Why Information Architecture is Important to Web Design
Information architecture is the backbone of an effective website. AT&T Website Solutions explains the basics of IA and its importance to web design.
Large and small business marketing and web hosting require careful attention to web design. Website design is so much more than creating an attractive site; no matter how good the pages look, if users can’t find what they’re looking for, they won’t come back. The underlying structure of the site, the blueprint, is called the information architecture design. Web designers use the foundation of information architecture to plan navigation systems and improve the users’ experience with the site.
What is Information Architecture?
Information architecture (IA) in web design is the art and science of organizing, structuring, and labeling content in ways that are both effective and sustainable. The goal of any IA plan is to help visitors to the website find the right information and complete tasks. Understanding how all the many pieces of information fit together and relate to one another within the system is at the heart of IA. Information architects create a structure that makes it easy for any user to easily recognize the following regardless of where they enter the website:
- where they are at any point
- what they’ve found
- what they can expect to come next
- what else they can expect
What are the Key Components of Information Architecture?
The key components of IA include the following:
- Solid, clear organization schemes and structures
- Strong labeling systems
- User-friendly navigation and search systems
Creating these systems involves understanding the complex interrelationships between the content being presented on the site, the business goals and culture of the organization, and the needs of users.
What is the Relationship Between IA and Navigation?
IA and navigation are closely related and an effective website requires both. IA comes first; just as you can’t build a building without blueprints, you can’t build a navigation system without IA. Information architects focus on tasks such as:
- Identifying common content features
- Bundling together similar types of information
- Linking topics
- Optimizing searches
Information architecture gives web designers a clear look at the big picture from the start.
How Does Information Architecture Improve the User Experience?
The user experience (UX) with a website is the single most important consideration in IA and website design. Users will not linger on confusing, difficult-to-navigate sites, but will quickly bounce out, perhaps never to return. The best UX does its job simply and creates loyal customers. Whether you’re creating an online store, a web directory, a news platform, or a business information site, having solid IA in place will help improve the user experience.
IA is the foundation; it defines the user’s goals and the structure needed to achieve those goals. UX takes that information and develops an interface that is pleasant and responds to the needs of the user. Good IA and good UX design go hand in hand; the two together are a powerful marketing tool that helps users find the latest blog post, their next new pair of jeans, or news about the world.
Information architecture is critical if you want users to understand and enjoy your site. You want to create a structure that users easily understand and can reasonably predict so they don’t go around in circles on your site looking for what they need. IA takes you and your business back to the basics: what are the user’s goals and what is the easiest way for you to help them reach those goals?