Information architecture (IA) is the backbone of the web — and essentially every other digital experience. It’s the system that’s used to organize and label content on websites in apps, and it ultimately determines the paths that people take to find what they’re looking for.
IA also underpins the design. Functioning as a kind-of skeleton beneath the polished veneer of what people see, it’s the foundation. Get it wrong, and the house falls down. A poorly thought-out IA and UX may not always cause your target audience to leave a website and look elsewhere, but the odds are certainly higher.
A good IA can make all the difference. After all, would you rather stumble through a website, dropping in and out of pages trying to find what you’re looking for, or use a website with a structure that’s intuitive and reflects the people using it?
We’re always focused on the importance of good information architecture here at Optimal Workshop — after all, we’ve developed a platform of tools to help people do just that — so we thought it was a good idea to compile some more useful IA resources.
5 resources from Optimal Workshop
The Optimal Workshop blog is a goldmine for resources on information architecture. For 10 years, we’ve been busy writing our own helpful guides and resources — and sourcing information from some of the brightest minds in the industry, covering everything from site maps to visual hierarchy.
- Learn about information architecture — Our getting started guide is great for anyone wanting to learn the basics of IA or just as a refresher. It’s also a useful tool if you’d like to get someone onside for a project you’re about to begin. We’ve also got guides for tree testing, card sorting and more.
- Anatomy of a website series — Architecture, labeling and footers. Our ‘Anatomy of’ series covers some of the basics of website structure. In our first 3 articles, we cover website architecture, website labelling and website footers. Stay tuned for more to come!
- How to benchmark your information architecture — Before doing any work on your IA, you need to benchmark it. Here, a guest author explains how to benchmark a site navigation using tree testing.
- The ultimate IA reading list — A list within a list! This compilation is a community favourite, and we’re constantly adding more detail to it. It’s a great place to get started if you’d like to expand your IA horizons.
- How to develop a taxonomy for your information architecture — Taxonomy refers to how information is grouped, classified and labeled within a shared information environment. Learning how to create and test a taxonomy is essential.
4 resources from the community
- Card sorting: Uncover users’ mental models for better information architecture — As Nielsen Norman Group states, “Card sorting is a UX research technique in which users organize topics into groups. Use it to create an IA that suits your users’ expectations”. It’s one of the best methods to create a better, more user-focused IA.
- 5 information architecture warning signs in your analytics reports — Identifying IA problems is difficult — if you don’t know what to look for. While methods like tree testing are invaluable in diagnosing problems, you can also use your analytics reports! Pageviews, conversions, entrances and bounce rates are all great places to start.
- The difference between information architecture (IA) and navigation — “IA is the information backbone of the site; navigation refers to those elements in the UI that allow users to reach specific information on the site.” Would you like to know more?
- 5 examples of effective information architecture — This article covers off some examples of effective information architecture, taking a look at site mapping, content inventories and audits, tree structures and more.
Alan & Co: Information architecture in the real world
Read about how a small retailer with an online store used Optimal Workshop to improve its website just in time for the busy Christmas shopping season.
Alan & Co is a retailer with several stores and a popular online storefront. Though it still services a lot of customers through its physical stores, the online arm of Alan & Co is growing rapidly. People from all over the world purchase goods through Alan & Co’s online store.
But, despite sales going up and up, staff at Alan & Co have been hearing from customers that the online store can be difficult to use. Finding certain items is confusing and time-consuming, and many are starting to get frustrated and look elsewhere instead.
Seeing an advertisement for Optimal Workshop, the head of online sales at Alan & Co decides to give them a go and see if she can get to the bottom of the problem.