Information Architecture: The Building Blocks of Smart Design
Usually when people think of “architecture,” they picture building blueprints. But that structure not only has to be designed to stay upright, it has to serve its functional purpose. People need to be able to easily navigate from one section to the next. That’s where information architecture comes in.
Information architecture is an element of smart design that is as relevant for those building towers as it is for the Cleveland graphic designers building your website.
Good information architecture helps people understand their surroundings and quickly find what they are looking for. When information is clear, accessible and aesthetically pleasing, users have better experiences. That is what you want for your customers!
You can find information architecture in:
- Printed materials
It’s even found in some physical spaces (think airports, theme parks, etc.).
In the context of web design, information architecture is the way in which content on your website is organized, labeled and structured.
Unfortunately, some companies are content to simply “let it happen.” But here’s the reality: Intuitive navigation doesn’t occur by chance. It really should be the backbone of every website because visitors are going to bounce quickly if they don’t find what they need right away.
The information architecture experts at Go Media know that by establishing a well-formulated strategy for your presenting content, your site becomes infinitely more user-friendly.
Think of it this way: Architects involved in brick-and-mortar projects have to balance the competing demands of structural integrity, functionality and beauty when creating blueprints for a building. In the same way, information architects have to balance the need for information systems that are functional, thorough, concise and eye-catching.
Can you build a structure without an architect? Probably, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. It’s the same with websites and information architects.
In the end, both types of architects want to create spaces for people that are going to be predictable, safe, enjoyable and even inspiring.
With information architecture, the goal is to guide user experience so visitors can easily find information and complete tasks. To do this effectively, you have to understand how all these pieces fit together in the grand scheme and how items should relate to one another on a page.
How Information Architecture Works
Peter Morville, co-author of, “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” explains the whole point of information architecture is to assist users in understanding:
- Where they are;
- What they have found;
- What’s around;
- What to expect.
That informs the primary components of information architecture, which include:
- Organization structures and schemes – The way in which you structure and categorize the information on your site.
- Labeling – How the information is represented.
- Navigation – How visitors will move through that information.
- Search systems – How users can find that information.
From there, our designers can move on to the prototyping and wireframing processes. (If information architecture is the backbone, the wireframe is the rest of the skeletal structure. It allows our designers early in the process to effectively convey the layout of information and visuals across a page, usually with colorless boxes .)
The information architects at Go Media know how to create these systems with an understanding of the interdependent nature of users, the content they are seeking an the context in which they are trying to do it. So in layman’s terms, this means making sure:
- Visitors know they are in the right place, and always make it clear to them where they are.
- It’s easy for users to find what they are looking for.
- Users know all their options (i.e., “Related Products,” or “See Also”).
- The call to action is clear.
In working to improve the design flow and architecture of your digital landscape, we start with meticulous research that may involve:
- Competitor analysis;
- Reading through academic papers on human and computer interactions;
- Testing ideas on real users.
We work to improve the design flow of your digital landscape.
Information Architecture vs. Information Design
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are in fact different. Information design was first in the game, but has since become a component of information architecture.
- Information Design: Involves the intersection of visual design, technical communication and human factors, such as usability. Rather than concern itself with the actual text, it’s more about how the information looks on a page, the choice of typefaces and how the information is ordered.
- Information Architecture: Is the art and science of organization information in a way that helps people effectively fulfill their informational needs. It involves, research, analysis, design and execution.
Each draws from understanding of library science, architecture and cognitive psychology. Both information design and information architecture are tools that help improve user experience design.
Good digital service is about more than basic functionality. Users have to feel good about the site and the way it works. That’s where information architecture can help.
Two additional important elements of information architecture are User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
UI refers to the way in which people interact with a technological device. User Interface design involves anticipating the needs of users and then ensuring the interface makes those elements easily accessible and understandable. This involves keeping the interface simple, creating consistency with use of common elements, being purposeful with page layout and strategically using color and texture to your advantage.
UX refers to the way in which users experience and perceive a website. They’ll be asking, “Does it give me value?” “Is it easy to use?” “Is it pleasant to use?” User experience design is a way to make them answer “Yes!” to all of these questions, and in turn reduce bounce rates, improve SEO and increase sales.
To learn more about our Cleveland information architecture services, call Go Media at 216.939.0000 or contact us online.