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The unique relevance of Information Architecture in the UX space.

Sustainable UX design practices

Information architecture, a relatively unknown term amongst the masses but everyone encounters it from the littlest of things to the most complex things that anyone and everyone views. But before we further move in this blog, there should be a baseline understanding of what information architecture (IA as its christened) means and how can it be useful while a UX designer is designing.

The Information Architecture Institute has defined IA as the following:

  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

To keep it simple, we can call IA as organizing, structuring and labelling of information. The main objective of IA is to let people find, process and understand information. IA plays a major role during website wireframing so as to have a clearer understanding of information flow.

Enough about definitions let’s get down to basics. So there are basically two approaches for IA. They are the top down approach and the bottom up approach.

1) Top down approach: The top down approach deals with the “Big Picture”. It deals with the breadth and depth of the site. Here the information is small, precise and relevant. This is basically for people who knows what they want but are not sure where to find it. Since it’s the month of the Valentine, let me take that example. A user is coming to gift their better half a wonderful wine. So they know what they want. Top down approach directs them to go to the food tab and under that the exotic wines tab. From there they can find their wine which will tell them what’s the cost and the brand details.

2) Bottom up approach: This deals with the structure of the page and the presentation of the contents. This includes the content structure and content sequence. Taking the same example above, the bottom up approach will give detailed specifications about the content of the wine, when they can ship it, how fast it will reach them etc...

So how can IA create the difference and enhance the user experience? That’s a relevant question. UX designs adhering to the principles of IA is meeting the unmet information needs of the end user thereby creating efficient designs. A few points to further impart the importance of IA in UX designing

  • It is beneficial to both parties as it makes it less complicated for the users to maneuver themselves on the websites hence they spend more useful time on the site.
  • This helps map the entire structure of the website. It goes to show how deep and wide it goes. Helps to better understand the levels of decision and how many clicks of the mouse it takes to reach the information required.
  • A good architecture aids in helping the users get a clear idea of what they want and help them get there faster. They study the mental assumptions that a user makes before visiting the site.
  • An IA helps identify any gap or if any unnecessary data is given as an outcome of logically sequencing the site. This helps to avoid any confusion from our side. Duplication will also be eliminated as a part of this.
  • By providing all basic information, IA helps to see the bigger picture. Overall IA is the foundation for any good user experience, in fact in this era of technology one would be lost without it and choosing the best information architecture service gives a better quality outcome.

Now we have a clear cut understanding of what role IA plays in UX designing. But how do we get to know the details to start adhering to principles of IA while designing? The answer is simple. Research. Extensive user research is required to understand their requirements. Rigorous methods such as surveys, questionnaires, open ended questionnaires, in depth interviews must be conducted to understand and analyze the user. Well they do say that there are no shortcuts to glory.