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What is Information Architecture?

Sonal Panse,

What is Information Architecture

Information architecture deals with the structure and organization of a website. It takes into consideration the purpose and goals of the website, and also the way that visitors are likely to use the site. The content and design of the website is then planned and arranged accordingly, and in an easy to use and efficient manner.

The Purpose of Information Architecture

The point of information architecture is to manage complexity and avoid chaos. A website can have quantities of information, and this information, to make life easier for both content creators as well as website users, has to be sorted, categorized, and well-presented. It is better to streamline the task right from the start so that it is easy to add more content in the future, while allowing past content to remain accessible, and without disrupting the website design.

Things to Consider in Information Architecture

As mentioned, the first thing to consider is the purpose of the site. Why do you want a website? What do you hope to achieve with it, and what would you like your visitors to gain from it? It is important to give this a good deal of thought before embarking on a web design project.

You also need to know your targeted audience and have a good idea about how they are likely to use the site. Problems may arise if you don't consider user expectations when presenting information. To give an example, people have become accustomed to the About page being shown as the About page, and may not catch on immediately if you present it instead as 'Mrs Brown's Brilliant Baby' or something to that tune. Given the short attention spans people seem to have online, they may then go away without discovering your self-proclaimed merits.

Once you know your website purpose and its intended audience, you need to work out a content strategy for the site. What kind of content? How much space will it require? Where will it appear? With what frequency? How will it be displayed? If you have an efficient content arrangement and classification system, you will have an easier time adding new content to your site and your visitors will have an easier time finding it.

That brings us to the navigation system of the site. Have one, alright? You might also make it simple, understandable, and consistent. Generally, it's best not to go for too many deep links; the main menu, delineating the main categories, the sub-menu, and the site information menu (about, contact, privacy policy, terms and conditions, copyright notice, search, etc) can be sufficient. The navigation system links may be placed variously and separately at the top, at the sides, or at the bottom, depending on the website design. They need to be instantly noticeable and present throughout the site. Even if the user finds the site through a search engine and lands on an inner page, it is important that they be able to find the home page or any other page that might help them. You also need to consider the linking system within the site content. For example, the links embedded in an article can lead visitors to other useful content. It's a good idea to have links that change color so users know which pages they have already visited and which pages they still need to see.

Along with all of the above, information architecture, of course, considers the design of the site. The website needs to have a certain amount of uniformity throughout. You can, for instance, have main pages with a similar look and inner pages following the same pattern. Drawing wireframes is recommended as these can help you to plan out exactly where everything – the links, articles, videos, images, logo, titles, advertisements, etc - is to be placed, and to see if the content is going to be effective in that given location.