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Information Architecture

Information architecture could be described in many different ways…

In a simple way to describe it is: "the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable".

Louis Rosenfeld y Peter Morville defined it on their book Information Architecture for the World Wide web as… “The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability” .

Information architecture helps users understand and control where they are, vertically, moving up and down, and horizontally, moving between different categories. This approach needs to be based on strategical approach and project objectives to meet users needs.

Giving control to users helps them move freely and achieve their objectives, being one of the fundamental parts of user experience.

To understand Information architecture we need to understand 3 basic parts of it…
* Organization
* Structure
* Labeling


It is about how you are going to organize your content into categories and the way theese categories are related among them.

Exact organization schemes
Objectively divide information into mutually exclusive sections
* Alphabetical (A-Z …)
* Chronological (1950 > 2016 …)
* Geographical (Europe, Asia, America…)

Subjective organization schemes
Difficult to design, they are often more useful than exact organization schemes They help users understand and draw connections between pieces of content.
* Topic (Sport, Culture, Social…)
* Task (Lunch, Dinner, Work…
* Needs, actions, questions)
* Audience (Kids, tourists, adults, students…)
* Metaphors (Filmin; Eat hamburguer…)


Is about how you define the relationships among pieces of content.

Hierarchical Structures
Is a top down approach or parent/child relationships between pieces of information. Many users are familiar with structuring information in hierarchies because they see these structures on a daily basis

Sequential Structures
They require users to go step-by-step, following a specific path through content. Sequential structures assume that there is some optimal ordering of content that is associated with greater effectiveness or success. (i.e. Shopping cart)

Matrix Structure
They allow users to determine their own path since content is linked in numerous ways. This type of structure takes full advantage of the principles behind hypertext, or HTML. For example, one user could choose to navigate through a set of content based on data while another navigates based on topic.

…to take into account
* Language ambiguity and cultural diferences
* Users needs and their different perspectives: how they think, their knowledge, etc.
* Company or organization interests: necessary to now


It is about how you represent information.
There are some places where this is extremely important.

Contextual labels
Hyperlinks to chunks of information on other pages or to another location on the same page

Labels that simply describe the content that follows them, just as print headings do

Navigation system choices
Labels representing the options in navigation systems

Index terms
Keywords, tags, and subject headings that represent content for searching or browsing.


Search system
They allow users to get concrete information and results.

  • Stats: Understand how users search will help us to understand their needs.
  • Alternatives: Offer alternatives to errors and orthography mistakes.
  • Options: Offer the possibility to adjust the search by date, size, typology, etc.

Is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. In a card sorting session, participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and they may also help you label these groups.

Card sorting will help you understand your users' expectations and understanding of your topics.

Knowing how your users group information can help you:
* Build the structure for your website
* Decide what to put on the homepage
* Label categories and navigation

User flow

We can define user flow is the path user follow when they navigate on a web or interface. How they move across the information architecture or structure to achieve their objectives.

Scenarios are a good way to start understanding user flows, test and visualize if all screens have all information users need.

NOTE: Take into account that a User Journey is completely different concept, where we collect information about user but not only acting into the web, but understanding previous and next scenarios that happen out of the web/interface/app.

More useful info at Interaction Design Organization

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