information-architecture

Part one: what is information architecture and why does it matter for your website?

Posted under Website

Ever found yourself going round in circles on websites getting more and more frustrated because you can’t find what you’re looking for? That’s most probably due to poor information architecture (IA) on that website – and it can be a big factor in why a website isn’t performing.  

IA is essentially creating a structure that helps people find what they’re looking for. Originally, IA referred to how hard copy materials were organised, say in a library. Today, the discipline of IA is used to help organise information on digital platforms too – websites, apps, software. The aim of a good website IA is to provide content in a way that helps users achieve their goals and have a positive experience – whilst also helping the company to achieve its goals too.  

Creating a good IA for a website often relies upon multiple experts coming together to pool their knowledge – UX designers, content creators and strategists, SEO experts, website developers, sales and customers services teams, and marketing managers. It’s a multi-discipline field that will impact different areas of a business, so it naturally needs their input too.  

The expertise needed to create a strong IA 

Let’s take a quick look at why each of these experts may be needed:

  • UX designers will have an understanding of how users behave on a website, and as a result will be integral to the creation of a good IA. The success of an IA will rely on good aesthetic design too, and UX designers will be able to make that a reality. Not every business will have an in-house UX designer, but instead may benefit from the expertise of external website developers and agencies. 
  • Content creators will need to have a deep knowledge of what content is presented on a website and where. They will need to understand the IA to be able to guide on where content may be needed in future and they’ll need to know how to create content that supports the goals of the IA.  
  • SEO experts will be able to input by providing insight into what potential users are searching for – and thus what information may be valuable to surface on your website, as part of the IA. SEO research can also uncover what terminology is being most used to find products or services relating to your business – for example, if your business sells rugs you may have assumed users are most likely to search for “thick pile rugs”, but looking at search engine data your SEO experts may uncover the term “shag pile rugs” to be used more frequently. As a result, you might want to think about how you word your product listings within your website’s IA.  
  • Sales and customer services teams are often overlooked when creating a website’s IA but they can provide useful insight into customer conversations – particularly an understanding of what information customers seek before making a purchasing decision. This sort of insight can be invaluable when putting together an IA for your website, so you know what content it is people are really looking for.  
  • Marketing managers can likewise provide insight into the target audiences of your website, and thus what information they will be looking for. Marketing managers can also tie this into the company’s objectives, making sure they’re not forgotten in the process of creating a new IA.  

All in all, that’s a really broad mix of teams or individuals to be involved in creating or updating a website’s IA – but it’s clear why each of them has value to bring to the process.  

What contributes towards IA? 

Just as it’s clear that IA requires expertise from multiple fields, IA also needs multiple components on your website to contribute towards it.  

If you’re working on the IA for your website, you will probably be looking at the website’s: 

  • Sitemap 
  • Navigation 
  • Content categorisation 
  • And metadata. 

You’ll probably also identify areas where content needs to be amended or created from scratch, or perhaps removed.  

Why does this all matter? 

Hopefully, with all the information above in mind, it’s clear why IA matters – because without a good IA users won’t be able to find what they’re looking for on your website and will bounce off…at best without converting or, at worst, without converting and having built a negative perception of your brand.  

Put simply, a poor IA can be hugely frustrating for users. And a great IA can do wonders for improving the conversion rate of your website. But a good IA can have lots of other benefits too:  

  • It can help your website perform better in search. By using SEO research to inform the creation of your IA you may be able to introduce new content that is both useful for users and search engines. 
  • It can help to simplify the creation of new content in future. Whether you’re looking to introduce new products or are running a campaign, a good existing IA will have ‘room’ for new additions – it’ll be easy to expand upon current content and support new campaigns through your website. Gone are the days of trying to shoehorn in pages and feeling like content didn’t have a proper ‘home’! 
  • A great IA can improve how users and customers perceive your brand. If you’ve spent time, money and resource trying to position your brand as trustworthy, reliable and helpful then your website should reflect this too, and a good IA will be integral to making that happen.
  • A website with a good IA will help support your teams too – saving on time and resources. If users can easily find an answer on your website, your customer services team will be able to focus their resources more effectively than fielding questions that could be answered through a quick look at the website. Your sales teams could also see more informed and warm leads coming through, with people having found the information they need sooner in their journey with your brand because your website was easy to navigate. 
  • It makes your budget work harder for you. A website can be a significant investment for a business, so you’ll want it to work hard for the money spent on it – and a good IA will just make that money stretch further by improving the user’s journey and helping people find what they’re looking for. 

There are countless other ways a good IA on your website can benefit your business but these are just a handful of the most significant. Hopefully, by now, you’re convinced of the importance of investing in your website’s IA to make your website work hard to achieve results and create a positive experience for your users.  

But how can you build a good IA? That’s the topic I’ll cover in my next blog – so make sure you stay tuned!  

If, for now, you’re ready to start speaking to experts who can help improve the performance of your website then don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Media Matters team. 

Karen McNulty

An accredited trainer and Chartered Marketer (CIM), Karen is passionate about technology, new innovations and trends around digital transformation, digital marketing and cloud computing. A senior digital marketer, her strength in planning and strategy is exceptional. Her extensive experience across a wide variety of disciplines, industries and verticals is invaluable as we look to work with and onboard more new clients.