Information Architecture Basics

There are several ways to define or conceptualize what information architecture is. Naema Baskanderi, a senior product manager at the online auto marketplace Adesa, relates information architecture to a library. Jeff Link is a Built In contributing reporter covering design, UX and product development.

What is Information Architecture

Organizing website’s data and content affects usability, conversions, and ranking. Ranking places the website higher in the search results, usability makes the website easy to use, and a seamless flow leads to a higher conversion rate. If you have repetitive content, or index huge amounts of poorly defined content, it could adversely affect your SEO. We live in a world where people want instant gratification. This, combined with an overload of information and choice means you really have to deliver the right content at the right time.

Information architecture is the process of planning and organizing the layout and content of a website, app or social media platform. The goal of information architecture is to ensure that users can easily navigate an online interface. Information architecture is a crucial element in designing an outstanding dashboard.

Information Architecture Systems

Over the last two years, Uber has attempted to reduce microservice complexity while still maintaining the benefits of a microservice architecture. With this blog post we hope to introduce our generalized approach to microservice architectures, which we refer to as “Domain-Oriented Microservice Architecture” . Data architecture maps the structure of an organization’s data and how the data flows to serve business objectives. Designing effective data architecture requires knowledge of both data needs and business processes. A common approach to filtering is to use drop-down menus that allow users to choose specific criteria for the data they want to see.

What is Information Architecture

Below is the IA for the mobile app of a client that design agency Pixel Fridge worked with. The six purple boxes represent the major sections of the museum’s website — but user research and testing showed that not all six were considered equally important. Since a website’s content structure depends on the specific needs of the user, no structure will look exactly the same. The IA of an ecommerce store can look completely different from a blog and still meet users’ needs.

And, because so many sales still rely on word of mouth, especially in the service sector, this can have a knock-on effect and impact their whole network of potential customers. Interestingly enough, this ‘science of order’ does not have one unified definition that experts would agree on. But they all agree that, in one way or another, IA is the practice of organizing content in an effective way.

Information Architecture Diagram

Users comprise the audience, tasks, needs, experiences and how they seek information. The process below is tailored to creating IA for a website, but you can easily take the process and adapt it to non-digital products. When the information architecture information architecture for web design makes it easy for users to find what they are searching for, the cost of live help will decrease significantly and so will the need of the written documentation. Lost business is one of the most obvious consequences of poor customer-facing IA.

The articles in this section cover what information architecture is and how it relates to navigation. Being a successful information architect also requires an understanding of how people seek out information, and we cover common organizational structures that support those behaviors. In addition, this section covers best practices for categorization and common reader questions about acceptable practices for global-navigation breadth and depth. This article is a compilation of our articles and videos on topics related to information architecture. Information architects spend their time structuring content so it’s easy for users to find what they are looking for.

They sometimes include animations, branding, or final content. But the most important thing a prototype does is to show how the digital product will function. At this point in the process, you’ll want to decide whether search can improve the user experience on your website. With this in mind, try to avoid words and phrases that are specific to your company or other terms that might be new to your users. If you have limited time and resources, you can make educated guesses. But it’s best to do frequent user testing and to use that research to inform each section.

  • Creating a UX flowchart helps stakeholders visualize how users will interact with your proposed web design.
  • Next, try some of the processes that information architects use.
  • How to develop a taxonomy for your information architecture – Taxonomy refers to how information is grouped and classified within a shared information environment.
  • Where teams create the world’s best experiences at scale, powered by the leader in creative tools.
  • Data comes from different sources and also in various forms.
  • Users can easily understand what the company does, find the information they’re looking for, or browse wherever they are on the site.

Information architecture also gives businesses greater control over how their content is organized, displayed and distributed across new technologies and applications, even ones they don’t own. One of the best ways to get familiar with using IA principles in your designs to observe the content structure of other successful products and practice using similar strategies in your own work. This strategy in combination with the tips listed above can help you create products that are easy to navigate, a breeze to use, and help user’s meet their needs with ease. Though not obvious, information architecture is the engine that helps your users find and digest your content. The truth is, no one wants to eat steak off of a garbage can, even if it’s wagyu. Making sure that your content is structured in a way that is helpful to teams means your users won’t feel like they’re eating out of the trash.

The entirety of the application functionality is separated into two tiers in a 2-tier client-server architecture. In this architecture, the database mostly functions as a separate entity. Customer interviews and online card-sorting exercises — in which test users group products by their relationships — help validate assumptions about user habits and inclinations. Are shoes and bags appropriately grouped together as accessories? Should the categories “men” and “women” take precedence to apparel type? A logical hierarchy refers to the organization and arrangement of information based on its significance or importance.

You’ll understand the role of a UX designer within an organization and what it takes to overcome common challenges at the workplace. You’ll also learn how to leverage your existing skills to successfully transition to and thrive in a new career in UX. In the first lesson, you’ll learn what user experience design is and what a UX designer does.

Tips to Improve Discoverability in UX

To identify these, you must know who the user is (ie. who will be consuming the content), what value the content provides them, and how they actually use the content. People perceive information, products and services as places made of language. IA is used in physical spaces like museums or department stores, as well as in websites and applications.

What is Information Architecture

This simple phrase lets shoppers know that once they click the link they will see the most popular products on the site. For example, The National Endowment for the Arts website has common labels like «News» and «About,» but it also has unique labels like «Grants» and «Initiatives» that relate to what the NEA does. While it can be tempting to use the same terms for your labels that you used while you created your categories, this may not be the best strategy. As you review your site content you will probably find some content that doesn’t quite fit.

If so, your sign-up pages – and how to get there – should be carefully crafted with UX research. If it’s too complicated, no one will register or give their personal data, which means you’ll struggle to make profits or demonstrate traction. If there is a bad IA for internal content, it can result in wasted time and reduced productivity. In 1999, the International Data Corporation conducted research into knowledge workers to find out the financial cost of this. They considered things like how long workers spend searching for information each week and how much time they spend creating content that already exists because they couldn’t find it. They estimated the cost of this “knowledge work deficit” at $5000 per employer every year.


Created by designer Alex Gilev, this file contains an easy-to-use IA template and a Google Doc outlining the content structure of a real project he created. The template contains simple blocks for showcasing the flow of your app or website. You don’t need third-party software to edit this template — you can use the presentation software app Keynote.

This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

Content inventory, content grouping, and content audits

As with most projects, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you want your final outcome to be or look like before starting. Being clear about product goals from the very beginning helps your team determine what tasks need to be accomplished and where to start. Structuring and organizing content blindly can lead to miscommunication, wasted resources or unnecessary work, and increases the possibility that your product won’t be satisfactory to the user. Depending on the stage of your development, whether you have existing content to work with, or you’re starting from scratch, your information architecture needs will change.

Information Architecture and Content Engineering

The content of a website, app, or other digital product is the main reason people seek the product out. Valuable content can draw site visits and drive user engagement, but keeping the content simple to find and navigate through is just as important. Utilizing good IA in your UX work helps minimize the friction users experience so they can browse or search for specific content with ease. If you’re new to the practice of information architecture, start here!

Information architecture (IA) impacts user experience

Each group in this picture, noted by the green boxes, leads to a limb, or page that helps keep track of the goal for each box of information. Are they there to learn something, to buy something, or to do anything in between? Understanding this is critical because, if there are no actions to take, the user will get bored/confused and leave. The latest articles about interface usability, website design, and UX research from the Nielsen Norman Group. Want even more guidance on information architecture, with a chance to practice some of the methods? Our full day course on IA explores these themes in more detail.

Flow Design Processes – Focusing on the Users’ Needs

“The need for talent will increase in parallel especially for individuals with a dual technology and business skill set,” he says. For users, good information architecture design will help them find what they are looking for, but that’s just one of its functions. It can also help users explore and find things they might want, but don’t yet know that they do. For example, a website customer searching for oranges could be recommended other fruits they might want to try, or be offered juicers. Do more user testing with your initial user group to test your final website labels and categories.

IA is a crucial step in the creation of any digital product. Whether you’re designing your first website or building an app for your business, you need a logical structure. Other steps include content inventory, user research and testing, wireframing, and prototyping. Let’s talk about how to create information architecture for your website. If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses.

Besides a navigation header with drop-down menus and a search box, there’s a big footer at the bottom of each page. This footer contains important navigation links as well as a short description of the company. Users can easily understand what the company does, find the information they’re looking for, or browse wherever they are on the site. Once you find the content types you’ll have and how they relate to each other, then you can begin mapping how to best provide this information to visitors. Now let’s look at some important guidelines to follow when designing information architecture.

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