Website information architecture is so important.
There are so many things to consider when building a great website these day. There are immediate and obvious branding & design considerations all the way up to equally essential matters of security and website speed.
Discovery meetings with a reputable and professional website design agency mean that you should have been asked all the following pertinent questions;
- Is your website “on brand”?
- Does it convey your values as a business?
- Is it clear from your website who you are and what you do?
- Does your website have a purpose? What is that purpose?
- To inform?
- Sell products & services?
- Is your site designed and built to serve your target audience?
- You do know who your target audience is and you’ve mapped out their personas, right?
- Can your intended user group(s) find your website easily?
- Once they get there can they use it easily? Can they find what they need and do what they want?
- Does their behaviour match the purpose and goals you built in to your website?
- Have you got all the legal boxes ticked? You know: privacy, Ts & Cs, GDPR compliance etc?
- Is it fast?
- Does it work on mobile?
There are so many aspects to be taken into account with your website design and development. A great many disciplines are required and a number of highly-experienced professionals will be involved; brand design, graphic design, web development, server management, content management, the digital marketing such as the PPC, the SEO and the social media…
However, one key aspect to web design gets overlooked regularly and that is quite simply the website architecture or information architecture.
What is Information Architecture?
Information architecture is the structural design of shared information resources. Information architecture (IA) is organised, logical and facilitates both the findability and usability of information. IA is a fundamental underpinning of a website’s user experience (UX).
However, it needs to be clear from the outset that website information architecture and website navigation can be, but are not always the same.
Why is Information Architecture Important?
Organising information into a logical, findable and usable structure is beneficial on numerous levels.
Structured information should start at the business level and then whatever selected information can be shared with website users should then logically followed the same orderly discipline.
Findable information aligns with making your content visible via search engines. Then, once users are at your site, they should be able to find their way around your information at the website level.
The usability of the information you provide then serves the final stage of helping your audience achieve their goals – an awareness of your product or service, being informed and able to improve their circumstances or making a decision such as a purchase.
Top Tips for Information Architecture Design
Now that you know what information architecture is and why it is beneficial, these are the steps required to make the best use of your material.
First, Map Out your Information Architecture
Your very first IA task is to organise all the information you wish to share on your website.
Conduct an exercise to work out what you will share and who with. You can choose to have public access levels and logged-in, member/subscribe levels of information.
Once you know what levels of access are, you can build the tiers and the tools to facilitate this.
Then you can have an internal, business-level organisation of the shareable information by department, sector etc. If you have material that occupies multiple places, then that’s fine. Be open about this and clearly label that your assets belong in numerous silos.
Second, Conduct a Focus Group
By gathering a focus group you can have a team of people analyse the assets you want to share on your website build. This can be an internal group or, even better, a third party user group.
Having members from your user group or those that match the personas of your expected visitors, will help you to organise your assets even further. They may uncover issues, highlight aspects you’d previously not thought of and generally inspire you to develop a structure that is logical and usable.
You can also ask your focus group to also take a look at the assets you propose to share and find out their opinion on the nature of this ephemera: is it too technical, too simple, does it appeal to them, would they share it, but it? What would they do to improve the nature of the info on your website?
Remember to use a whiteboard and add Post-It notes; your user focus group can add, modify and organise
Third, Map Navigation to IA
Information architecture and navigation are not always the same.
For a relatively simple business, a website’s architecture and navigation may be very closely aligned.
Larger organisations and complex businesses may have so much information available for their users that a navigation which directly mirrors the information available may be too complicated.
Whichever category your website’s IA fits into, you need to ensure you have both a great architecture and a complementary navigation overlaying this.
In our business as a full-service digital marketing agency, we have highly knowledgeable Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts in our team. Their professional experience covers a variety of disciplines, including copywriting amongst many other talents.
The IA will include SEO, copywriting and SEO copywriting, which is an overlap of writing copy but with SEO in mind. Our navigation allows visitors to both the SEO or copywriting section of the site to access the SEO copywriting pages as they’re relevant to both sections. The same applies to many other services we offer too.
Fourth, Monitor and Adjust
With intelligence, effort and insight, you’ll have made a great map of your website assets and a navigation that helps users find them. You may have achieved perfection here, but most likely, you will still need to monitor how your users interact with your content.
Set up the tools to help you monitor website behaviour and how your visitors consume content: Google Tag Manager, Analytics and Search Console are a good starting point. Then heat map tools like Hotjar will help on key pages.
Look for the content that you were expecting to be consumed most and question why it may not be. Look at the paths to your main goals, monitor internal site searches and be ready to make incremental or even bold adjustments where necessary.
Always be ready to “surface” the key pages, services, videos, whitepapers and contact forms. You want to make your website the most useful you can for your visitors because they are your biggest fans and you need to keep them entertained, informed, fed, etc.
Mapping out your assets, having a focus group analyse your logic and aligning your UX to your IA is what you should do. You’ll have a well-structured website design and hopefully a happy user base.
Your work will continue as you analyse your data and make adjustments to your website. Remember to rely on a science-led approach and work according to the numbers and reliable feedback you see.
Whatever the size of your website design and development project, get Clever Marketing involved. We help with personas, user journeys, mapping content and building navigation.