- The art and science of structuring and classifying web sites, intranets etc to help people find and manage information.
- Information architecture is concerned with creating organizational and navigational schemes that allow users to move through site content efficiently and effectively.
- The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within an information system.
- The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content.
- Information architecture on the Web is closely related to the field of information retrieval: the design of systems that enable users to find information easily.
- Information architecture is concerned with how people cognitively process information.
Components of Information Architecture
- Organization systems - How you categorize and structure information. E.g. chronological, topics etc.
- Labeling systems - How you represent information. E.g. scientific terminology (Amend Order) or lay terminology (Edit Order)
- Navigation Systems - How users browse or move through information. E.g. clicking through a hierarchy, through sections etc.
- Search Systems - How users look for information. E.g. autosuggest, index etc.
Approaches of Information Architecture
Information architecture requires creating categorization schemes that will correspond to business objectives for the site, user needs, and the content that will be incorporated in the site.
We can tackle creating such a categorization scheme in two ways: from the top down, or from the bottom up.
Top-down approach -
A top-down approach to information architecture involves creating architecture directly from understanding product objectives and user needs. We started with the broadest categories and then break these into subcategories. This hierarchy of categories and subcategories serves as the empty shell into which the content and functionality will be slotted.
Bottom-up approach -
A Bottom up approach to information architecture involves creating architecture directly from analysis of the content and functional requirements .We group items together into low-level categories and then group those into higher-level categories, building toward a structure that reflects our product objectives and user needs.
Deriving information architecture – Card Sorting
Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. In a card sorting session, participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and they may also help you label these groups. Card sorting helps us gain valuable insight about the structure of data.
There are two common card sorting techniques:
1. Open card Sort -
In open card sorting, each participant is given a stack of cards. The participant is then asked to group those cards together any way they want. Then they make labels for the groups they created.
When to Use Open Card Sorting – It’s beneficial to use open card sort when you are starting with the new project. In this way you will not introduce your own biases into the grouping of items and will see the information organized from other people’s perspectives.
Disadvantage of open card sorting – Sometimes it can be too vague as their might be many categories as participant has freedom to arrange and label the category .In this case it might be difficult to analyze the data and reached to any conclusion.
2. Closed Card Sort -
In closed card sorting, the researchers create the labels for the groups. Participants are given a stack of cards and are asked and are asked to put each card into a group.
When to Use close card sorting – If you already know what categories you want to sort items in, then closed card sorting is the obvious choice. Closed card sorting additionally removes the burden from the participants having to come up with their own group labels, which simplifies the activity for them.
Disadvantage of close card sorting – Using pre-determined group labels gives you less information because the participants’ choices are confined by the category labels you create. That, in turn, limits the chance of you seeing alternative approaches to the categorization of your items.
Using Both Open Card Sorting and Closed Card Sorting
Conducting open card sort first help you determine category names for each group of content, and to understand the different ways participant can group the items. Then, after analyzing the results, you can conduct closed card sorting to validate the interpretation of the results.
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Author: Shiva Subhedar (@uxdshiva)