should follow. This includes;
Structure must be the focus
Yes, hierarchy plays an important part in Information Architecture design but, that is adjustable. The structure of your webpages, however, is something that would remain constant once designed.
Navigation must be logical
You cannot have a download button leading to a registration form page. Every step of the way has to make sense.
Follow the basic UX Process
You cannot design a comprehensive and successful Information Architecture without resources, research, or other assets or work. That’s like telling an author to write a book without an outline, or a programmer to code an app without prototypes.
Follow the blueprint
Just like map makers, who take everything into consideration, from mountain ranges to state borders, designers, too, must determine what goes into the IA design. Individual pages, specific user behaviors, the context for decision points, and so on.
Information Architecture is not constant
User behavior and interaction methods keep on changing with constantly changing trends. So, it is imperative that your Information Architecture design also adapts to these changes.
What are some of the best Information Architecture design tools?
There are several useful design tools that you can provide to your designers to create successful Information Architecture. Here is a list of some of the most recommended tools;
Draw.io; it is completely free for personal and professional use and automatically plugs into Google Drive. It is excellent for flowcharting, creating user flows and information architecture, and with Drive functionality, multiple people can work on the same document and see changes live. There’s also a free offline version.
Lucidchart; it is another great IA design tool with additional benefits like pre-built templates, many more integrations, a mobile app, and support for enterprise.
Omnigraffle; a popular design tool that works excellently for building and maintaining an IA design. However, Omnigraffle is Mac-only and requires separate purchases for the MacOS and iOS versions.
Visio; though Visio is an online-only tool but, highly efficient and one of the most used.
Realtimeboard.com; a cheap and easy-to-use tool that can be used to create charts, agile boards, customer journeys, personas, empathy blueprints, mind maps, organizational charts, and more.
Apart from these, you can also check tools like Balsamiq, MindMeister, MindManager, or XMind for creating successful Information Architecture designs.
In the information age we live in, it’s more important than ever before that every organization working with data is conscious of Information Architecture. They must plan ahead, plan carefully, and make sure that their content doesn’t turn into a headache for the consumers.
If all this discussion about Information Architecture sounds alien language to you, no need to fret over it. Our design experts at GraphicsZoo can help make it easier for you.
Speak to us today to learn more on how we can help at email@example.com