In this video blog I am working on helping to develop the information architecture for a client. The website is for a French institute at a Canadian University, so it is a very large website with a ton of information.
The information architecture is just a fancy way of saying the way that the content on a website is organized. Having a clear, organized information architecture is very important when building a website.
The information architecture also includes labeling (i.e. how you name your pages or categories) and navigation. Navigation helps your users move around the different areas of your website.
When your visitors come to your site, they probably have a goal they are trying to achieve and therefore something specific they are trying to find. Without a properly structured website, it can be very difficult for them to find what they need.
We all know how frustrating it is to not be able to find what you are looking for on a website. It’s not a positive experience and if we have to work too hard to find something we will usually just leave.
This is not how you want to make customers feel on your website. You don’t want them to be frustrated and unhappy when on your website. And you especially don’t want them to give up and leave.
A well-planned out website and information architecture helps you to avoid this.
In the above video, I was planning everything with markers and paper. I had written out each menu item on a slip of paper and colour-coded them by category.
You don’t have to do it this way though, you can do whatever feels easiest to you. Maybe you’d rather work in a spreadsheet or document, that is fine too.
A good way to start is by writing out a list of all the pages or types of information you know you need to have on your site. Then afterwards you can decide what the best way to organize it is.
Alphabetical or Chronological – organize content by alphabet, or by the date of the content
Topic – content is organized based on subject matter, or similar items
Audience – content is organized based on groups of users
In the case of my client, the university website, organizing content by audience would mean that we can group content into several categories: current students, prospective students, faculty, etc.
A clear information architecture is one that is simple and easy to understand. Keeping the information on your site as simple as possible will help your users be able to intuitively navigate your site.
Do you have a bunch of extra information that users don’t really want or need to know? Are there any pages that would make more sense to combine them into one so that user doesn’t have to navigate to two separate pages to get that info?
Are your menus short with as few items as possible? Are they labeled clearly so that the user knows exactly what they will get when they click through to the page?
These tips should help you simplify your website and make it easier for your users to navigate. What other tips do you have for creating a clear information architecture on your website?