Information architecture is organization of the information in a digital product. It helps users navigate through the product and find what they need in any section of the product.
UX designer, UX writer, Product manager
Any digital product is made up of information. Users need to navigate through the product in a way that helps them use it easily. This is possible when the information is structured in an intuitive way. This arrangement of information in an intuitive structure is called Information Architecture (IA).
To create the IA details like target user, user needs, the context of use, features, and business goals are required. So, before getting started with IA, user research is conducted to gather the required information.
The best way to create an IA is to create information groups and rough IA based on research. This could be refined with user inputs. One of the most popular methods to validate the IA is Card sorting.
What to know about Card Sorting? Read Card Sorting: Uncover Users' Mental Models for Better Information Architecture
Dan Brown’s eight principles of IA are commonly used for defining IA:
Principle of objects
Treat content as a living, breathing thing with a lifecycle, behaviors, and attributes.
Principle of choices
Create pages that offer meaningful choices to users, keeping the range of choices available focused on a particular task.
Principle of Disclosure
Show only enough information to help people understand what kind of information they’ll find as they dig deeper.
Principle of exemplars
Describe the contents of categories by showing examples of the contents.
Principle of front doors
Assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page.
Principle of multiple classifications
Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.
Principle of focused navigation
The principle of focused navigation – Don’t mix apples and oranges in your navigation scheme.
Principle of growth
Assume the content you have today is a small fraction of the content you will have tomorrow.
Different IA patterns are as follows:
Hierarchical structure: This pattern uses a tree-like structure, where content is organized into categories and subcategories. This is a common pattern for e-commerce websites, where products are organized by category and subcategory.
Sequential structure: This pattern is used for processes of workflows that have a defined sequence of steps. Each step leads to the next, and the user is guided through the process.
Alphabetical structure: This pattern organizes content alphabetically, which can be useful for lists of terms or glossaries.
Matrix structure: This pattern uses multiple categories and subcategories to organize content. It can be useful for organizing complex data, such as product specifications.
Network structure: This pattern connects related content through hyperlinks or other visual cues. This can be useful for websites with a lot of interconnected content.
Faceted structure: This pattern allows users to filter and refine content based on multiple attributes or facets like price, size, or color. This can be useful for e-commerce websites or other websites with a lot of products or content.
Clustered structure: This pattern groups related content together based on user needs or interests. It can be useful for websites that offer various products or services.
Depending on the type of the project, IA can be tested with different methods:
Card sorting method: When an IA is created from scratch, card sorting is the most appropriate method for testing it.
Tree testing method: When the IA of an existing product or design has to be tested, Tree testing is the right method.
Curious about Tree Testing? Read… Tree Testing: Fast, Iterative Evaluation of Menu Labels and Categories
Define: Define the goals and objectives of your website or application. This will help you determine what content and functionality are needed.
Conduct research: Do research to understand your users' needs and behaviors. This could include surveys, user testing, and analytics data.
Identify and organize: Create a content inventory, analyze your content, and create a content hierarchy.
Create a site map or diagram: Create a site map or diagram that outlines the structure of your website or application. This should include the main categories, subcategories, and pages.
Develop a labeling system: Develop a clear and consistent labeling system. Use language that your users will understand and avoid jargon or technical terms.
Test: Test your information architecture with users to ensure that it is intuitive and easy to navigate. Make adjustments as needed based on feedback.
Record: Document your information architecture and ensure that it is maintained over time. This will help ensure that your website or application remains organized and easy to use as it evolves.
IA Template from Figma Community
Pen & Paper/ Whiteboard
Eight Principles of Information Architecture from Design Principles
Information Architecture. Basics for Designers From UX Planet
Information Architecture and Sitemaps - How to Design Navigation from Balsamiq Youtube Channel
Card Sorting: How Many Users to Test from NN Group