Information architecture

Successful utilization of any solution through intuitive navigation and interaction with same does not just happen. The primary reason of user frustrations stems from their inability to find information and or complete tasks where and how they expected to, and enabling them to do so is no easy task. We never want our audiences to be frustrated when using our solutions (i.e. have a poor experience), which is why we recognize that careful considerations and applications of information’s structural design against users expectations are essential.

Importance of information architecture mustn’t be undermined as doing so runs a risk of developing great and useful features as well as amazing and relevant content … which no one will ever be able to find or interact with.

Purpose of structure

Most commonly found as a transition step between inception and elaboration stages of solution development information architecture assigns structure to the scoped requirements and content through assigning placements and defining relationships.

Partitioning the solution content and tasks into logical sections, individual screens or pages as well as establishing hierarchies within individual screens or interactions ensures not only that same will be found and utilized as intended but also that it will do so in an easy to understand way which will facilitate completions of assigned task flows. Let’s examine a few use cases.

Visibility

Making information easy to find is achieved by structuring it appropriately. Say I wanted to know what someone does for a living, so I do an innocent search for their name, and voila:

itemscope example

informaton architecture schema shown in search results

There you have it, mission complete. LinkedIn uses semantic organization of user data inputs, in this case my current job title and employer, so that search algorithm may display relevant information in results. If that’s all I wanted to know, I’m all done after one search, without even clicking anything. Pretty good experience in my book. Thumbs up LinkedIn.

Same can be done for virtually any type of data you can think of. From product and service ratings to personal affiliations and relationships.

Intuitive experiences

You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times… “X is just not intuitive to me”. Particular method used to find something or to make something happen can be achieved in many different ways, but usually there is very few (if that many) approaches which will resonate with the user expectations, yielding positive experiences.

Successfully matching priorities of user’s intentions with organization of the interfaces, timeliness and relevance of engagements (e.g. up-selling) through both internally and externally facing data driven decisions not only makes the users happy but can also have significant impact on business objectives.

Role of information architecture alongside experience architecture is to determine what data will be presented when and how to the user in the most expected format. Granted that certain experiences may have a goal of surprising the user with unexpected interactions or content.

Information architecture process

Preceded and guided by the reason for creating the solution (value) and the definition of audiences which will be using the solution information architecture makes an appearance relatively early in the solution development process.

All the people involved have great ideas for making the solution superb, and those  have been documented as requirements. The content is abundant, feature concepts are plenty; that’s all before we determine the…

Feasibility and viability

To define the scope of a solution tough choices have to be made. Logistics considerations such as timelines and budget often lead to prioritization of requirements and inevitably information contained in the offerings.

Lean and agile methodologies such as a minimal viable product approach and unique value proposition offering encourage the development of iterative solutions which focus on providing only the bare essential information and features required to accomplish the goal. But how do we determine what is essential, and can be achieved within given constraints?

By combining deliberate prioritization practices borrowed from engineering and manufacturing processes with qualitative data derived from user contextual interviews I identify necessities and redundancies… or what may be slated for later phases and or testing.

Structuring

Understanding how users make and recognize patterns between different information informs the design of solutions’ structure.

flowchart sitemap

User task flow and sitemap representation

By mapping and frequently testing information structures with navigational blueprints, flow charts, prototypes etc. I help you establish informed foundations for entire solutions or for a simple feature enhancement. Any shape or size will do, as long as it contains information it requires proportional to the structural considerations.

From formalizing naming conventions, creating and submitting XML sitemaps to diagraming and building databases, programing object oriented solutions etc. I have extensive experience in modeling, representing and utilizing information in efficient and effective manner.

Re-usability and flexibility

Capacity of information to be contained in multitude of contexts is directly proportional to the considerations made when structuring its applications. Recycling  the same interface element or interaction brings the ability to develop new features more rapidly and enhance the consistency of the experience across multiple channels.

Often, through testing the solution performance we find out that our assumptions about the information architecture were, if not wrong, at least slightly off target and that the utilization may be improved, resulting in a need to pivot. Which calls either for a feature to be redesigned, a task flow re-positioned etc.

Wouldn’t it be great if we’ve identified the potential for that need when developing the solution, making the pivoting effort minimized? Luckily (or hopefully rather) you’ve chosen to hire someone who plans ahead of the immediate deployment needs and who understands that information sustainability means solution prosperity.

 
 

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If you have a project that will benefit from my experience contact me to discuss how I can add value to your team.