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Lesson 8 Information architecture strategies
Objective Identify strategies for improving information architecture.

Information Architecture Strategies

In the early days of Web design, information architecture would arise haphazardly during the design phase. Your site will be much more successful if you employ specific strategies for creating effective information architecture.

Tap your users

A key aspect of information architecture strategies is to engage the intended users directly in the design of the navigation and architecture. The following three tactics define strategies that directly involve the users:
  1. Understand the local contextual issues that inform how users interpret signs and metaphors and the site architecture (for example, cultural differences, socioeconomic factors).
  2. Solicit input from clients and end users for the design of navigational and architectural elements.
  3. Have end users validate the navigational and architectural elements of the site.

User-centered Design

As with physical architecture, the Web site needs to be designed to meet the needs of the user, and not the whims of the architect. Who are your users?
How do they tend to approach the site? What kinds of information will they want to access most often? What are the different paths they can be expected to take to get to information? What assumptions are they likely to make about the site and its organization? All information architecture choices should be validated through testing on a sample of users.

Information Architecture

Site Change and Growth

An information architect needs to map out how the site will accommodate change and growth over time. For example, as content is added, will your information hierarchy become broader or deeper? If new links are added higher up in the hierarchy, the number of choices on the main screen increases. If new links are buried deeper into the site, the user needs to click down through more layers of the hierarchy to reach the new information. When the site grows, analyze whether your assumptions still hold true about the match between users and the information architecture.

Relating Information Architecture and Technology

In general, most technologies can accommodate the information architecture decisions that may be made by a Web development team. However, information architecture decisions must include the technical roles to ensure that the technology will support the desired architecture. In many cases, organizations have established standards for database products that can influence how data is modeled, how information is displayed, or architected, as well as the technologies that are used.

Question: When the amount of content on the site increases, what issues should the web team consider?
Answer: When the amount of content on the site increases, you should consider whether the information architecture is still appropriate.
Do you need more categories at the top level, or at lower levels? Will users still be able to quickly find what they are looking for?
Do you need to add new features to assist users with the additional material?
In the next lesson, you will re-visit the concepts of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and apply them to information architecture.