Information Architecture, or IA, is one of those vague-sounding terms which can seem to spiral off into abstraction when you read about it. Even a simple definition can sound pretty yawn-worthy:
“Information architecture is a combination of organizing a site’s content into categories and creating an interface to support those categories*”
In reality though, well-planned and executed IA is a vital aspect of development that’s crucial to website success.
First of all, let’s dispel the myth that IA is some kind of techy mumbo jumbo that’s expressed only via convoluted flow charts.
Information architecture for websites actually encompasses all the different ways of organizing a site: from content management to graphic design; from database structure to user experience. A comprehensive IA strategy integrates all the variable means of organizing the website.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand the importance of IA by considering situations where information architecture can fail. For example, have you ever visited a site that is riddled with confusing navigation, such as having too many page choices? Or navigation options that change from page to page? Have you ever had to spend excessive time searching a website for a contact email or pricing details? How about scrolling through pages bogged down with too much text, or too many images that are slow to load? Failures such as these in the information architecture can frustrate and drive users away from your site; whereas successful IA helps make visiting your site a smooth and effortless experience for users.
Just like building a house, a website needs a well-prepared blueprint to ensure that all the pieces fit together and build upon each other into a complete and fully functioning structure. Think how much more comfortable it is when a home has ample room for storage built in. Or how damaging one tiny mistake in the plumbing can be! Naturally, you want your home to be efficient to maintain, convenient for all guests to access, secure from threats, and of course, to look beautiful! With a website, all of these issues are best addressed in the most fundamental planning stages: with well-prepared information architecture.
Speaking of IA, we’re looking forward to working with Tulane University School of Public Health to review and revise the information architecture of their website and to redesign the home page. Our thorough tracking process will identify areas for improvement, make recommendations for implementing the improvements, and then track the success of those improvements to ensure that goals are met.
Here at Sanmita, we believe information architecture truly is the foundation for a successful website, and that always gets us excited!
* TechRepublic.com, “10 Questions About Information Architecture”