Information Architecture: Effective Techniques for Designers. (2023)

Information Architecture: Effective Techniques for Designers. (1)

Content is a component that can add value to any digital product. Informative texts and well-thought-out visual elements of UI design can lay the foundation for a successful product. However, even good content can fail if it is poorly structured. One of our previous articles was devoted to the fundamentals of information architecture, and today's post continues that theme.

Put simply, information architecture (AI) is a science of structuring the content of websites, web and mobile apps, and social media software. AI Studio aims to organize the content in such a way that users can easily fit into the functionality of the product and find everything they need without much effort. Today, with the user-centric approach to design becoming mainstream, many designers are learning the scientific principles of information architecture that are considered the foundation of powerful design. There are now many specialists working on AI development, so many different techniques are emerging. Our article introduces four efficient AI methods commonly used in design.

Before you start creating a product design, you need to understand what elements your project will consist of. One of the first steps in building an information architecture is called content inventory. The technique is considering creating a list of components for the future design project. The inventory list usually includes multiple items such as title, author/provider, meta items (keywords, description, tags), text, images, audio, video, and document files.

A content inventory list helps designers at different stages of the workflow. First, the list helps identify essential content components so designers can plan product structure. If designers know all the components, they can position them correctly. In addition, it is an easy way to discuss the specifics of the project structure with your customers. It's much faster and easier to edit the list than to change the design project at the beginning. Ultimately, the parts list can help designers gain a deep understanding of the content, which leads to making appropriate connections between elements to make the product design feel comprehensive.

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Information architecture is something like a blueprint of the project that needs to be generated through a visual schema. Most designers constantly use the well-known technique called wireframing, which helps create a simplified and schematic visual representation of a design for digital products. Wireframes are similar to architectural plans: they are usually black and white illustrations, sometimes with markers or bright dots to delineate specific areas or points, and provide a clear view of the structure of the project and the connections between the different parts.

Wireframing is a quick and inexpensive technique for planning the information architecture of the page or screen. Designers use wireframes to outline the visual and typographic hierarchy of user interfaces, configure interactive elements and zones, plan transitions and interactions, and organize the overall design precisely for the audience. Because a wireframe focuses on structure rather than the visual and emotional perception of detail, designers try to keep it simple. For the most part, they limit you to solid color schemes, with boxes and lines representing text, images, and all interactive elements on the page.

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Wireframing offers numerous win-win opportunities not only for designers but also for the entire development team and customers. First, a wireframe is a designer's first visual representation of an abstract idea. This step ensures that developers and customers fully understand the project design. Also, developers can clearly see the position of elements on the page. Some wireframing software programs allow you to preview all sizes and distances with a single button press, saving design and development teams time.

In our article "information architecture. Basics for designers“We have defined four essential components of AI: organizational systems, tagging systems, navigation systems and search systems. Organizational systems are the groups or categories into which information is classified. It helps users predict where they can easily find specific information. To effectively categorize design components, designers employ the technique of breaking them down into specific structures and schemas.

There are three main types of content structures: hierarchical, sequential, and matrix.

hierarchical🇧🇷 In one of our previous articles, we mentioned a well-known technique for organizing content called visual hierarchy. It is initially based on Gestalt psychology theory and has as its main goal to present the content of the medium, be it a book page or a poster, a web page or a mobile screen, in a way that users can understand the level. importance of each element. Activates the brain's ability to distinguish objects based on their physical differences such as size, color, contrast, orientation, etc.

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Sequentially🇧🇷 This structure creates a kind of path for users. They scroll through the content to complete the task they need. This type is commonly used for retail websites or apps where users need to jump from one task to another to make a purchase.

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headquarters🇧🇷 This way is a bit more complicated for users because they choose the navigation method themselves. Users have options to organize content. For example, they might search content sorted by date, or some prefer to search by topic.

(Video) Information Architecture & Sketching for UI/UX Projects | Behind the Design Part 4

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Content can be divided according to organizational schemes aimed at classifying design components into specific groups. Here are some of the most popular schemes:

Alphabetical🇧🇷 The content is arranged alphabetically. This scheme works best when users know exactly what they are looking for and know how to describe or name the search object so that it can serve as a user navigation tool.

Publicity🇧🇷 The way of organizing content for separate user groups. For example, there are many educational resources that break down information by student proficiency.

chronologically🇧🇷 This guy organizes content by date and time. It's commonly used on news websites, event apps, and blogs.

Is🇧🇷 The content is arranged thematically. For example, online bookstores classify products by genre.

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Designers have been working on the development of the field of information architecture for a long time and so far have created some efficient models of content structure. Knowing these allows designers to choose the appropriate information structure for a product. Let's take a look at the most common models.

Unilateral model

When the digital product requires minimal content, the single page template is a perfect choice. Websites dedicated to a single product and purpose often use this type of data structure. As an example, we can consider the design of the website promoting the new application. Its purpose is to trick users into downloading the app, so it usually offers a limited number of copies with an emphasis on the "Available on the App Store" button.

(Video) Information Architecture guide for UX designers

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flat model

This template is best for small websites or landing pages. In the flat structure, all pages are the same and are on the same navigation level, therefore accessible to users without discrimination. This type of information structure works well for sites that have a limited amount of content and aren't going to grow anytime soon. It might be a good idea to apply the flat model to a startup business project.

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index model

The index structure is one of the most commonly used. All sides are equally similar to the flat model, but the navigation system is different. The index model allows users to access pages through the list of pages available on each product page. This allows the index template to contain more content and still be usable and easy for users to skip useless pages.

Information Architecture: Effective Techniques for Designers. (10)

Strict hierarchy model

The model did not get its name by accident. It's called "strict" because it gives users only one way to access subpages: from the main page. This structure is a good choice for digital products that have a specific purpose. For example, e-commerce websites use the framework so that users don't miss any important information about their new offers. Likewise, educational platforms can apply the model in such a way that the educational process takes place step by step.

Coexisting hierarchy model

This type of information structure is probably the most difficult to use. Combine the ideas of some models. Similar to the index model, it provides users with multiple ways to access content, but its purpose is to guide users down a specific path so that they can perform expected actions. Therefore, to create such a structure, designers need to have a little experience in this field. However, it might be worth trying.

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Daisy Model

This type of content structure is common on educational websites and apps, as well as others that require users to complete specific tasks. The daisy-chain structure is such that users return to a home page (sometimes to other specific points) after completing tasks. For example, many task apps automatically return users to the home screen when they indicate that the task is complete.

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Information architecture is critical to a high-performing design, but it must be done right. The various AI techniques we discussed above can be combined and applied depending on the product and customer needs. In addition, they are constantly being improved as the field of design never stands still and so many new methods can appear soon.

A Practical Guide to Information Architecture by Donna Spencer

The Definitive Guide to Information Architecture.

Understanding every disruption: Information architecture for everyone

Information architecture: for the web and beyond

Basics of information architecture

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