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The Eight Principles of Information Architecture by Matt Holladay

Same way as architects plan or design highly complex structures, information architects develop intricate systems to organize, find, display and use information. Picture a construction site with workers trying to build a new house without a plan or blueprint. The same applies to IA; it requires necessary guidance and direction. And this is where the information architecture diagram comes into the picture. The paradox of choice states that a greater number of options increases cognitive load and makes it more difficult for people to make decisions. So we only want to offer a focused set of choices that are meaningful to our users.

Terms that are easy for you or your team to understand might not resonate as well with users. You may also want to test your labels with specific segments of your audience. Other steps include content inventory, user research and testing, wireframing, and prototyping. Let’s talk about how to create information architecture for your website.

Main Information Architecture Principles

Taxonomy is a discipline that helps classify and organize features or information based on the similarities and differences of the concepts that are involved. Information architects choose taxonomies for a product based on the mental model of their target audience . Typical scenarios usually match with the users’ goals—they help answer what users try to achieve when using your product. Designers rely on this information to optimize user flow and you can also consider storyboarding to visualize the process of interaction.

Principle 6: The Principle of Multiple Classification

Architects use them to achieve their objectives or visual goals. A high cognitive load usually means that the product is overwhelming users with too much information or required actions. It’s essential to identify places where this is happening and redesign them. The process of user research depends on the nature of your product.

  • Here the content labels are penned down on cards and provided to the users.
  • If you’re new to the practice of information architecture, start here!
  • Technology choices will be constrained by the choices available within the technology blueprint.
  • This chapter provides principles for the use and deployment of IT resources across the enterprise.
  • Team members can also view, comment, and share Visio diagrams to improve collaboration.

When content is organized in a way that doesn’t match the user’s expectations, the users face a lot of friction. Good information architecture, on the other hand, helps users to find a solution to their problems with the least amount of effort. Understanding information architecture in UX is critical for business leaders as technology and innovation in general disrupt almost every industry around the globe. Wireframes are vital in combining user research, features, and content into the product itself.

The principle of choices

Cognitive load is the amount of brainpower that a person needs to interact with a product at any given time. Typically, the higher the cognitive load that a user experiences, the less enjoyable the interaction becomes. A sample diagram of the information architecture of MetaFilter.

Information architecture isn’t just about visualizing information for user assistance but is also about converting the visual into reality. To start with, let’s give a little history and perspective to information architecture. Some of its fundamentals can be traced back to having roots in library science. Librarians had to study how to structure and organize information based on labels and taxonomies to find information easily. Some special architectural design principles from famous architecture in the world.

Main Information Architecture Principles

The name should indicate its purpose rather than its location. IA practitioners need to ensure that the logic of content organization continues to work well for their target audience. Pages that are created should offer meaningful choices to the user.

Information Architecture Principles for Mobile (With Infographic)

Principles are general rules and guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission. How often are the product updates being delivered to customers? Finding the answers to these questions will help you prioritize the deliverables in your vision of information architecture. Anyone who has worked in branding will be familiar with the challenge of establishing something new while maintaining continuity with, or even coexisting with, the previous system. When a person looks at an architecture, whether it is the exterior or interior of the building, there will be a certain movement pattern that catches their eyes. Designers should use common interaction patterns to make the interaction familiar to users.

Main Information Architecture Principles

There are three types of organizational structures to refer to — hierarchical, sequential, and matrix structure. As you scroll through each of these structures, you’ll have an idea of how to design information architecture. This process needs to be both effective and efficient time-wise because we all know consumers lose patience very quickly especially with digital products. Information architecture, user interface, and user experience are interrelated and share a common objective — offering a delightful customer experience. Creating a UX flowchart helps stakeholders visualize how users will interact with your proposed web design. Designers often create user personas to understand their users better, considering specific needs they may have overlooked.

How is Information Architecture related to UX design?

In addition, this section covers best practices for categorization and common reader questions about acceptable practices for global-navigation breadth and depth. The information architecture diagram is an integral part of the digital solution development process. Information architects govern the structure of a digital product with a focus on user navigation. UX designers go one step deeper beyond navigation to also factor in user engagement. The principle of focused navigation, as defined by Dan, says that “designing navigation means establishing a strategy for finding content on the website. According to Dan, one good strategy is to have different menus for different types of information when possible.

Main Information Architecture Principles

These insights help designers introduce changes in the existing structure of content and navigation elements to make the interaction easier for users. It’s important to note that you should prepare content alongside the product design or even prior to the design stage. As we mentioned above, content and context play a crucial role in information architecture. A product team should operate with at least the approximate volume of the content presented on a website or app. Any well-built and visually appealing product will fail if it doesn’t deliver real value to the end-users. So, no matter how great the initial idea seems, it’s essential to research and find out whether the future product will meet the users’ needs and mitigate their pain points.

Each mental model is unique and changes constantly, as we collect more information. Structure content according to the user’s needs, as well as their goals, behaviors, and expectations. To identify these, you must know who the user is (ie. who will be consuming the content), what value the content provides them, and how they actually use the content.

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Next, apply your user research to prioritize and group that content. Creating a good information architecture is key to a good user experience — you can’t have one without the other. Even the most stunning websites won’t delight users if the underlying organization is poor.

Assume that at least half of users will not enter through the ‘front door’ or your home page. This means every page should include enough information so the user can understand where they are. It’s often better to split those huge heavy pages into smaller, easy to consume articles.

Since the field of IA is complex and when dealing with large information systems the task becomes more massive, sometimes experts choose a specialized niche within the discipline. Some examples of IA sub-specialties include focusing on search schemas, metadata, taxonomy, etc. After finishing wireframes, a product team moves to create the visual part of the product.


It’s when all the information and navigation options are on a single page. The more content you have on your website, the more complex the taxonomy process will be. But there are a few ways that you can make the process more efficient. Because you can find just about anything on the internet, users rely on images to contextualize simple text.

Architecture always enters an existing context and, as a result, has an impact on that environment, for example, through energy use. These concerns have been prioritized by some of the best architects of the last century. A good building not only has a good visual beauty but also should have a good experience in touch.

Why Is It Important to Use Information Architecture in Design?

Without one, users won’t delight in your product, no matter how beautiful or engaging. Websites are constantly changing with updates and new information. Data models help visualize how that new data will work within the structure.

IT systems are sized at current volumes and volume growth is monitored periodically. IT and business need to agree on capacity contingency to avoid system failure in case of minor volume increments. Central information architecture for web design components are easier to manage since management eases consolidation and standardization. More than just a site mapping tool, you will be able to map, test, and analyze your website when it is ready.

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