The process of an effective website design shares many similarities with the process of building a physical structure. Building a home, for example, starts with a foundation, which supports the load-bearing walls. Beams and load-bearing walls on the first floor support the second floor, which supports the roof, and openings for doors allow the home’s inhabitants to navigate about the house efficiently. But if you take away any of the key architectural elements, the whole structure is likely to crumble.
Information architecture is similar, and it’s the key to building a website that communicates your message effectively. The most important elements of information architecture are how you organize and label content, how users navigate through your website, and how users search for the information they need to find. Each element is connected to the others. If you want to build a fantastic website, you need to make sure that the elements of your information architecture work together in harmony.
Information Architecture for Content Creation
Your content is the backbone of your website, so we suggest a content first philosophy. It’s how you draw visitors, tell the story of your company, and describe the excellent products or services you have to offer. Information architecture provides a clear map for how to organize your content to maximize the user experience. Ever wonder why our blog posts use subheads and bullet-point lists to help tell a story? You’re about to find out.
- Navigation gets a lot of attention in the discussion about information architecture, and rightfully so. But navigation isn’t just about moving from one page to another. It also applies to how users move around within an individual piece of content.
- Web readers don’t like big blocks of text. It’s more or less a universal fact. Whether you’re creating a static page or a blog post, you need to break up your text so it’s easy to scan. That’s where subheads and lists come in.
- Subheads are useful because they tell the reader what to expect, and where to find it. If a visitor has come to your website seeking a particular bit of information, you want them to be able to find it as easily as possible.
- Bullet-point lists allow you to break long sections of information into bite-size chunks. Subheads allow readers to scan the entire page, and lists allow them to move through each section efficiently.
- You don’t have to stop at lists, however. Bold text and italics are both effective for drawing attention to individual words or phrases within your lists.
Calgary Website Design: Organizing Your Site With Information Architecture
Now that you’ve got well-organized content, you need an easy way for visitors to locate the content they’re trying to find. The phrase “intuitive design” is used often online, but what does it actually mean? Basically, that visitors can find what they need with as little thought as possible. What seems intuitive is really the result of successful information architecture.
- The navigation bar at the top of your homepage is where most visitors will automatically look for links to other areas of your site, so make it count. Web users pay more attention to items at the beginning and end of lists, so your navigation bar should start with your most important links.
- Make sure that any links your provide are descriptive. The link in the above bullet point, for example, leads right to a page that tells you more about how to effectively arrange your navigation bar. You don’t have to spell it out word-for-word, but make sure linked text has some continuity with the page it’s leading to.
- Analytics is the last piece of the information architecture puzzle, and it’s an important one. A data-based approach, backed by analytics, is the best way to ensure that your information architecture fits the needs of your visitors over time. Why guess, when the data you need is right at your fingertips?
Effective information architecture requires knowledge of your audience, your content, and how you want your audience to connect with your content. It’s a system of separate but related parts, and the performance of each part affects the others. It’s also a continual process, and analytics allow you to stay up with the times, no matter where the latest trends in information architecture lead.