The dream of an application creator is to provide the best user experience, right? To achieve this, it’s tempting to dive straight into UI resource sites, surf the latest web and mobile design trends to replicate what works. But the secret to an intuitive and effective application lies beyond design. Ever heard of information architecture? 😉

What is Information Architecture?

Information Architecture (IA) is the essential step to be carried out upstream of any digital project. Concretely, it means defining the structure on which the visual elements, functionalities, interactions, and navigation will be based.

“Information architecture is the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.”

Let’s take a closer look… An application or website is just a collection of information. My Spotify app is a collection of music-related content (songs, album covers, artists, concert dates…) organized according to different criteria: the songs I’ve saved, those related to my musical tastes, those my friends like…

What makes the user come? Do they quickly find what they’re looking for? What are they going to do with it? Asking these questions in advance ensures that, when using your application, the user will find the information in the right place and form a positive perception of your application.

architecture information labyrinthe

You may be wondering what the difference is between UX and IA? User Experience (UX) is and so UX is thus more global than information architecture. But the two are interdependent, with IA being essential for a successful user experience.

ux versus information architecture

IA specialists have emerged, and web architect is one of the leading digital professions where skills are being increasingly sought after. Without necessarily being an expert but with the desire to become one, what are the best practices you can apply to your digital project? What steps should you take?

Organize content

The first step before working on the layout of your digital product is to work on the content. What should the application contain? This phase will allow you to go from a lot of content to structured groups of content.

organize content

1. List

It’s up to you to make an inventory of all the content you want to see in the application by putting yourself in the end user’s shoes. By content, we’re talking about text as well as images, videos, documents to download… Make a list of all your content and you’ll get a list of words (for example: agenda, sales pitch, key figures…).

Then define the list of actions you can do for each of these things and you will get a list of verbs (for example: share the form, send an email, launch the video…) which gives a first overview of the application’s features!

2. Categorize

Great, we’ve got plenty of content everywhere! Now we have to put this information in groups: we put together what is similar, we separate what is different!

A frequently cited method is to organize a card sorting session. Each card represents a feature or piece of content in the application. These cards are defined beforehand, but new cards may emerge during the session. The goal is to sort the cards into coherent groups. The physical support promote discussion and development.

3. Structure

Structuring allows you to go from a set of groups to a set of hierarchical groups.

Between groups, the objective is to define their respective importance and to identify links between groups and possible redundancies.

Sorting must also be carried out within groups.
The resulting structure should allow the user to easily find what they need. They shouldn’t believe that content is not provided (when it actually exists) just because access to it is difficult and poorly thought out. They should also be able to quickly recognize and know that the information they are looking for is not available on the site or application.

Define the navigation system

Now that you have the content, functionality and structure of it all, the goal is to identify how the user moves through the content. This step allows us to move from an abstract model to a visual and interactive organization of the content. We must therefore choose the most suitable type of dialogue and the location of navigation elements in the pages.

“Navigation isn’t just a feature of a Web site; it is the Web site. Without it there’s no there there.”

Steve Krug, Don’t make me think

Labels allow the user to easily locate and navigate a site, just as physical indicators allow the user to locate and move efficiently in real spaces. It is now time to find evocative terms for menus, buttons… In general, the most effective codes are words and pictograms.

Can you see a little more clearly now? Many resources available on the Internet will guide you through the process. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the articles that allowed us to write this article:

– The website of Information Architecture Institute
– Information Architecture. Basics for Designers.
– A Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture for UX Designers
Information architecture: a UX designer’s guide
Architecture de l’information
Architecture de l’Information – La partie la plus importante du design que vous êtes probablement en train de négliger