Information Architecture UI and UX
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Build It For Your Audience: The Ins & Outs of Information Architecture and User Experience
What is Information Architecture and why should I care?
Content is what your site should serve people, but it can’t exist in a vacuum. A website should provide an intuitive structure to your users’ experience and ensure the right information gets to them as they engage with you.
Your website should allow your visitor to easily discover the most important pieces of your content. Doing so in an easy-to-navigate way is called your User Experience or UX. Information Architecture, or IA, is the way in which we structure the framework of your content. IA is the process of taking raw data and giving it structure, labeling it and creating ways to easily navigate it. Attention to detail here can provide your viewers with an improved User Experience and help them to realize the true value you have to offer when considering their goals.
How to Utilize Solid Information Architecture
A users experience on your website is a reflection of well-thought-out architecture of your information. You need to connect your audience with your message in a meaningful way. Layout, searching, categorization, and organization are all structural factors which will determine if a users experience is positive before they even reach your site.
Content should be focused on your audience to provide as much value as possible to your user. You want to make sure that content is served up to your viewers in a logical way that works for them for deeper, more rewarding engagement. This will, in turn, improve conversion rates, increase time on site, reduce bounce rate, and in general provide the most positive outcome possible. The Key Attributes of Information Architecture and a good User Experience can be broken down into the following guidelines:
Content Organization: Regardless of the amount of pages or content you wish to provide to your end users, it’s important to organize the data and information you will be giving them. A site’s ease-of-use is a direct reflection of the quality of the planning that is put into the site before a single line of code is even written. It is vital to map out what you intend for a user to do to establish proper calls-to-action for them to take after they have reviewed your information. Well-organized information can help a user understand your value, and realize your solutions are close at hand. Conversely, poorly organized sites, or sites which are simply “put together fast” can cause confusion and distrust in your audience. Frustration with navigation and a lack of usefulness will encourage your visitors to go somewhere else. Natural patterns of inquiry become disrupted and a lack of useful structural direction can leave a viewer shaking their head. Effective organization is key in order to emphasize what is important and valuable to your business.
Site Navigation: Navigating around your website to view linked content is an important aspect of Information Architecture. Impressive content is lost on an audience who cannot locate it. Navigation takes the real needs of your users into consideration to encourage natural, intuitive movement around your site and beyond single page interactions. Good navigation reflects your organization, and linking things in a strategic manner can help to drive a viewer to deeper content. This, in turn, provides your audience with more value, and serves your purposes by making sure your site is being actively utilized.
Identification of Information: Information you wish to provide has a common core that is your message’s foundation. Your pages, blog and other information are all linked this way conceptually. Finding the true essence of that information will help you to get a user from one important piece of information to the next. You can do this with the use of tags, labels, categories and well-thought-out navigation, all of which help guide a user to their end goals. It’s important to identify useful information and add another dimension of connection to your overall user experience, so that it becomes easier to for your user to pursue deeper information on the topics you offer.
Search Discovery: Well-crafted categorization and indexing of information can still fall short of your goals for your audience. To help address this issue, a solid understanding of search capabilities is required. Good searching tools and other methods to link data beyond navigation can help fill in the gaps in your website’s navigation. Offering up easier ways to discover your vital information can be a rewarding task indeed. Allowing for easy access to your information in a variety of ways will ensure users get what they need and help mitigate unanticipated usage patterns.
Identify Your Core Issues With These Tools:
Fundamental IA and UX concerns can be tackled in a variety of ways. Here are two examples of tactics that we find successful for you:
Wireframes Mockups: By stripping away any concern of the actual content of a site, you can focus on the more visual aspects of page layout and design. By creating wireframes of your intended site layout, you can clearly begin to see the results of navigation flow. Regardless of if your intending to examine the framework of on-page experiences on a particular page of your website, or to determine if your navigation flow is sound, an exercise in wireframing can be very enlightening and help you avoid pitfalls. If you have a wealth of information to convey, wireframes can bring clarity to the confusion caused by such volume before the first line of code is entered. This will save time and back-stepping in the design process, and ensure a better experience for your user.
Customer Avatars: Who is your audience? Every person entering your website can be defined in some manner which will ultimately help guide you in the decision making process of crafting your project. This involved research into the members of your audience and thinking about how they will use your site to find what they need differently from the next person. Often times a websites audience will be broken down into several likely avatars, and with this knowledge you can begin to guide those personas to the proper information they require. Ultimately having a solid understanding of who is visiting your website will improve on your decision making process that will influence your end User Experience.
At the end of the day, spending time considering the above information before taking action in any web project will result in a better experience and more successful reception from your audience. By thoroughly understanding your audience’s needs, you can anticipate what they will likely want to be shown. The exercise of understanding your own information will help you to more effectively communicate your message. Well crafted IA and UX will help you achieve other goals by deriving people into predetermined navigation patterns that result in higher conversion rates, increased audience engagement and uncover hidden opportunities in your market. The lesson is that you need to take the structure of your websites information seriously from the start, and view every proceeding decision in light of how it will impact the experience of your viewers in a manner that is favorable to you.