Information architecture, or IA, is the practice of organizing content and defining relationships between pieces of content, typically on a website or application. IA creates structure and serves as the informational backbone of a site. Good information architecture helps the user navigate through an environment and find the content they need, which means that IA is key to user experience. Labeling, navigation, hierarchies, and taxonomy are all elements of information architecture that work together to make information understandable and accessible.
Although there are some people who have “Information Architect” as their job title, IA is just as often the domain of content strategists and UX designers. These professionals develop IA according to standard IA principles, as well as through techniques such as card sorting (a collaborative design exercise that groups content into logical categories). They then organize it into wireframes and site maps and test it with users.
Content strategy is often defined as getting the right content to the right people at the right time. That’s incredibly hard to do without good information architecture, and if you don’t get it right, users will often turn around and leave your site—hardly a marketing win.
But the benefits of IA go beyond just keeping your users around. Following information architecture best practices can mean lower operational expenditures, as it’s easier to maintain your site. By contrast, bad IA on a disorganized site means you waste more time: Your helpdesk phones are ringing off the hook because your customers can’t find basic information, and every time you want to add a new page to your site, you have multiple meetings debating where it should live in the site navigation, because the existing categories don’t make logical sense for the type of content you provide.
Good IA can allow your business and your web content to scale gracefully, without adding unnecessary friction every time an update happens. B2B companies must help users make sense of complex information, which means good information architecture is especially important in this context.« Back to Glossary Index