What is Information Architecture? Detail Summary
Information architecture aims to logically organize the content of a digital product so that the user can easily locate what they are looking for.
When we consult a product on a website to buy it, use a mobile application or look for information on a blog about a tourist destination, our user experience will depend, to a large extent, on the information architecture. The main independent of this discipline is to organize the content clearly and logically to make it easier for the user to locate what they are looking for easily.
The Information Architecture Institute defines information architecture (IA) as “the practice of deciding how to organize the parts of something so that it is understandable”, structuring the information of a digital product logically and clearly. AI is invisible to the user, but it plays a fundamental role in ease of use and access to different content: the more intuitive, flexible, consistent and scalable it is, the better your experience will be.
Information Architecture Components
Among the elements or structures of information architecture, the following stand out:
- Organization systems: it is the starting point. How we organize the information will be key for the user since if there is a clear and logical categorization, it will work as a guide. Depending on each digital product, it can remain done thematically, chronologically, geographically, alphabetically, etc.
- Labeling systems: help to identify the content. They are the elements of the navigation system (links, titles, names of each section, indexing terms). Labels can be textual or iconic, and the latter must always be accompanied by the former; that is, an image will necessarily also have text to facilitate its identification.
- Navigation systems: they group and order the content through categories. It makes it possible to guide us, facilitate navigation, identify the relationship between different ranges. We must remember that not all users navigate through a website following the same process. A good navigation system will allow everyone to do it regardless of their goals.
- Search systems used to find information based on a specific need. They can be reactive or proactive or a mixture of both.
- Controlled vocabularies: documentary languages made from a subset of natural language terms to facilitate the search and retrieval of information. In addition, it includes the semantic relationships between indexing terms.
Types of Navigation Structure in Information Architecture
The structure must follow a logical scheme, always combining two fundamental questions: what content we want to offer and how the user will access it. It is compulsory to find a balance between width and depth, between the different levels, and a kind of map to avoid getting lost between categories, titles, or sections.
- Hierarchical: it is the most used. It follows a “tree” scheme, making it easy for the user always to know where he is. For this, the different categories must be mutually exclusive.
- Hypertext: more flexible and creative than the previous one since the information is not organized linearly. However, this can cause the user to get lost, not understand the route, and not find what they are looking for and give up.
- Flat or linear: the simplest of all. You can go from the different blocks to the previous one and the next. Recommended if we want to follow a fixed itinerary.
- Network navigation: freer since other blocks can stay accessed from the origin without obvious order. It is not recommended when there is much content, as the user can easily get lost.
When considering the information architecture of a digital product, its particularities must remain taken into account: an online store is not the same as a corporate website. Specialists in information architecture design must know how to identify their objectives, organize the content, and label it to impact the user experience positively.
Taking care of these points in the context of digital products is of special relevance since a correct design of the information architecture is essential to improve communication and distribution of content to the user.
Why is Information Architecture so Important?
It may be that some entrepreneurs, managers and other decision-makers do not support an investment in information architecture. Because they ignore the importance it has for organizations and their clients. Maybe they can’t see practical use in a job like that.
To make it clearer how it is relevant, take your company’s site as an example and follow the following reasoning:
According to one of the biggest references in terms of digital marketing books. There are 4 questions that the user needs to answer quickly as soon as he enters a site:
- What’s this?
- What do you have here?
- What can I do here?
- Why should I be here and not somewhere else?
And so, does the design and operation of your site allow the visitor to answer these questions effortlessly?
That is where one of the biggest advantages of AI lies. In the context of digital artefacts, it enables the development of products and services to offer quality both in navigation and usability.
It is something that, without a doubt, requires a lot of effort to build. But it allows companies to save time and money by solving problems. Such as difficulties in understanding what can remain done within the site. These mishaps will eventually occur if care is not taken with the information architecture. And what’s worse: until they are fixed, they cause frustration for your audience.
In this way, by assessing the practice of AI measures, the brand prevents damage such as the migration of dissatisfied users to the competition. The complaints on claim sites that your site/app/program does not work as it should.
But that is not all. Some users blame themselves, who do not find what they are looking for. And also, feel confused by not understanding what they see on the screen. In this way, they go through a terrible experience and associate all that negative feeling with your company or some product or service.