How’s Your Information Architecture Today?
In my cruising around the Web Tuesday evening I came across Christina Wodtke’s collection of definitions of Information Architecture at Elegant Hack. There can be some great brainstorming from reading about organizing information, the importance of information architecture, and why this even matters.
Consider your experience at the grocery store. Can you find what you need easily? If it’s well done, you ought to be able to quickly and easily find the spices that you need, the milk, the bread, the cereal, the natural foods, or whatever you need. And in so doing, the flow of the visitors should also be smooth, without major clogs in certain spots and without getting stuck at the checkout line.
Your site’s information architecture needs to be comparable to this, making sense, allowing visitors to find what they need easily, seeing what’s available, checking out easily, and having an overall good experience.
I’ve also ended up going back to the same grocery store for years and years because of its ease of use and overall good experience, even though there are other groceries nearby, too. The same can be true of Web sites--visitors returning is a critical component of a successful site.
I especially liked Lou Rosenfeld’s thoughts:
Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.
Organization systems are the ways content can be grouped. Labeling systems are essentially what you call those content groups. Navigation systems, like navigation bars and site maps, help you move around and browse through the content. Searching systems help you formulate queries that can be matched with relevant documents.
I also recommend Information Architecture by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, published by O'Reilly, the cover of which is shown above. Lou has a weblog with good IA information, and Peter recently started a new column.