What is information architecture? Understand this concept and its applications – WAU
(Click on the player to hear the narration of our post! Leave your comments in the comments.) Exposure to an enormous amount of information is already part of our routine – especially when we surf the web or use our favorite applications. What users may not notice during these everyday activities is that, […]
(Click on the player to hear the narration of our post! Leave your comments in the comments.)
Exposure to an enormous amount of information is already part of our routine – especially when we surf the web or use our favorite applications.
What users may not notice during these everyday activities is that, behind quality websites and apps, there are professionals responsible for structuring information in order to offer the best experience for people.
They are designers, user experience analysts (UX), content producers, developers and other specialists who need to deal with the field of information architecture – in English, Information Architecture, or simply AI – to create useful and intuitive digital assets.
In fact, companies are already hiring employees for the specific position of information architect.
So we prepared this post with a lot of knowledge about AI, ranging from its principles to the ways it is present in our daily lives.
What is information architecture?
In a very succinct definition, the Information Architecture Institute explains what this discipline consists of:
“Information architecture is the practice of deciding how to organize the parts of something in a way that makes it understandable.”
If we are going to develop this description, we can say that AI has the function of help people find what they’re looking for. Whether in objects or places, physical or digital, it also has the purpose of making clear the context in which the individual or user is.
Information architecture is a great pillar of technology and the organization of large companies, being part of a great context of digital transformation. If you want to understand more about the subject, be sure to check out the Digital Transformation ebook.
If you go to the supermarket for the first time and want to know where the chocolates are, you will probably look for a sign indicating the section of sweets and desserts. Likewise, if you want to consult the ingredients of a product, it is to be expected that you will be able to find this information easily on the packaging.
The same goes for the digital world, which will be the focus of this post – just adapt the concept for software, applications, websites, blogs etc.
It is essential that they contain the information in an easily understandable structure, that follows a simple logic and that takes into account the possibilities of interaction.
That is, when we think of hierarchies, categories and other elements that favor navigation and make the search for what we are looking for uncomplicated, we are referring to information architecture.
At first glance, it may seem like an expendable resource, which only aims to improve the presentation of a website, application or other type of project. However, its importance goes far beyond that. Let’s understand why.
Why does information architecture matter?
It may be that some entrepreneurs, managers and other decision makers do not support an investment in information architecture because they ignore the importance it has for organizations and their customers. Perhaps they simply cannot see practical use in such a work.
To be more clear how relevant it is, take your company’s website as an example and follow the reasoning below:
According to Steve Krug, author of “Don’t Make Me Think” – one of the biggest references in terms of digital marketing books – there are 4 questions that the user needs to be able to answer quickly as soon as he enters a website:
- What is this?
- What do they have around here?
- What can I do here?
- Why should I be here and not on another website?
So, does the design and operation of your website allow the visitor to answer these questions effortlessly?
That’s where one of the biggest advantages of AI is. In the context of digital artifacts, it enables the development of products and services aimed at offering quality in both navigation and usability.
It is something that undoubtedly requires a lot of effort to build, but that allows companies to save time and money by solving problems such as difficulties in understanding what is possible to do within a website or not knowing what to do next in the face of particular screen.
These are setbacks that will eventually occur, if there is no care with the information architecture.
What’s worse, as long as they are not resolved, they will certainly cause frustration for your audience.
Thus, by valuing the practice of AI measures, the brand prevents losses such as the migration of dissatisfied users to the competition or complaints on complaint sites that their site / app / program does not work as it should.
But not only that. There are users who, by not finding what they are looking for or feeling confused by not understanding what they are seeing on the screen, blame themselves. In this way, they go through a terrible experience and associate all this negative feeling with their company or with any product or service it offers.
How to summarize the concept of information architecture?
Since the theme of this article is AI, nothing better than to structure all the information we’ve seen so far into 3 major categories.
For that, we will count on the help of Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville and Jorge Arango.
In the book that is one of the definitive guides on information architecture – “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” – the authors present this field as the relationship between the following pillars:
This idea that AI occurs through the intersection of these 3 concepts is called information ecology and represents an environment of interdependence, which will be different from business to business.
Therefore, for information architecture to be really useful, it is necessary to develop content with attention to users and the context in which they, the company and the project find themselves.
Therefore, we can summarize AI with the topics below:
- texts, images, graphics, audio content, etc .;
- mapping of pages or screens;
- volume of information.
- information-seeking behavior;
- usage experience;
- tasks you want to perform in your application.
- business model;
- project objectives;
- development technologies and methodologies;
- resources (capital, people, equipment, among others);
What is the relationship between AI and our daily lives?
We have already detailed the role of information architecture as an important part of the development of digital product / service projects, but is AI present in our daily lives?
The answer is yes and you have probably already performed a task related to this science / art.
When we think about the organization of sectors of the company, activities developed and structuring a team, for example, AI is present.
The same is true when we are going to coordinate a trip, name the folders on the computer and organize the files inside them, group the vacation photos on the smartphone and then send them to friends and much more.
As much as you do not use the methodologies that we saw throughout the post, in cases like these, you are the information architect, after all, it will be your initiative to give it the structure, classification or arrangement that you believe to be most relevant.
We can see, therefore, that the area of information architecture has a vast theory and very useful practices for the construction of attractive and comfortable systems for the public. All this wealth is due, mainly, to the interdisciplinarity of AI studies, which involve language, design, technology, psychology, business and much more.
What are the methodologies that AI uses?
In this section, we will look at some of the practices that professionals involved in AI use to structure information about the content and materials they work with.
But before following any of these steps, it is worth remembering that it is essential to know very well the particularities of the users for whom an artifact is intended. Therefore, always keep in mind who your ideal customer is, using the concept of buyer persona.
The hierarchy is essential for users to understand at what level they are within your application and how the content of the screens or pages relate to each other.
In a hypothetical message exchange application, we can have the main screen, where the user chooses between “Contacts”, “Conversations” and “Settings”. Within these options, there are other sub-options and so on.
To represent this arrangement, it is recommended to draw a diagram along the lines of a company’s organizational structure – an organization chart.
Bearing in mind that this document may receive other names, such as site map or site architecture when referring to the relationship between web pages.
Wireframes consist of demonstrations – interactive or not – of how the user will view the information available on a digital asset, its hierarchies and the connections between the application screens.
They are very useful because they give a representation of the arrangement of the elements that will compose the final product.
When working on the basis of wireframes, those involved in the project are able to reach a consensus on the best form of presentation and this resource starts to serve as a reference for designers, developers and other professionals involved to create the deliverables.
In the context of information architecture, taxonomy refers to the names we give to group and describe the contents, as well as the language we use for this purpose.
Imagine that, during the development of the institutional website, a company decides that it wants to show who its customers and partners are.
This involves deciding whether they will be in an option in the “Customers and Partners” menu, in separate options in the menu such as “Customers” and “Partners” or as topics in a submenu called “Who we are”, just to name a few ideas.
One way to facilitate this choice is through the technique of card sorting (ordering cards).
In it, participants with characteristics similar to the persona should organize a set of cards with topics that describe the screens / pages. The idea is that these people group the cards into categories, according to their knowledge of the project, and even help to name these groups.
The person responsible for the activity should talk to the participants to understand what motivated their choices and, finally, analyze the groups with the most occurrences and which make the most sense.
In order to have an overview of the contents that a project will have, it is interesting to prepare an inventory that lists all the pages or screens and the information that they must show.
In general, it is a spreadsheet with the title, link (in the case of web pages), description and other pertinent observations about these components.
This document is particularly relevant for very large applications, where it is easy for employees to get lost in the middle of so much information.
Not to mention that it helps to organize the hierarchy and taxonomy developed with practices that we saw earlier, in addition to avoiding duplicate content problems in its application.
What is the relationship between information architecture and UX?
Currently, to develop a website, application or software, investing in user-centered design is crucial to its success. This involves the commitment of professionals from different areas, which can lead to confusion regarding the domain of each field.
One of the biggest examples is the confusion between AI and UX. Although both are very interconnected, they are not the same.
Information architecture serves as a foundation for the work of user experience designers.
While the AI provides the necessary resources to structure the information, making the system understandable and easy to use, UX is responsible for creating an interaction model that is pleasant for its audience.
This involves processes ranging from the creation of visual elements and the interface to choices that take into account the user’s behavior and needs.
Did you like this post? The hierarchy of information is important, as well as its analysis. Understand how to do predictive data analysis and have insights for the future.