Information Architecture Usability – Understanding the Connection

Information architecture usability refers to aspects like colors, font size, usage context, visual proximity, navigation, labeling, form, design and error messages. For those of you who are not sure what information architecture (IA) really is, this is one of the definitions: it deals with structuring, organizing and labeling content in such a way that the process is sustainable and effective. IA can be seen in two ways: as a subset of usability, case in which there is a strong connection and these two concepts can also be seen as different.

Information Architecture Usability Basics

The goal of this discipline is helping people to find useful information and finish certain tasks. For achieving this, people must understand how everything fits together to form a larger picture. In order to succeed, you have to understand the standards in the industry that refer to the creation, the storage and the accessibility of the information. In most of the cases, the discipline is used for websites, but more recently, it has found good usage in web applications, social media software and mobile applications.

The main idea is to create Intuitive navigation schemes just as a construction architect has to face the requirements related to the structural integrity of a building, its esthetics and aspects related to heating, lighting and water supply. An information architect has to develop navigation schemes that are concise and descriptive.

What Makes the Creation of Usable Navigation Systems and Website Information Architecture Intuitive and Reliable?

Basically, a navigation system has to be easy to learn and consistent. The user needs a way to navigate back to the beginning (or to the homepage of a website, for instance). The design must be also focused on minimizing the number of clicks necessary to reach any destination on the website. User tasks have to be supported, links must be distinct, labels have to be clear and intuitive and the back button of the browser must not be deactivated.

One of the first things to understand when a website is created is the reason for which people will come to the site. There are two types of goals for a website: immediate and long-term. The possible audiences have to be determined. The website content is created and then, a content inventory has to be made. After this, you will have to set an organizational structure that can be hierarchical, sequential, based on tags, or of other types.

How Can You Obtain A Better Usability for A Website With Information Architecture?

It could be frustrating to navigate through a website and find it confusing. This aspect can make visitors leave the site in the end. But, something can be done about this through organizing the content and structure properly. Information architecture usability is considered by more and more organizations worldwide, as it can improve the visitor experienced on their websites. Despite the number of pages and the complexity of a website, it can be transformed into a website that it is easy to use and logically structured, for insuring a positive and enjoying experience for the visitor, who will be much more likely in this case to stay more on the website.

Depending on each website, information architecture usability can vary. It is up to each organization or website owner to decide the degree of use for information architecture. You have to decide the reason for making the website and the goals you want to achieve with it. This is important because information architecture usability will help you to achieve these goals. You can create scenarios with the help of a list of previously compiled users and let your imagination do its job. Imagine how somebody will use your site. Analyze the websites of your competitors. This can help you on the long term. Structure your content and label it. Understand what the functional requirements are.

A Subset of Usability Called Information Architecture

From all the things that are involved in the discipline of usability, just a few are part of information architecture. Some of the aspects of usability, such as color and contrast do not have such a big impact as others aspects on the way you navigate on the site, except the situation in which the color choice is very poor. The use of lengthy text can create issues as well. If the structure of a website is inefficient and data base access is poor, users with less bandwidth can experience slow response times.

Even if people who deal with the information architecture usability of a site must be aware of these aspects, they are part of usability but not part of information architecture. There are others individuals who can handle things like color or font size. It is true that some designers may cover some of the responsibilities of an information architect, but of course, these can be specific to each case.

Sometimes it can be hard to have a balance between information architecture and usability concerns. Because of this it, is important to have a good understanding of the connection between the two disciplines. Many people think that these disciplines are the same thing, but they are not and people should understand the difference between them.

All individuals in the team that is responsible for creating all the aspects involved in the development of the website should be aware of usability issues and concerns. Usability has always been a component of the information architecture involved in the making of a website. Three things are very important: the information itself, also known as content, the individuals who use this information, also known as users and the business context in which you are presenting the information.

Conclusion

Information architecture usability can help people to design and build a website in all of its aspects in order to be sure that it will bring them the success that they desire. There is a connection between the two disciplines (usability and information architecture), but they are also separated entities in the sense that information architecture can be seen as a subset of usability. It would be ideal for a web development team to have an exact understanding of these disciplines in order to define the proper rule of each team member during the development of a website that is meant to be successful. Information architecture usability is focused on the user and information architecture alone even more.

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Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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