Information architecture lives here: make IA part of your digital space

Information architecture is everywhere digitally, but where does it actually live? IA sits in behind all of the digital interfaces we humans use (and even out in the real world). It ideally has been considered, researched, and implemented with humans in mind, though as we all know, this isn’t always the case.

Information architecture always has a role to play, and here we’ll focus on 4 key digital spaces where information architecture is most prominent, and likely most familiar.

To find out more about putting information architecture into action check out our blog.

1. Websites

Information architecture for websites can often be confused with navigation. While site navigation is super important, (think of it as the ‘skin’ that sits above the information), that’s only part of the story. Great website architecture considers and organizes user requirements, organizing the content and structure of the website with labels, search and navigation that simply makes sense and is easy to use. Done well, it will feel simple and straightforward, guiding users through smoothly.

Hubspot has a great article on IA for websites and how they can be structured. From a complex library system, to travel booking systems. Each has its own needs and can be quite deep in layers of information. The trick is to create a website structure, based on user needs, that makes sense of the piles of information and a simple navigation that sits above, making the journey to task completion as quick as possible. Working together they make any user experience feel quick, simple, and intuitive!

2. Apps

An organization’s app acts as the first point of contact. It needs to be super simple, clean, and quick to interact with. A well-thought-out, thorough, researched, and organized information architecture plays a big part in this.

Information architecture for mobile use has a different set of rules than websites. The key consideration here is around the ease of use across a smaller screen. Navigation that makes sense for a laptop or desktop computer can be clunky in a mobile app.

An app’s interface needs to have fewer options, and fewer clicks to complete the task. Researching and designing an app’s IA with just the right amount of information is key. Some retail apps are simplified websites, whereas other apps exist on their own merits, with no need for a website.

Bringing it back to the humans that will interact with the app is key to creating a product that delivers on user requirements and increases interaction.

3. Intranet

An organizational intranet is possibly less of a priority than a website or an app but is vitally important to the success of an organization. And in these times of remote or hybrid working, intranets have proven to be more valuable than ever. An intranet is more than where to stick newsletters for staff, it is an interface that can make or break the productivity or even the wellbeing of an organization.

Access to files, information, messaging platforms, and corporate requirements wherever and whenever people are working is more important than ever. A well-researched and designed information architecture can build an intranet that meets users’ requirements, increase communication and interaction and ultimately boost productivity.

Conducting UX research with staff on what they need to access, when, and how will help inform the intranet IA far more intuitively. The information available (and needed) can be huge, keeping it simple and human-focused is key.

Have you ever thought about how poor internal information architecture might be hurting your business?

4. Social media

Social media software is complex in terms of ecosystem and display of information. Each social media platform has developed over time, think back to Facebook and how it looked when it initially launched. And through the uptake of users, gathering of information over time, and continual research and testing, it has evolved into what we see today. And will continue to evolve with users’ needs.

Every user has a different experience based on the individuals, groups, organizations and even retailers that they choose to interact with (or haven’t chosen via advertising). The piles of information that sit behind and are brought to the interface for an individual through their choice, associations, labels, tags, interests, age, etc will present them with a unique feed.

The interface of a social media platform needs to be considered, tested, tested again, and occasionally tested or changed once launched as the interaction of users is vitally important.

The information architecture sitting behind is huge in order to enable the agility to pull the right information forward in a dynamic and coherent way. Continuously learning, testing and requesting interaction from users through options to ‘hide’ posts that aren’t appropriate or respond to direct queries about what they do and don’t want to see are just some instances of continuous user research.

Social media continues to be a sophisticated information architecture that is constantly updating and changing with user needs.

Wrap Up

Information architecture lives wherever there is information needing to be found by humans. Successful information architecture is sorted, organized and labeled in a way that is simple, intuitive, and considered. Making interaction and life simple, which in a world where there are an increasing number of websites, apps, and tools to choose from — intuitive information architecture has never been more important for your business and your customers.

Originally published at https://blog.optimalworkshop.com on May 25, 2022.

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Optimal Workshop

Quickly and easily test anything from website architecture to design prototypes with our suite of specialized user research tools 🚀