Who do you call when you want to build a beautiful home? An architect. We all know this, but architecture also pertains to the information space, not just traditional buildings. Like buildings, digital products also require a strong foundation. Therefore, any designer who wishes to practice user-centered design must understand the fundamental principles of good information architecture.
Information architecture (IA) is the science of structuring and organizing the content of websites, web apps, mobile apps, and social media software. It is concerned with the organizing of information in digital products. When designers construct apps and websites, for example, they arrange each screen so that the user can quickly access the information they want. They also provide a flow that allows users to move quickly between screens. UX architects determine the correct organization and flow.
IA’S ROLE IN DESIGN
Since the user-centered approach in design is a top trend nowadays, many designers learn the principles of information architecture science; they believe it is a foundation of efficient design. IA shapes a skeleton for any design project. According to the information architecture principles, visual elements, functionality, interaction, and navigation are all built. Even the most powerful UI design and compelling content elements can fail without effective IA. Unorganized content makes navigating difficult and can cause users to become disoriented and irritated. If users have a negative first experience with your website, they may not return.
Many businesses disregard the value of information architecture because they believe it is impractical. It’s difficult to deny that IA takes time to develop and requires specific talents to execute effectively. However, strong IA ensures a high-quality result by reducing the likelihood of usability and navigation issues. In this way, well-thought-out information architecture can save the organization both time and money that would otherwise be spent on repairs and improvements.
IA AND UX
So isn’t IA the same as UX design? No. It’s crucial to recall what UX design is in order to appreciate the differences between the two. The way a person thinks and feels when utilizing a product, system, or service is referred to as user experience. Much more than the material structure, UX encompasses utility, usability, and delight from using the system.
At the same time, creating a solid user experience without a reliable information architectural base is nearly impossible. As a result, an effective user experience designer should also be a capable information architect.
COMPONENTS OF IA
If you want to create a solid information architecture for your product, you must first comprehend what it includes. Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, pioneers in the field of information architecture, identified four major components in the book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: organizing systems, labeling systems, navigation systems, and searching-systems.
These are the groupings or categories into which the data is broken down. This type of technology aids users in predicting where they will be able to access specific information quickly. Hierarchical, Sequential, and Matrix are the three main organizational structures.
- Hierarchical: Its primary purpose is to present content on the carrier, whether it’s a book page or a poster, a web page, or a smartphone screen, in such a way that consumers can comprehend the level of importance for each element. It’s founded on Gestalt psychological philosophy.
- Sequential: This structure creates a path for the users to follow. They work their way through the content, one step at a time to complete the task at hand.
- Matrix: Users can organize their information in a variety of ways. They can, for example, look through content that is organized by date, or they can choose to navigate by topic.
This system encompasses data representation methods. Because the product’s design demands simplicity, a large amount of information can be confusing to users. That is why designers build labels that convey a lot of information in a few words. For example, when the designers include the company’s contact information on the website, it usually contains the phone number, email address, and social media handles. Since designers cannot show all of this information on a single page, the button “Contact” in the page’s header is a term that prompts connections in the users’ minds without putting all of the information on the page. As a result, the labeling system aims to unite the data effectively.
In terms of IA, the navigation system refers to how users move through the content. It’s a complicated system that uses a variety of tactics and approaches.
This approach is used in information architecture to assist consumers in finding information within a digital product such as a website or an app. The searching system is only useful for products with a lot of information and where users could get lost. Designers should consider a search engine, filters, and various additional tools to assist users in finding material and planning how the data will appear after the search.
By devoting time to IA design, you provide the groundwork for a smooth user experience. Content is, after all, at the heart of every app or website. Content that is well-organized and structured aids users in interacting with a product, resulting in a positive experience.