Architecture is not just for building houses. Building anything requires a plan. It’s the same with creating digital products. That is, it can be said that some kind of architecture is needed to build websites and applications. Based on what the architect is going to build, on which land the building should be built, what is the use of the building, what materials should be used in it, how much is the budget of the project and hundreds of questions similar to a general plan to start the project.
With this plan, everyone knows what is going to happen and how to reach the final result. There is something to be done in product design, user experience design and user interface design. The digital product also has a goal and it should be determined which way to reach that goal. Of course, there is a big difference between architecture for building a building and building a website or application.
Work materials are different. The necessary materials for building a site and application are information and data and all kinds of content. To design and build any site or application, the design team must know how the information and contents are going to be organized. So, in fact, what architecture needs is information.
Product design, UX or UI design is not possible without Information Architecture or IA. Information architecture is one of the very basic and important concepts in UI/UX design. What is Information Architecture or IA? Why is it so important? How to architect information? Everything a designer needs to know about information architecture has been told in this specialized guide.
Table of Contents
What is Information Architecture?
First, I must say that the definition of information architecture is controversial. It means that there are different definitions of it. Because information architecture is used in various disciplines and fields. Let me give an example. What exactly does a librarian do when she organizes books and other resources in a large library? Does it do anything but information architecture?
Your expectation from the library is that you will find all the books and all kinds of written resources in order and in a logical order. This is the main job of IA. It means organizing information in such a way that someone can easily find what they are looking for. So, in any domain, information architecture is related to organizing the information of that domain.
In ui/ux design, the contents of the site or application should be organized and adjusted so that the user can easily find what he is looking for on the site. Therefore, the definition of information architecture in the design of digital products is:
Information architecture is a discipline that focuses on the organization of information within digital products.
The UI/UX designer connects the user’s information architecture to the content and context of his interaction with the digital product. Architecture is the information that defines the structure and path of the user’s rotation between the pages of a site or app. And it is the information architecture that leads the user to the content he wants. So, IA organizes the contents of the site or app in the form of a chart or a map or a visual design that shows the structure.
Why is information architecture important in UI/UX design?
We live in the age of information and internet. If at the beginning of the emergence of the Internet and websites and Google, everyone was happy that the circulation of information in the world has become easier and faster, as time passed, the challenges of producing and circulating a huge amount of information showed themselves. As long as man is facing another problem today, with bombardment of information.
Users of virtual space face such a huge amount of data and information every day that they have to choose from among them. Users cannot follow all the news and all the sites related to their career or personal interests. Those who want to exercise with an application, finally choose an application.
This is where information architecture along with design thinking helps the product design team and ui/ux designers. It is IA that helps designers to ensure that different users who may interact with the product for different reasons get to what they are looking for in the shortest possible time. Well, this means that the user is satisfied and happy with his interaction with the site or product.
Nothing is more important in the design of the user experience of store sites than that users with different needs find the product they want to buy easily and in the shortest time. If finding what a user is looking for is too difficult or time-consuming, they will leave the site. Therefore, good user experience means sales and profit for store sites. Therefore, information architecture is also important to ensure the profitability of businesses.
When thinking about information architecture, it’s important to think about the different users and how they will navigate, search, or use filters.
How should the information be architected?
Information architecture in each field has its own methods. Just as there are different systems for arranging books in the library, a specific process must be followed for the information architecture in designing the user experience and user interface of the site. Next, the general process of information architecture and the steps and research that should be done for IA are said. Note that the main emphasis here is on the information architecture to organize the content of the site or application.
1. Information architecture uses the principles of cognitive psychology
- The root of information architecture is in cognitive psychology.
Using the findings of cognitive psychology, information architecture finds out how the human mind organizes information. So, he organizes the contents and puts them together in such a way that our mind can understand them more easily and better. The best example of this is the use of Gestalt principles and rules in user interface design.
2. Information architecture requires extensive research
For the design of information architecture, research results are needed at the macro level and according to the type of business and product. At the macro level, the following questions should be answered with the cooperation and participation of all the teams involved in the product design and production process:
- What is the purpose of designing a digital product (site)? Why does this business want to produce this product?
- Who is the product produced for and why? What is the user looking for when interacting with the product or site? (This is where you can get help from the UX team and answer this question with Storyboarding.)
- What is the status of the competitors and how did the competitor sites architect the information?
- The most important question that must be answered in this section is, what is the required content of the site or application (digital product) supposed to be? The clearer the answer to this question, the better.
3. In information architecture, contents are grouped and named
At this stage, there is still a need for research, of course, of the wisdom type, that is, research such as quantitative and qualitative research in UX design, which is done to understand the user’s behavior as much as possible. After all this, it is time to group and name all the contents of the site. At this stage, the product design team may use different methods. Card sorting is one of the best methods. The similarity criterion is usually used for grouping. The choice of method and criteria at this stage depends on the type of site and its contents.
4. Information architecture creates a logical hierarchy between groups
At this stage, hierarchy and communication should be established between the contents that were categorized. It is based on this relationship and hierarchy that the direction of the user’s movement on the site or app is determined. The result of this step is a diagram, a site map. This diagram is the basis of the UI designer’s work and is used in the design of all menus and site navigation.
5. In information architecture, the designed hierarchies must be tested
Nothing in product design and user experience is finalized without testing (prototyping). Information architecture should also be tested. It should be noted that if the content of the site is organized in this way, the user can easily find the content he wants and move between different pages. It is at this stage that the various tests in UX Research are very useful. One or more tests can be performed based on the type of product and information architecture. One of the best tests for evaluating information architecture in the eyes of real users is tree testing. It is better to measure information architecture with usability testing.
8 principles of information architecture
As it turned out, information architecture needs data and testing. In addition, architecture has 8 basic information. That is, the stages of information architecture design and especially the grouping and naming of contents should be done based on principles. Actually, these principles are considered for the information architecture of the site. But with a little change, they can also be used in the product design of other digital products. 8 principles of IA phraseology:
- The principle of objects: contents should be treated like living beings. Organisms that have specific life spans, characteristics, and behaviors.
- The principle of choices: the number of choices should be as low as possible. Only very necessary choices should be left to the user.
- The principle of disclosure: clues and signs should be provided to the user to understand that if he searches more on the site, he will find much more comprehensive contents.
- The principle of exemplars: an example of the content of each group should be shown to the user.
- The principle of front doors: not all users enter the site from the home page. In information architecture, all entry routes to the site should be considered.
- The principle of multiple classifications: There should be different groupings of contents in order to respond to the needs of users with different preferences.
- The principle of focused navigation: site navigation should be as simple as possible. Site navigation should not be confusing for the user.
- The principle of growth: When the information architecture of the site is designed, the assumption should be that the information (contents) will grow and develop over time.
Does information architecture require tools (software)?
You can draw a diagram with pen and paper. In fact, information architecture does not require special tools. But when the product is very detailed or rich in content, it becomes a bit difficult. In addition, information architecture should be made available to different teams and decision makers in the business. For this reason, maybe using some software to design information architecture is a wiser choice. The design team can use any software that can design charts, diagrams, and mind maps. Many of these software are not free. The choice is with the product design team and the user experience.
Two examples of the most useful software that have various features and are very useful for the product design and user experience team, one is Xmind.net software and the other is coggle.