Are you a user experience (UX) designer? Then, you have almost certainly come across the term “information architecture” at least once during your professional career.
And if you think that aspects such as information and data architecture are not necessarily going to involve you directly, you might need to think again. In our guide below, we will be delving deeper into the world of information architecture, its role within the user experience, and why you should definitely pay attention to it.
What Is Information Architecture?
To understand what information architecture is, it can be helpful to focus first on the term “architecture”. In construction and engineering, architecture describes all the processes involved in the planning, designing, and sketching of a building.
Now, simply apply this concept to technology. Information architecture refers to the planning, designing, and sketching of data and information within a digital environment. Common examples of these digital products include websites and apps.
Information architects, therefore, are tasked with working out how to best structure the content of that digital environment to enable users to find the information they need quickly and easily. This could be aided by using information management software.
Image Sourced from Finances online
Information Architecture and User Experience: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
At this point, you might think that information architecture is pretty much the same thing as user experience. This, though, is incorrect, as we are going to find out in this section.
As a user experience expert, you are routinely involved with processes that are aimed at making an online user’s journey on a specific web page or app as smooth, pleasant, and valuable as possible. Whether you are working on a mobile game app, or on something used by professionals such as digital signature software, your goals as a UX designer will revolve around ensuring that the person using that digital product can do so in a way that truly enriches their life and addresses a specific need.
Things you will be focusing on are the usability, friendliness, and emotional enjoyment that users gain from that product – not just the way the product’s content is structured. Going back to the construction and engineering parallel that we drew earlier, we could say that, if an information architect is the digital equivalent of an architect, a UX designer is the digital equivalent of an interior designer.
Information architects help lay the foundation for a digital product that needs to be ordered, well-structured, and informative. A user experience designer, on the other hand, takes that well-structured digital product and adds some finishing touches that can help users fall in love with the product itself.
It's also important to remember that UX designers are not the same as web designers or web developers. The latter category, in fact, works on software programs to develop internet applications through a client-server model.
The Importance of Information Architecture in UX
So, now that we know exactly what UX and IA are, and what their main differences are, you might finally want to find out why information architecture is so crucial to the user experience. The reasons are many.
One of the most significant ones is customer retention. With the average human attention span shrinking further and further over time, experts have calculated that you only have a maximum of 8 seconds to make a good impression on an online user who visits your website or app.
If during that incredibly short timeframe, you don’t provide what the user is expecting, they will swiftly move on to one of your competitors. Therefore, solid information architecture is crucial to creating a user experience that is positive, engaging, and enriching.
Digital content that is not only compelling and interesting but also easy to find, read, and digest is what can help you win against your rivals. On the other hand, even the most exciting type of content that’s not presented in a way that’s clear, organized, and well-structured can rapidly turn into an epic flop.
Content that loads too slowly, doesn’t load fully, or is difficult to find or understand requires the prompt intervention of a capable user architect who can sift through the chaos and restore order and meaning.
Let’s imagine, for example, that you are a user experience designer working on the content for a company selling voice over internet phone systems. The company’s likely clients – or potential ones – are going to be busy businesspeople with little time (and patience!) on their hands.
This means that the content on that web page must be to-the-point and informative, but also straightforward to find, quick to access, and easy to remember. You may wish to consider developing SaaS roadmaps so you can connect managers directly with users and share what you have been working on.
UX design is not always associated with information architecture. This, though, is a mistake, as our guide has demonstrated. If you truly want your digital product to hit the mark, in fact, you need content and information that is both valuable and compelling, as well as well-structured, organized, and quick and easy to find.
This is exactly why combining a solid information architecture with a great user experience is a winning choice, whether you are working on a website for interactive voice response (IVR) systems, an e-commerce store, a tech product, or anything else.
By doing so, you can attract more users, retain them, and get them to come back to you for more.
About the Author: Jenna Bunnell - Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for sales representatives and business owners running an outbound contact center with Dialpad. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna has written for other domains such as MacSecurity and CEO Blog Nation . Here is her LinkedIn.