Information Architecture

Published Jun 8, 2022Updated Oct 11, 2023
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Information architecture (IA) defines the organization, structure, and navigation of a user interface. In planning information architecture, a designer will consider how many pages an interface needs, the purpose of each page, and how pages are related and connected.

Designers should prioritize pages and content based on who the target audience is, how they expect to use the product, and how they will move through the interface. By defining the structure of the content, as well as how it’s prioritized, organized, and navigated, designers can increase the usability of the interface.

Effective IA allows users to complete tasks with the least effort required. Site maps are a visual representation of IA and give context to how content is tiered. Although IA isn’t visually presented to users, content should be grouped and structured in a way that makes logical sense to maximize usability.

An example of a site map with illustrations of construction workers and equipment building out the map.

Information architecture is heavily influenced by mental models. The designer model is the mental image in the head of the designer. The user model is the mental image in the head of the user. In an ideal world, the designer’s model and user’s model should be exactly the same - meaning the user will know exactly how to use a product. The system model is the actual image conveyed by the product and written material. The better the system model is, the closer the designer model and user model will be, which in turn, makes the product easier to understand.

Card sorting and tree testing are two user research techniques commonly used in the development of information architecture.

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