Skip main navigation

Introduction to Information architecture

Introduction to information architecture in UX design
Data is not the same as information.
– Interaction Design Foundation [1]
Considered as a discipline, information architecture (IA) is the practice of ensuring that all information required for users to fulfil their goals on a digital product is organised and presented in the most efficient and effective way possible. Well-designed IA ensures that users can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
The visualisation of information architecture can be considered as a blueprint since it demonstrates all of a product’s available features and information and, critically, how that information is hierarchically arranged in its entirety.
Information architecture is all about creating meaning out of data. In UX design, this means creating meaning that brings value to your users by meeting their goals. Thus, IA sits in the intersection of user goals, content, and context.

Are IA and UX the same?

UX design considers the entire experience an individual has with a particular product. IA only considers the user’s experience when engaging with a digital component of their overall journey and only from the perspective of information structure and organisation.
IA is not the same as interface design or visual design, though it does contribute to the most effective execution of such design elements. Good IA ensures that when a user is engaging with a product, their experience of navigating through all the available information is as efficient and effective as possible.
As designers, our job is to help people find and understand the patterns and trends that turn data into information.
– Interaction Design Foundation [1]
Information architecture is one of the most important factors of UX design. IA informs the content strategy, user interface design, and interaction design. [2] When your users can easily find what they are looking for, their interaction with your product will be more efficient, effective, and enjoyable.
IA forms the skeleton of your design project, ensuring the navigation between pages and the organisation of content helps users find information and complete tasks with the least amount of effort. The following video will teach you the basic structure of IA in website/app design using Walmart as an example to conceptualise how IA works.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Watch: Information Architecture in UX design [2]

Even the most exciting content elements and powerful UX design can fail without appropriate IA. If content is disorganised, it makes navigation and comprehension difficult, and users can easily become frustrated. If first-time users have a frustrating interaction, they may not give your product a second chance.

The value of IA for users

Good information architecture greatly impacts the user experience. The faster the users get to their final destination, the greater their satisfaction. Therefore, we should never forget that knowing the users and their information-seeking behaviours is the key to success. Once we know our users’ needs, we can prioritise which architectural components to build.
To help illustrate this, we can consider four basic user needs that website visitors may have, as articulated by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld [3]. Effective IA will ensure that each of these needs is met effectively.

Known-item seeking

Users will come to the website to search for something specific they already have in mind.
Ensure you are designing a prominent search function that uses an efficient filtering system to enable these users to achieve their tasks quickly.

Exploratory seeking

Users will come to the website looking for inspiration, but they don’t quite know what they are looking for.
Design a product list feature that allows users to browse through what is available. Consider including a product tour as part of a progressive onboarding design.

Exhaustive research

Users are doing extensive research, and they want to find as much information as possible.
To accommodate users wanting to research and compare options, enable user feedback options and include easy-to-find user reviews with a rating system on product pages.

Refinding

A user is trying to find an item they desire again.
Here, design a feature that saves the user’s searches and reminds them where they had left off when they log back in.

Value to business

Like many aspects of UX, good IA means good business. If you can satisfy your users’ needs quickly and efficiently, they are more likely to use your product or service. Having a clear and well-thought-out IA can also reduce the need for extra user support and extraneous features. [4]
In summary, IA directly contributes to UX, and good UX directly contributes to improved overall business performance.

Over to you

Think about a website or app that you have stopped using recently. Answer the following questions:
  • Which of the four types of user needs mentioned above were you trying to satisfy?
  • What was the main frustration that caused you to abandon the app or website?
  • How easy was it to find another suitable app or website elsewhere?
Share your experiences in the comments. Read the other posts and see if there are any similar experiences to your own.

References

1. User Goals and How They Influence Information Design Decisions [Internet]. The Interaction Design Foundation; 2021 Mar. Available from: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/user-goals-and-how-they-influence-information-design-decisions

2. PlaybookUX. Information Architecture in UX design [Internet]. 2021 Feb 2. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfxR5m8zUO8&ab_channel=PlaybookUX

3. Morville P, Rosenfeld L. Information architecture. O’Reilly Media Inc; 2015.

4. Klancar P. A Beginner’s Guide To Information Architecture in UX (2021) [Internet]. CareerFoundry; 2021 Apr 13. Available from: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/a-beginners-guide-to-information-architecture/

This article is from the free online

Introduction to UX Design

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education