Who needs Information Architecture?

Information Architecture, henceforth written IA, is many things to many people. Without knowing it we partake in IA on a daily basis. How we create a list for the shops, how we organize the boxes when we move house, how we search for our favorite content online, results in us actively engaging in the wonderful world of IA. Those obsessed with the digital world of IA and how you search and digest information online spend a lot of time creating an information architecture that ensures you don’t have to.

“The practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable” — Information Architecture Insitute

Information architecture results in the creation of site maps, hierarchies, categorizations, navigation, and metadata.

You might not realize when you are experiencing great IA but you’ll definitely know when you aren’t. Great IA is intuitive to the user, the content, and the platform, it knows where you want to go, often before you do, and it has a wonderful pathway of discovery laid out for you. If the internet is a city, and the buildings are websites, then IA is the blueprint for how you (the resident) navigate your way around those buildings. The basic aspects of IA are the actual page structure, navigation, taxonomy (no, not the stuffing of dead animals), and labeling.

Page Structure

Understanding who will land on a particular website means the IA has an idea of what that user will want to see first, it will display the information in a way that flows intuitively for the user. If the IA is correct the user sees exactly what they expected to see in the order they needed to see it.

Navigation (or Nav if you’re super 😎)

Off the back of the ‘page structure’ is how the user navigates their way around the site, a site's navigational success is hinged on whether the IA is intuitive and learnable for the user.

Taxonomy

When a site can categorize or group similar content for users, making what they want to find easier, the user experience is transformed and can make or break a site visit.

Labeling

Through meaningful user-centered research, this part should be a breeze. Labeling should make total sense to the user, you’ll know what the names, or labels, of the different pages, links, and areas on a website should be because they have essentially told you in the research.

“The presentation of information can be more important than the information itself.” — Gary Wolf (discussing IA founder Richard Saul Wurman’s impact in the world of information)

So as alluded to in the title, we all need IA, more than we realize sometimes, and if you want to know more check out this video (because sometimes the information format needs a mix-up too).

Take it away Dan Klyn

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