“Clean up in Aisle 5!”
There’s a special place in grocery store hell for those who rearrange the aisles without giving anyone a heads-up. Or worse, those who rearrange aisles and don’t immediately update the signage.
It’s already challenging enough to shop at a physical store without a search bar. People shop at specific stores for a reason and not just because of proximity. Users enjoy finding products they need, buying them, and using them as soon as possible.
Information architecture works very similarly, behaving like a series of well-defined aisles and sections that conveniently group related items together.
For example, you don’t group fruit and tinned food because they are literally opposites – the former turns liquid within a week, and the latter is meant to last years in the mountains during an apocalypse. Info architecture is the secret to elevating UX from mundane to fabulous, provided you carry out careful planning and consider your users’ needs.
How to design information architecture
- Conduct user research
You can’t design an effective info architecture without understanding your target users. That’s like putting sweets and chocolates in the same aisle as herbal salt and green tea. Do the research to gain insight into user needs, goals, and behaviours. Then, identify users’ information requirements and how they navigate and search for content. This will give you a foundation for creating a user-centred info architecture.
- Know what and why
Clearly define the objectives of your UX strategy. What are you aiming to achieve? Are you prioritising ease of use, discoverability, or task efficiency? Establishing clear goals will guide your design decisions and ensure alignment with the overall UX strategy. Without it, you may as well be a grocer selling plastic fruit and vegetables.
- Identify your workable content
Don’t over- or underestimate what you already have because you may have too much of one thing and too little of another. Take stock of your existing content and conduct a thorough content analysis. Categorise and prioritise content based on user importance and relevance. From there, you can identify content gaps and redundancies and determine the scope and structure of your info architecture.
- Build a logical structure
Stores aren’t shelving toothpaste with fresh fruit, and neither should you. Develop a hierarchical structure that organises information logically and intuitively. Use categories, subcategories, and labels to create a clear hierarchy. Consider the relationship between different content elements and how they should be grouped to foster easy navigation.
- Create clear pathways
There’s a natural order of things in a shop: Bread goes by the bakery, and long-life milk goes in the cereal, coffee, and tea aisle. That’s because the human brain makes connections and, as a result, has an easier time navigating and remembering. Users shouldn’t need an atlas to navigate a system. Ensure you have primary, secondary, and breadcrumb navigation methods to ensure users can quickly move between different sections and find their way back.
- Testing, 1, 2, testing
Before you blindfold someone and send them grocery shopping, remember that you don’t need to make the journey as complicated as possible to test a system. Conduct card sorting and testing sessions with users to understand how they mentally categorise and organise information. Observe how they interact with the structure, identify their pain points, and adjust accordingly.
- Search and rescue
Ever been in a rush at the shops, only to discover that the product isn’t where it usually is? You walk up and down the aisle, identify a different, but relevant, aisle it may be located in, and eventually ask someone for help. Then the worst thing happens…They look for it in the exact same place you did. So, you spend another 15 minutes looking for it, but this time with a store FBI search team to help you.
Have a search functionality with autocomplete, filters, or advanced search options to help poor souls find what they need.
- Iterate and evolve
Info architecture is not a once-off effort. It should evolve and adapt to user and content needs. Never stop gathering user feedback, monitoring analytics, and adjusting your design to improve the info architecture over time. Stay up to date with emerging UX trends and technologies that may impact the structure and presentation of information.
And if you get lost in the appliances aisle, call us. We’ll help you design an info architecture for your UX strategy.
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