Information Architecture from the UX side of view

In terms of User Experience design, we have several terminologies to work with, one of them is Information Architecture.

When it comes to the user experience it’s not the technical infrastructure or the storage system we are interested in. We focus on the structure of the information we share with the user and how this content is organized, labeled and visualized.

We define what data should be displayed and how the different pages of information is linked to each other.

The easiest ways to begin this process is to define a site map; This allows us to group pages together and helps determine the best structure to present them.

 

“It’s very important to understands how people actually use content and how the structure should function to support that.”

 

Defining taxonomies

One of the challenges for the UX designer is to find the right set of relationships between items and categories. This provides menus, links, buttons and other navigational structures to deliver a good user experience.

Some of the techniques that can be used for this part are card sorting, user surveys, together with other user research.

Sometimes there’s the tricky problem to incorporate these in to existing taxonomies, already defined for other systems.

This may involve a careful examination of the existing taxonomy to ensure that menus, boxes, links, etc. can fully represent each taxonomy clearly without squashing data or omitting it entirely.

 

Teamwork gives an advantages

When a Back-End Developer and a UX-designer works together they have the ability to match technical/system limitations to the user’s needs and achieve a “best fit” between these two. All for an improved user experience if the perfect experience isn’t quite feasible.

 

Steps to developing an intuitive information architecture:

  1. Find out what the mission or purpose is: why will people come to use this?
  2. Determine the immediate and long-range goals: are they different?
  3. Pinpoint the intended audiences and conduct a requirements analysis for each group.
  4. Collect content and develop a content inventory.
  5. Determine the organizational structure
  6. Create an outline of the project, which can include:
    • Content Inventory: a hierarchical view of the content, typically in a spreadsheet format, which briefly describes the content that should appear on each page and indicates where pages belong in terms of global and local navigation.
    • Site Maps: visual diagrams that reflect site navigation and main content areas. They are usually constructed to look like flowcharts and show how users will navigate from one section to another.
  7. Create a visual blueprint, which can include:
    • Wireframes: rough illustrations of page content and structure, which may also indicate how users will interact. These diagrams get handed off to a visual designer, who will establish page layout and visual design. Wireframes are useful for communicating early design ideas and inform the designer and the client of exactly what information, links, content, promotional space, and navigation will be on every page. Wireframes may illustrate design priorities in cases where various types of information appear to be competing.
  8. Define the navigation systems:
    • Global navigation: Global navigation is the primary means of navigation. Global navigation links appear on every page, typically as a menu.
    • Local navigation: Local links may appear as text links within the content of a page or as a submenu for a section.
    • Utility links: Utility links appear in the header or footer of every page. These may include infrequently used links.
  9. Conduct user research:
    • Once you have a draft navigation structure, conduct appropriate usability research to collect feedback from the target audience. Methods may include: Card Sorting, Cognitive Walkthroughs, prototyping, Contextual Task Analyses, and Usability Testing.

 

Tips for creating usable navigational systems:

Navigation should:

  • Be easy to learn.
  • Be consistent throughout the website.
  • Provide feedback, e.g. such as the use of breadcrumbs to indicate how to navigate back to where the user started.
  • Use the minimum number of clicks to arrive at the next destination.
  • Use clear and intuitive labels, based on the user’s perspective and terminology.
  • Support user tasks.
  • Have each link be distinct from other links.
  • Group navigation into logical units.
  • Avoid making the user scroll to get to important navigation or submit buttons.
  • Not disable the browser’s back button.

Source: Own experience and Interaction Design Foundation, https://www.interaction-design.org

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