Why is IA so important?
Information architecture—the organization and hierarchy of information, particularly in the context of website design, is an increasingly important topic in digital design. To make your website as effective and easy to navigate as possible, you need a clear and sophisticated information architecture plan that is based on how the user perceives the experience. Your website should be as painless for the user to navigate as possible, with accessibly presented information, intuitive pathways throughout the site and a structure that categorizes content in a way that makes sense for people and programs.
A well-organized website not only reduces pain points and increases customer satisfaction, it provides the opportunity for data gathering and responsiveness to feedback. It also makes it easier to present a consistent tone and branding message across the website while reducing duplication and redundancy in the least confusing way possible. But it’s not easy. Websites can be complicated and repetitive, with multiple pathways to the same point from a search engine, from various digital marketing channels, from social media or even through a direct click.
Once users have arrived at your website, there are a variety of journeys that they may navigate; it is rare for any given user to follow a particular and pre-defined path. Journey mapping is an important process that must inform your information architecture as you analyze how users flow through the site. As you design your website, consider the multiple touch-points and taxonomies that the user will encounter, and ensure that at each stage they have access to the content they need to complete their journey. This includes intuitive sitemaps and navigation tools, and it also includes a consistent message and design, leading to a seamless experience that reflects your brand message and promise.
Even as you expand and grow your brand and your website, it is vital to maintain the same structure across new additions, and to make sure they connect easily and intuitively to one another. Expansion leads to additional information and content that may be added without attention to navigation pathways, leading to a more confusing site that is difficult to navigate. It is important to keep repetition and duplication to a minimum to keep the flow as intuitive as possible. As you add content, you must constantly reevaluate your overall information architecture across all sections to make sure the site continues to make sense from the user’s perspective.
The Key Components of Information Architecture
- Organization Schemes & Structures - how information is structured and categorized
- Labelling Systems - how information is represented and defined
- Navigation Systems - how users browse and navigate through information
- Search Systems - how users look for and find information
A well-designed website offers tremendous opportunity for insights and information analysis. As you build your website, make sure you can easily access data about your customers’ journey and navigation patterns within the site, their path to the site and their conversion rates once they are there. Don’t take shortcuts—it will make it more difficult for users to navigate the site, and their navigation and brand experience will be compromised. A seamless website journey with streamlined content and an intuitive structure can highlight your brand’s values and build customer loyalty and commitment.