A while ago my co-workers were talking about IA and I have to admit I had no clue what they were talking about. Oh, Information Architecture, I was told. Architecture? I thought we building websites, not buildings. I still didn’t know what they were talking about, so I decided I better start doing some research.
I would like to give some real physical world examples.It is not immediately clear how you would get into this home. You have to think about it and maybe even walk around the home to find the door.
Now this is obvious. There is the front door with steps leading up to it. We know what that means.
Blank doors give us no clues as to what is behind the doors.
Even labeled doors don’t give us clues if they are poorly labeled.
Good Labels can make all the difference in the world.Think about our physical world and how we navigate around in it. What clues do we use to know where to go to get what we need or want?A lot of what we use is consistency. Something we have seen many times before give those things meaning.In this picture the Family door may be a new concept to some, but the concept is becoming more prevalent. And in the context of Men Women Family it would probably be pretty easy to pull out the meaning of Family. Remember that in the physical world we have the true physical clues to help us. In the digital world things can be very different. For example, if you go into a store, you know as long as you are in that building you are in that store. Even a different department is still in the same store. But in the digital world clicking on links can take you to a different environment entirely. So again consistency and good labeling is very important to show you are either still in the same site or in a new site entirely.
Information Architecture is all about organizing and labeling for ease of use and “findability”.The popularization of the term "findability" for the Web is usually credited to Peter Morville.
From the “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” book http://oreilly.com/catalog/9781565922822by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter MorvilleIn order to make good choices for your website you do need to consider these three items. The users – What types of individuals do you expect to visit or make use of your site. Is this for the world at large or a specific group. Your site might be created differently for a specific group such as electrical engineers for example. The content – What kind of content will make up your site. Informational, Educational, Marketing, Sales, Fun? Text, Audio, Video?The context – What is your site about and what are your goals for this site. Do you want to make a sale? If so you want to make this as easy as possible to make that sale. Thoughtless. To inform or educate you want to make finding the information as effortless as possible. Another helpful book I have found that is an easy and entertaining read is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.
Navigation typically uses a logical hierarchy. Make your Navigation easy to Navigate – Users tend to get very frustrated by “moving” navigation. Use common words in your navigation. Don’t be so cutesy and use made up words people won’t know and won’t what you are talking about. Break your text up into sections: Content Chunking – Have all the content available and in chunks so it is easy to scan over quicklyMake sure links are obvious – don’t make your users search for links or guess where links might be(No Mine Sweeping required) and make sure the links work
Searching – AlphabeticalChronologicalGeographical – think locationsBy role – student – faculty – staffBy Task Taxonomies – Categories, Tags, or Metadata to group itemsCall to Action - Make it easy to complete an Action- Register or Make a purchase etc
Remember you are creating this site for your users not for you! Sometimes what you may think is important is not so important to your users. Ask your friends to use the site. Do Card Sorter testing. Do User Testing. Talk to Customer Support Staff. What questions do they get the most? Can you do something with your site to easily answer those questions?
What is information architectureanyway?And Why Should I Care?
Information ArchitectureFrom Wikipedia:Information architecture (IA) is theart and scienceof organizing and labelingwebsites, intranets, online communities andsoftware tosupport usability.
Three circles ofinformation architectureAn image that appears in the polar bear book - "Information Architecture forthe World Wide Web" by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. Their Venndiagram places IA at the intersection of content, users and context of use.
Things to think about for IA -Ease of Use and Findability• Good, clear, consistent navigation• Headings that make pages easy to scan• Proper linking• Structure that suits the purpose and flowseasily
Things to think about for IA -Continued• Different ways to search the site• Taxonomies that make it easy to find like items• Call to Action
Good Sites• Give Users what they want– That they can find without much thought• Balance the needs of Users against the Goalsof the business