Between the birth of the world and 2003 a total of five exabytes of content were created. But by 2013 five exabytes of content were being created each day, mostly online where there’s no set organizational scheme such as the Dewey Decimal System. Also in 2013, content searches cost companies over $14,000 and nearly 500 hour per worker. (See source.)
Information Architecture (IA) creates an infrastructure to manage that proliferation of information so that people can find what they’re looking for on your website or intranet. Easily. And so your navigation scales with your site. Seamlessly. And so your search returns useful results. Every time.
Good IA is invisible. If your site and content are working well users won’t notice, they’ll simply enjoy the experience of navigating through your website or finding content. Just as good wayfinding helps people navigate the physical world, good information wayfinding helps users navigate the online world. It’s only when they gets lost – in the real world or online – that a user realizes something’s amiss.
At Key Pointe our experience and process allows us to translate between internal departments: marketing and business teams learn how to communicate with IT, and IT understands what marketing and business need. In addition, we don’t design by committee, instead we focus on evidence-based decision-making and user-centered solutions.
While every project has different goals and there’s no cookie cutter process, when we work on an IA project with clients the process typically includes:
- A discovery phase when we talk with stakeholders, the project team, and users. This phase also includes a content audit, analytics review, taxonomy review, and baseline usability testing. This phase sets the stage for making evidence-based decisions and recommendations.
- A review stage when we summarize and share our findings with the project team and document the strategy and next steps to make a great IA a reality
- A design stage where we re-architect the website based on user and business needs. This phase includes a site map, content types, taxonomy development, wireframes and usability testing such as card sorting or task testing.
- An optional migration stage where we take your current taxonomy and help map it to a new site map or a new taxonomy
Our series of blog posts on the importance of IA gives you insight into the how and why of IA. The following case studies add perspective into how the IA process is tailored for individual clients.
Recent Posts in Information Architecture
Every business needs a digital presence. Digital is no longer optional in your strategic planning. Having a website is crucial to your business and enables you to connect and engage with your target audience 24/7. But having a poorly designed site that suffers from common usability problems can do significant damage to your brand and bottom line.
Is your customer service team spending most of their time answering questions that are directly answered on your website? Is your bounce rate far higher than it should it be? Is the most used function of your website the search bar? All of these common website usability problems are symptoms and signs of poor information architecture. Information architecture (IA) aims to connect users with the content that they are looking for, in a seamless and intuitive manner.
When I talk with customers about website problems, I frequently hear the refrain: "Our website search is terrible. People tell us it sucks. We need to fix it." Or "I can't find anything on the website and the search doesn't give me what I am expecting." There are a few areas where we can look to fix search problems. Normally, I start with user interviews and testing, then move on to reviewing site analytics, metadata, and taxonomy.
On the surface, audience based navigation seems to make sense. In user-centred design, we design for the user. If we group information based on the different users we've identified, then the user will know where to look on the website. In my early days, I did once try my hand at audience based navigation and quickly learned a few things (and felt an immense amount of frustration).
This organization had two content heavy websites. As one tool in their toolkit to improve their sites, they needed an expert review of the site. At the final presentation, one manager stated this expert review was part of a continually improvement process. In starting with this review, they would be able to pick off some low hanging fruit, improve the site, then do usability testing to gain even more insight.