You know you're in a good site when you find things where you expect them to be, when you always know where you are, how you got there, how to get back, and what your options are.
This is good navigation and it comes about through extensive consultation, planning, and information architecture.
Underpinning user experience
The term 'information architecture', or IA, is now widely used in user experience website design. It refers to the task of organising the pages of a website (the content) into a logical structure as a clear, accessible means of navigating the website.
Tree of knowledge
This structure usually looks a bit like a stylised tree, much like a family tree. Similar content is grouped together in a way that will make sense to the user first and foremost. The user should determine the structure, not the way the business is organised or by the strong opinions within it.
Getting to grips with the issues
The process of investigating, creating and agreeing a structure helps those involved understand many aspects of their website and their business needs. Things like business structure, content provision, terminology, importance, relevance, priority, workflow, all feed into the IA.
The core of a good website
So in short, information architecture:
- illustrates content need and responsibility
- puts content in a logical place
- defines navigational structure
- defines website boundaries
- helps with terminology
- allows for future needs
- gets business buy-in.
Without information architecture there is no clear picture of the website content, how that content fits together and how users will find that content.