Information architecture is the process of considering how a site can be shaped to provide the best experience for users.
They suck because they’re created to demonstrate the designer’s versatility and skill. They are a paradigmatic example of putting form before function. They do their job, but no designer in their right mind is going to deliver a site like that to a client, because for working websites intended to deliver information and engender conversions, a different approach is needed—one that puts function ahead of form.
What is Information Architecture?
An effective website has to provide two things:
- An elegant, simple, and comprehensible user journey.
- Content and navigation that conforms to the needs and expectations of the intended user.
The best sites deliver on both of those goals while at the same time providing a compelling aesthetic experience. A site that is dowdy, old-fashioned, or just plain ugly can still deliver a positive user experience if it conforms sticks to those guidelines. But a site that fails to do so will provide a poor user experience no matter how beautiful it is.
Information Architecture is the process of thinking about how to best implement our requirements for elegant delivery of information within an interface that is easily comprehensible and allows users to find what they need with the minimum of confusion.
4 Quick Tips For Improving WordPress Information Architecture
WordPress is an excellent platform for developing a site that conforms to the requirements of good information architecture, but it is not usually enough to simply install WordPress, install a theme, and start adding content.
Without a bit of forethought about IA, a site can end up a cluttered mess. Information architecture is a complex topic, but businesses and bloggers that use WordPress can make progress towards an effective site by considering these 4 simple guidelines.
Think About Your Users
Your website is not designed for you, but for your users. To create a user-focused site, it’s obviously necessary to know who your users are. It’s helpful to think about your site in the following terms:
- What do people want to do?
- What do I want people to do?
- How do I make that easy for users?
Take a look at this video from Chris Ford, a web designer, to get an idea about how you might start thinking about designing for the users you actually have, rather than the users you imagine you have.
Analytics offer the most powerful way to find out what your users are actually doing with your site. Ideally they are following a simple journey from the homepage, through to the content they are looking for, and then on towards a conversion. Analytics will provide you with the data you need to verify what is actually happening, and help you to develop ideas to improve the user journey.
Be Smart About Navigation
Site navigation is where many businesses trip themselves up. It’s difficult to know exactly what should be included in primary and secondary navigation. Too much and it will just confuse users; too little and they won’t be able to find what they need.
Knowing one’s users and intelligent use of analytics can help site owners get to grips with exactly what should be included in a site’s primary navigation. If users aren’t using a menu item, take it out or test to discover why. If they are using a menu item, but then immediately bounce back to the homepage, the chances are they misunderstood the purpose of the link.
If you know your users, and have a clear idea of the journey you want them to take, you can provide exactly the right information and the navigation to take them to it with a minimum of confusion.
Take a look at this round-up of the worst websites of 2012. They do almost everything wrong, but the examples of bad navigation are particularly egregious.
Take Advantage Of WordPress’s Content Management Features
WordPress is packed with content management features that will help site owners to provide the information their users need and an elegant journey to that information.
WordPress users should familiarize themselves with:
- Custom Taxonomies, Post Types, and Fields
It would take an article to consider each of these in detail, but the important message here is that you do not have to cram your content and navigation into a predefined structure. Rather you can craft the way information is displayed and navigated according to the needs of your users and the purpose of your site.
This article provides a high-level survey of the sort of things site owners need to consider before they put together their online presence. It might be boring and it might seem like a waste of time, but spending the time and effort to design a site’s information architecture is the best way to ensure it provides the maximum return on investment and an awesome user experience.
What’s your experience with WordPress information architecture?
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog.