Information Architecture

What is information architecture?

“Information architecture (IA) focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks.”Usability.gov

Information architecture is, basically, the foundation of any website’s navigation. Good and effective IA assures that your menu and all of the pages are easy to find and browse. It aims to organize the content in a way that is intuitive and user-friendly, so that people don’t get lost on your website and are able to complete the desired actions.

Components of information architecture

There are 4 main components of the IA that you need to optimize in order to create an intuitive navigation structure. They were first introduced by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville in their book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web:

Organization systems

Describes the way we categorize information i.e the small groups that your content is divided into and how they are organized according to the organizational structures. 

There are 3 most common types of such structures:

  • Hierarchical

Users start from the broader categories and then go down to the more significant ones.

  • Sequential

Everything goes in a definite order, a clear step-by-step path.

  • Matrix

Links content in various ways, allowing users to create their own paths.

Labeling systems

Describes the way you name your categories and sub-categories. A crucial component as you should be able to describe them clearly and comprehensible for users. 

Navigation systems

How users go through presented information and all the steps they take on the way to the desired product or service.

Searching systems

The way users search for content on the web and if they find it successfully. Includes the search bar, autocorrect, relevant filters etc.

How to create intuitive information architecture UX?

Bad information architecture is something you need to avoid at all costs. It confuses and annoys the user, making him leave the page which then causes a significant decrease of conversions.

In order to make your information architecture intuitive and user-friendly you have to take a look at it from the user’s point of view. The best way to do that is through testing your IA. 

There are special tools and methods to help you test the information architecture of your website.

The best ones to use are card sorting and tree testing. These methods were proven to work by millions of successful cases and it’s almost impossible to create a user-oriented website without these tools.

Card sorting

Also known as Optimalsort. Card sorting is a UX research technique based on sorting cards into specific categories. Each card represents a piece of content you want to organize on the website. Learn more about the card sorting process here. 

What is card sorting good for?

  • To make sure all the content on your web is easy to find and click through
  • Learn how different target audience groups expect your content to be categorized, where do they expect to find a certain item
  • To build a website with seamless navigation where users don’t get lost
  • Find insights and ideas on how to label your categories

Card sorting can be conducted both offline and online. For offline testing you’ll just need a paper with a pen and enough testers to analyze the results. 

However, online card sorting is proven to work better by a huge number of testers. The reason for that is because it’s a lot faster, easier and provides you with much deeper insights thanks to the advanced analytics of the online card sorting tools.

There are a couple of tips & tricks you need to learn before conducting your first study.

Check out my card sorting tools pricing comparison to help you choose the perfect software for your budget. 

card sorting for information architecture

Tree testing

Is known as a reversed card sort.  Another tool to help you improve the already existing  information architecture of your website. 

The tree testing process is quite simple: you give testers the tasks they need to complete( usually not more than 10), let them go through the information architecture model and click on different categories until they find the solution to the task, i.e. click on a category where they’d expect to find a certain information.

Just like card sorting, tree testing is better to be done online for the same reasons. Check out this list of best tree testing tools to help you.

What is tree testing good for?

  • Discover if users are able to quickly and easily find the desired information
  • Find out if your labels are clear and people understand them right
  • For making sure your content is logically organized according to the users’ expectations
  • Find the points of confusion and lostness on the website and get rid of them

While card sorting gives you insights and ideas, tree testing checks and confirms them in practice. That’s why these two methods work best together. 

They complement each other and guarantee you an intuitive user-friendly website navigation.

Learn more about tree testing here.

tree testing for information architecture

Not sure what method should you choose?

Check out our Card Sorting VS Tree Testing comparison.

Information Architecture

What is information architecture?

“Information architecture (IA) focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks.”Usability.gov

Information architecture is, basically, the foundation of any website’s navigation. Good and effective IA assures that your menu and all of the pages are easy to find and browse. It aims to organize the content in a way that is intuitive and user-friendly, so that people don’t get lost on your website and are able to complete the desired actions.

Components of information architecture

There are 4 main components of the IA that you need to optimize in order to create an intuitive navigation structure. They were first introduced by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville in their book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web:

Organization systems

Describes the way we categorize information i.e the small groups that your content is divided into and how they are organized according to the organizational structures. 

There are 3 most common types of such structures:

  • Hierarchical

Users start from the broader categories and then go down to the more significant ones.

  • Sequential

Everything goes in a definite order, a clear step-by-step path.

  • Matrix

Links content in various ways, allowing users to create their own paths.

Labeling systems

Describes the way you name your categories and sub-categories. A crucial component as you should be able to describe them clearly and comprehensible for users. 

Navigation systems

How users go through presented information and all the steps they take on the way to the desired product or service.

Searching systems

The way users search for content on the web and if they find it successfully. Includes the search bar, autocorrect, relevant filters etc.

How to create intuitive information architecture UX?

Bad information architecture is something you need to avoid at all costs. It confuses and annoys the user, making him leave the page which then causes a significant decrease of conversions.

In order to make your information architecture intuitive and user-friendly you have to take a look at it from the user’s point of view. The best way to do that is through testing your IA. 

There are special tools and methods to help you test the information architecture of your website.

The best ones to use are card sorting and tree testing. These methods were proven to work by millions of successful cases and it’s almost impossible to create a user-oriented website without these tools.

Card sorting

Also known as Optimalsort. Card sorting is a UX research technique based on sorting cards into specific categories. Each card represents a piece of content you want to organize on the website. Learn more about the card sorting process here. 

What is card sorting good for?

  • To make sure all the content on your web is easy to find and click through
  • Learn how different target audience groups expect your content to be categorized, where do they expect to find a certain item
  • To build a website with seamless navigation where users don’t get lost
  • Find insights and ideas on how to label your categories

Card sorting can be conducted both offline and online. For offline testing you’ll just need a paper with a pen and enough testers to analyze the results. 

However, online card sorting is proven to work better by a huge number of testers. The reason for that is because it’s a lot faster, easier and provides you with much deeper insights thanks to the advanced analytics of the online card sorting tools.

There are a couple of tips & tricks you need to learn before conducting your first study.

Check out my card sorting tools pricing comparison to help you choose the perfect software for your budget. 

card sorting for information architecture
card sorting for information architecture

Tree testing

Is known as a reversed card sort.  Another tool to help you improve the already existing  information architecture of your website. 

The tree testing process is quite simple: you give testers the tasks they need to complete( usually not more than 10), let them go through the information architecture model and click on different categories until they find the solution to the task, i.e. click on a category where they’d expect to find a certain information.

Just like card sorting, tree testing is better to be done online for the same reasons. Check out this list of best tree testing tools to help you.

What is tree testing good for?

  • Discover if users are able to quickly and easily find the desired information
  • Find out if your labels are clear and people understand them right
  • For making sure your content is logically organized according to the users’ expectations
  • Find the points of confusion and lostness on the website and get rid of them

While card sorting gives you insights and ideas, tree testing checks and confirms them in practice. That’s why these two methods work best together. 

They complement each other and guarantee you an intuitive user-friendly website navigation.

Learn more about tree testing here.

tree testing for information architecture
tree testing for information architecture

Not sure what method should you choose?

Check out our Card Sorting VS Tree Testing comparison.

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