A Designer's Information Architecture Guide

Don't be scared by the headline because information architecture isn't really that scary at all. In fact, not only is it not scary, it's actually quite interesting when you understand some of the basics.

Information architecture is focused primarily on the organization, structure and labels used. On a website (or anywhere for that matter), the aim is to create an experience for users where information can be found and tasks can be completed. Believe it or not, it's really as simple as that. The impact that information architecture can have on the digital experience however can't be overstated however.

The purpose of information architecture is truly to help users understand where they are, what they are using, what else is there, and what to expect when they take a particular action. What this means is that the practice of information architecture can influence and inform content strategy by identifying the choices made in relation to the words used, as well as playing a role in interface design and interaction design (via wireframing and prototyping).

For a focus on information architecture to provide value, designers must be well acquainted with how to store, access and present information. This include how information is best structured, how information is represented (through labels, etc.), as well as how users browse and search through information. To create these systems of information, it is essential that designers understand the context in which they are working (the goals, technology and whatever constraints exist), the content (its objectives, its type, volume and ownership), and most importantly, the user (what type of audience, the type of tasks they will engage in, their needs, experience and behavior).

Information architecture is a broad and constantly evolving field of practice. While a "Brief Guide" to information architecture is no doubt useful to the unfamiliar, it can only skim the surface. For more detailed insights in this fascinating field of study, explore Website Magazine's Design & Development Digest channel to learn more.