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Digital Strategy. Data Accessibility. Community … It’s no wonder why we’re excited to be a sponsor for World IA Day DC 2018.
This annual gathering, hosted by the Information Architecture Institute, connects people that are passionate about Information Architecture (IA) with other like-minded professionals to share their thoughts, ideas, and work.
As technologies evolve considerably from year to year, a recurring topic of discussion is: how does IA align with rapidly-evolving digital strategies?
Since IA can improve your product and help you meet business objectives that align with your digital strategy, let’s start by learning a little more about it, and the impact HCD and UX have on your Information Architecture.
The premise of Information Architecture is relatively simple: think of it as the foundation of the information you view. A website’s architecture facilitates all other aspects of a site – navigation, contact forms, content layout, and content labeling.
An effective IA is one of the first areas of consideration when creating a website. It lays the groundwork for establishing a website, and, if executed properly, can make the difference between an intuitive and logical digital experience and a platform that confuses and frustrates your customers.
Knowing how IA can be used in your overall digital strategy can help optimize the way your customers view your organization, and can equate to the success of your website and company.
You can’t just toss information all over your website and hope visitors – potential customers and constituents – will understand or figure out where to find it.
When establishing your site’s structure, it’s important to note that your corporate structure is not how people are going to find the content and features they are looking for on a digital platform.
Using Information Architecture, you can take a user- or human-centric approach to align business goals and objectives with the needs of your site’s visitors. Following this approach, you will understand where your users think information should be placed, and make design decisions with that in mind. The end goal of IA is to establish a structure that ensures that the user’s wants meet the organization’s needs (i.e., reaching more people, revamping production workflows, and providing better services to the public).
For example, without a clear navigational system or content layout based on an overall structural plan, users will not find the information they want from your site. And they’ll leave.
This is clearly not the intended outcome for you or them.
A well-designed structure creates logical content configurations out of complex sets of information. In every way possible, the content and layout supported by the structure of your site should:
If you’re starting to think that Information Architecture sounds a lot like User Experience (UX), you’re not alone.
UX is designed and built upon the foundation provided by IA. In order to create a truly enjoyable experience for your users, you need to start with a great IA.
UX is only at least as good as the IA it is designed upon. In order to achieve the greatest possible experience for users, UX architects and designers need a solid IA foundation.
Metaphorically, anyone can write a song (#JustinBieber). But not just anyone can write a great song (#JohnLennonImagine). The songwriter needs a great foundational concept and structure for the song in order for it to flow to a degree that will be enjoyable for the audience.
This is why human-centered web design matters to your design process.
Human Centered Design (HCD) allows you to view the design process – from start to finish – as completely devoted to humans (as opposed to viewing users as an afterthought), establishing how best to design great UX. It starts with a good understanding of people, their needs, and how they would want your website to look and feel for them.
In order to figure out what your site’s users want, you must observe their behavior (get their feedback after maneuvering through the site or a similar site) and think about the experience from the perspective of the user.
HCD makes a website smoother and easier to use. This may mean a more concise menu bar, interactive videos, easy-to-find contact form, or “1-Click Apply” buttons for job candidates.
Keep in mind the following equations in regard to the relationship between IA, UX and HCD:
Great IA ≠ Great UX
Great IA + Great HCD + Great UX = Customer acquisition/loyalty
(Not making sense? Let’s work on these math problems together!)
Both Information Architecture and User Experience need to be human-centric. If you think in terms of humans as being the reason your website exists, you can design user experiences on top of your foundational IA that help you connect with clients and build your digital strategy.
This is the point where Information Architecture, User Experience, Human Centered Design, and your digital strategy come full circle.
Think of it in terms of what we’ve discussed so far:
By constructing these elements, your website can not only accommodate your digital strategy, but help it succeed.
Generally speaking, a digital strategy integrates digital technologies into all areas of an organization (such as products and practices), resulting in fundamental changes to how it interacts with customers, manages business workflows, and achieves its goals. This strategy is a holistic approach to connecting individuals (e.g. your customers) and their devices (e.g., mobile technologies) to a business (e.g. your organization).
Digital strategy is about responding to the needs and wants of consumers and supporting business goals through digital tools. To assemble a digital strategy, information architects will pinpoint how and where elements of your IA will interact digitally, and enhance internal operations, user engagement, and other aspects of business.
Your website, and everything it entails, is only one aspect of your digital strategy – however, it is a critical one. In laying a foundation for your website and solidifying it with a sensible structure and UX using HCD, IA allows opportunities for digitization that are essential to your organization’s success. From the beginning of the process, consult the experts on how to re-imagine and integrate more efficient, engaging, and ultimately more rewarding experiences for your users.
Establishing an Information Architecture for your digital strategy is not simple. Once implemented correctly, however, it can be a tremendous asset to your organization. Luckily, there are gatherings such as World IA Day to emphasize how foundational IA is to your designs and strategies, and how it can help communities and organizations worldwide to better reach their goals.
MetroStar can help you learn more about how to adapt to human processes with unique Information Architecture and User Experience approaches that leverage research and data to provide you accessible, intuitive, and secure results.