Information Architecture (IA)

What is information architecture in UX?

Information architecture is the structure and organization of content in a digital experience (e.g. software, website, or mobile app). It’s typically represented using a spreadsheet or diagram and is referenced by UX designers, UI designers, copywriters, and developers throughout the implementation phase of the project. Each discipline will refer to the IA to ensure that each element of the product is aligned with the overarching plan.

Effective information architecture maps out a product’s core elements and functions (e.g. pages, screens, key actions, etc.) in a logical and intuitive way, ensuring that the end-user can easily engage with the product.

Who creates the IA?

This really depends on the team. In some cases, there will be a dedicated Information Architect, but this is not always required. UI/UX designers, copywriters, and developers can all be valuable contributors to information architecture as they must all think strategically about the user’s experience with the product.

Tips for creating an effective information architecture
1. Research your end-user

This can be achieved via user interviews, usability testing, online research, user personas, etc. When you have an in-depth understanding of your target audience, you are much better equipped to create a product they can easily interact with.

2. Complete a content audit

A content audit can be completed using a sitemap or spreadsheet outlining all of the pages or screens within a website product. An audit helps you understand the current organization of content and how certain pieces of content relate to each other. Mapping out content often helps you quickly identify areas for improvement.

3. Put yourself in the user’s shoes

User empathy is critical when creating information architecture – imagining yourself using the end product can make it easier to identify gaps in navigation or organization.

4. Create something familiar

Regularly test your strategy by comparing it with other products. While there is always room for creativity, introducing a brand new way of doing something might confuse or frustrate users. Try to make steps feel logical and familiar – this will cut down on onboarding time and help users to achieve their goals within the product.

5. Keep the product roadmap in mind

When creating information architecture, it’s important to leave room for growth. For example, if you are creating the IA for a software website, you might only have 5 feature pages to start. But, as the company grows, new feature pages may be needed. The structure of your website should make it easy to add in new feature pages, without a complete overhaul of the experience.

Relevant Terms

Prototyping

Prototyping is a crucial phase of any design project that uses an interactive, navigable version of wireframes to simulate how the final product will work.

Wireframing

Wireframing is an efficient and low-cost way to visually represent the structure and layout of a product or website before progressing further into design and development.

Sitemap

A sitemap (HTML or XML) is a file that contains a list of pages on your website.

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