Chroma Experience

1/2 Information Architecture

Anyone who has ever dealt with UX design will sooner or later stumble across the term "IA".
**IA" stands for "information architecture".

IA refers to the process of organizing and sorting complex information in a clear and logical way.

The digital world is in desperate need of good information architects because it is more important than ever that any organization working with data plans ahead and carefully ensures that its content does not turn into an illogical, unruly mess.

As consumers, we're used to finding exactly what we're acutely looking for and finding it exactly where we're most likely to expect it. When we as users find content easily, it's usually not by accident. It's often the result of extensive user research and testing. And what happens when we don't find it right away? Then we give up within a few seconds and move on.

**In short, we have little patience as users when it comes to poor user experience.

As a result of these high demands from users, perfection has become a standard to survive in the competitive technical environment. The job of an information architect is to maintain this competitive advantage by making sure things are where they should be.

What is information architecture?

Jared Spool, famous US UX designer, once said, "Good design becomes invisible. Only when it's done poorly do we notice it."

The same is true for information architecture. When all data is in an order, that order becomes invisible. For this "order", however, there is no universally accepted definition or even a guide that experts can agree on.

The history of IA goes back to ancient Egypt. The librarians in the Library of Alexandria listed the contents of the library in a bibliography with 120 rolls. The principle is the same, only it was not called information architecture, but was simply logical.

8 Principles of Information Architecture

Building the information architecture for a website should not be done in a vacuum. From user behavior to future-proofing, there are many things to consider beyond the logical arrangement of information. In his quest to design a good website structure, information architect Dan Brown has established 8 principles that he comes back to again and again.

These principles are based on the assumption that the architect's focus should be purely on the structure of the data - something that can be represented with maps and flowcharts.

To achieve this, the architect should gain a good understanding of the functionality of the site and also take a full inventory of the content. Once these requirements are met, the information architect can begin optimizing the IA using these 8 principles:

The principle of objects: Content should be treated like living, breathing objects. They have life cycles, behaviors, and attributes.
The principle of choices: Less is more. Keep the number of choices to a minimum.
The Principle of Disclosure: Preview information to help users understand what kind of information is hidden when they dig deeper.
The Principle of Exemplars: Show examples of the content that can be found in an application's categories and groupings.
The principle of front doors: Assume that at least 50% of users will use an entry point other than the home page.
The principle of multiple classifications: Offer users several different options to browse the site's content.
The principle of focused navigation: Keep the navigation simple and never mix different paths.
The principle of growth: Assume that the content of the website will grow. Make sure the website is scalable and expandable.

Depending on the size of a website, internal communication can be a complex task that requires constant maintenance.

What is the added value of IA?

With both Facebook and Google blocking sites with low-quality content, it's even more important that we produce content that is valuable to users. However, the most valuable content will not be discovered if the information architecture is poor, which is bad news for both the user and the company.

Adding value for users

We live in a world where people want instant gratification. Combined with an overabundance of information and choices, this means providing the right content at the right time. If the process of seeking information is too complicated or too slow, the user will simply abandon the process and move on.
Here, we can distinguish among four main types of needs:

Searching for known objects: Users come to the website to search for something desirable and known.
Exploratory search: Users come to the website to be inspired. They are looking for something desirable, but are not sure exactly what.
Extensive Search: Users are in a process of extensive research. They want to find as much information as possible.
Refinding: Users need a desired item again and are trying to find it.

When it comes to building the IA of a digital product it is important to satisfy these 4 need types individually.

For example, think of an e-commerce website. If you're looking for new shoes for a wedding, you might want to filter by style and color. But if you're looking for a gift, you might want to see a few select gift ideas. If you know exactly what you want, you want to be able to find it quickly without having to search hard.

Good information architecture has a huge impact on the user experience. The faster users get to their destination, even if that destination includes multiple options, the greater their satisfaction.

Added value for companies

If users can't find important information or perform key tasks, businesses can lose out in many ways. IA can play a critical role in the following areas:

**Employee productivity.
Poor IA for internal content can lead to wasted time and lower productivity. In 1999, the International Data Corporation (IDC) conducted a survey of academic staff *interns to determine the financial cost of doing so. Among other things, they looked at how much time employees spend per week searching for information and how much time they spend creating existing content because they couldn't find it. They estimated the cost of this "knowledge deficit" at $5,000 per employer per year.

**Revenue and Reputation.
Lost business is one of the most obvious consequences of poor customer-facing IA. When users can't find the products they want, sales go down, and the effects can be long-lasting. When people leave a website (or business), it's harder to get them back. They usually find a competitor that solves their problem (e.g., offers a product they want) without having to go through the trouble. And since so many sales still rely on word of mouth, especially in the service sector, this can have a domino effect and impact the entire network of potential customers.

Acquiring new members and customers:
Depending on the business model, acquiring new members could be one of the main objectives. In this case, the sign-up pages - and the path to get there - should be carefully crafted using UX research. If it's too complicated, users will bail early, not sign up, or not provide personal information. That means you'll struggle to generate profits or build long-term, personal relationships with users.

Reduce marketing costs:
When users can't find the information, products or services they want, marketing costs skyrocket to achieve the same results. When you direct paid traffic to a page, it should be easy for users to navigate from that page to the desired destination. If visitors leave before taking the desired action, you may have to spend a lot of money on remarketing - trying to get users back! Also, poor website structure can lead to less organic traffic, as the site will rank lower in search results.

**Reputation and SEO ranking.
IA has a big impact on SEO. The organization of a website's data and content affects usability, conversions, and ranking. If you're adding repetitive content or large amounts of poorly defined content, it can negatively impact your search engine optimization.

Lowering the cost of live help and support:
If the information architecture makes it easy for users to find what they're looking for, the cost of live help will drop significantly, and with it the need for written communication.