Just like it sounds, Information Architecture suggests that the content on a site needs to be thought out and taken into consideration over everything else when it comes to a development project. One of the most difficult things to do is design a site that is lacking some ( or sometimes all ) content. It is very important that a site takes into strong consideration the information that is being presented to the user and makes a good effort to help them better understand what they are reading.
Users make a subconscious decision about a site within 1/20th of a second and if you get past the initial ‘gatekeeper’ you will be helped a lot by having a site that has a well throughout IA structure. Not only does this help your site to appear more professional and appealing but it most importantly helps users to understand what they are reading. Much like graphic design, if the IA is there and it is done well you will never notice. However, if you go to site that has been poorly thought out in terms of the structure of content you might not pick it out as ‘bad IA’ but you will feel it and that split second decision will not go in your site’s favor.
What does this mean to clients? The same thing every web designer with a blog will tell you, Content is King! It is more true than ever when you have a specific objective in mind for visitors of your site. Good IA allows you to help control the flow of information, how users are presented with the content and ( hopefully ) how they take in that information. Here are some quick points to explain the method for planning out this seemingly daunting task:
- Understand the information as well as the message that the client is trying to get across. This is a crucial step that cannot be missed.
- Use information-grouping exercises to help figure out what types of information fit best together and have other people do the same. Compare the results to get the most effective method.
- Take those results and use it to decide the most common ways that people seem to take in the site’s content.
- Create a ‘rough draft’ of the overall layout of the information to get the main points nailed down.
- Make sure this draft reflects the results from your IA excersise in step 2.
- Figure out the most common things that a user will need to do on the website. You will want to make sure that the site makes these tasks easy to understand and logical for them to navigate ( Usability! ).
After all of that is done, we test it out and revise. It helps having various different people do the same thing and make sure the result makes sense to a broad range of people. There are other things that come along with this process but like the list above, it is up to your web designer to handle. This opens the door for next week’s article on another crucial element your web design must have. Check back for my article expanding on usability!.