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Lesson 3 Connecting signs and metaphors to information architecture
Objective Explain how signs and metaphors work with information architecture to ensure a successful site.


Connecting Signs and Metaphors to Information Architecture

Another factor that contributes to the success of your site is a clear coordination of signs and metaphors and information architecture.
Signs and metaphors are closely connected to information architecture. In fact, successful information architecture depends on effective signs and metaphors. For example, for navigational labels, icons, or symbols to be used successfully for choosing a path through the organizational structure of the site, audience members need to be able to interpret them as you intend for them to be understood. Signs and metaphors that you design should function as visual clues about where your users can go to find the information that they want.
The following SlideShow will give you examples of sets of navigational icons without showing you the labels that help site users understand the purpose of the link. See if you can use your intuition to guess correctly what the icons represent, and you will begin to understand the concept of good and bad "intuitive" signs and metaphors.

1) Icons Information Architecture 1 2) Icons Information Architecture 2 3) Icons Information Architecture 3 4) Icons Information Architecture 4 5) Icons Information Architecture 5 6) Icons Information Architecture 6 Program 1 Program 2 Program 3 Program 4 Program 5 Program 6
Consistency In Signs Metaphors and Information Architecture

Location is everything

The placement of information architecture and navigation components is a concern of both visual designers and information architects. Sometimes visual designers may need to alter their designs to ensure accessibility, clarity, and visibility of information architecture features.

Consistent use in navigational signs and metaphors

The Toyota site is an excellent an example of this. Of the links in the navigation bar at the top of the page, all sections have a similar look except the "Motorsports" category, which uses a sportier, more exciting design. Open another browser window and type in this URL to see this principle in action: .
Question: What are some reasons your signs, metaphors or information architecture might purposefully be inconsistent with the rest of the site?
Answer: A distinct sub-section might have a different look within it that suits its content better; you might want to break your pattern to surprise a user or to draw attention to a particular page or section.
You will learn key ideas about the approval process in the next lesson.