‘Nobody can find anything on our website!’
Does that sound familiar? No matter how useful your content is, it’s not doing any good if your audience can’t find it.
When valuable content is hard to find, that means one of two things – or more often, both:
- you have too much content, so it’s like finding a needle in a haystack
- you’re not giving people enough help to find what they need.
The ‘needle in a haystack’ problem can be solved by a robust content strategy and a lot of determination. But to help your audience find what they need, you need information architecture (IA).
What information architecture is
Information architecture is anything that helps people find content and understand its place in the big picture. It’s a natural companion to content design, which is about making sure that once people have found your content, it genuinely meets their needs.
In practical terms, information architecture includes things like:
- Labelling: being straightforward and consistent about what you name things
- Navigation: using menus, buttons and links to help people find their way around
- Taxonomy: categorising content to help people discover other content on the same topic
- Metadata: using machine-readable information to make content more findable via external and internal search.
How Weave does information architecture
For Weave, information architecture isn’t about handing over a one-off sitemap that breaks as soon as someone adds a new piece of content. Instead, we design labelling, navigation, taxonomy and metadata systems that are intuitive, adaptable and scalable. With these systems in place, your information architecture can be sustained and modified over time without breaking.
To do the ‘intuitive’ bit, we involve users throughout the design process. To begin, we do user research to find out about your audience’s mental models – what they think, know and assume. When people are looking for your products, services or information, what kinds of categories make sense to them? What words do they use? How are those categories and labels different from the ones you currently use?
Next, we design a system that we think will do a better job of making your content findable. But we don’t rely on our assumptions: we test them with users, often going through several versions of an information architecture to make sure we’ve got it right. In some projects, we’ve nearly doubled the success rate over the course of testing and iteration.
Finally, we make sure anything we design is well-documented, so the rationale doesn’t get lost when content, people or the business change.
Our process works: we’ve designed IA systems that are still going strong after more than 6 years. That’s longer than the lifespan of most websites!
We can help you make your content findable: talk to us.