Information Architecture (IA) in UX

Information architecture is about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for, in the real world as well as online.

8 principles of good Information Architecture

  1. Principle of objects: Life is constantly moving, changing and nothing is the same twice. Everything has its own behaviours, attributes and lifecycles. A good IA architect should treat every project uniquely and begin by identifying the different types of content that’ll be shown.
  2. Principle of choices: Users want to be able to make their own decisions, however when presented with too much choice the user can feel overwhelmed causing them to feel flustered. When designing experiences it’s important to reduce options especially if they are doing a set of tasks or are going through a flow like a checkout journey. In short, more is less.
  3. Principle of disclosure: Show just enough information to help people understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper. By limiting the information they see at any one time, you allow your user to better absorb what they’re seeing. If users are interested in the information, they can dive deep into it by moving from preview to detailed information.
  4. Principle of exemplars: Show examples of content when describing the content of the categories. For example, when browsing categories on eBay, each category is represented with an image of a product that falls into that category. This makes it easy for users to identify the category.
  5. Principle of front doors: Assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the homepage. That means that every page should include some basic information so they know where they are. It also means every page should include at least top-level navigation so users will know what they can do next.
  6. Principle of multiple classification: Multiple classification means that there should be different ways for your users to browse the content on your site. Different people are likely to use different methods for finding the information on your site. For example, some users may use search function to find the content while others may want to explore through browsing.
  7. Principle of focused navigation: Focused navigation means that navigational menus should not be defined by where they appear, but rather by what they contain.
  8. Principle of growth: Assume the content on the website will grow. The amount of content you have on a site today may be only a small fraction of what you’ll have tomorrow, next week, or next year. Make sure the website is scalable.

“The practice of information architecture is the effort of organizing and relating information in a way that simplifies how people navigate and use information on the Web.”

DSIA Research Initiative

The 3 circles of the “information ecology”

The three circles of information architecture, users, context and content equals information architecture
Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville defined the ‘three circles of information architecture’ as content, users and context of use.
  1. Users: audience, tasks, needs, information-seeking behaviour, experience
  2. Context: business goals, politics, technology, funding, culture, resources, constraints
  3. Content: content objectives, volume, governance and ownership, funding, culture

Cognitive Psychology

  • Cognitive load is the amount of information that a person can process at any given time. Keeping in mind the user’s cognitive load helps prevent information architects from inadvertently overloading a user with too much information all at once.
  • Decision making may not sound like psychology, but it is! It’s a cognitive process that allows us to make a choice or select an option. Information architects can help us make decisions by providing certain information at key moments.
  • Mental models are the assumptions people carry in their minds before interacting with a website or application. Information is easier to discover when it is in a place that matches the user’s mental model of where it should be.

Methods

Wireframing

Labeling

Taxonomies

Hierarchy and navigation

Content inventory and audit

Research

Summary

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