The Importance of Information Architecture (IA)
Information architecture, as described by the IA institute, (iainsyitite.org) is the “art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.”
It’s how you display your website to users and show them how to navigate it and perform different functions. This can encompass everything including the language used on your site, the menu, the organization of pages, overall site structure, the organization of information, and how it’s set up all together to make sense to the user for easy navigation. It should be set up in a way that makes sense to the user so no or minimal effort is needed to perform an action on the site. Content should feel laid out in a logical manner and sorting through it should be easy.
“Information architecture is at the very center of the electronic information storm. Without effective means to structure and present the information we produce we are blown about by the vast quantities and the variable quality of that information. IA provides you a deep keel and a strong rudder to surf above the waves of information that buffet you.” — Bob Boiko
To properly create good IA, it may be necessary To do some research to see into your users brains. Activities like card sorting, where you have participants group info in whatever way feels natural, can unlock new insights into how that info should be organized on the website.
Doing user testing with prototypes of the product is a good way to see what flows for the user and what parts require extra thought or gives them confusion.
Good IA is important because it gives a product competitive advantage. Users want to perform their tasks with the least amount of effort possible and will choose to use the product that creates the easiest, most pleasant experience for them.
A good experience all starts with good design. It’s giving the user an experience with a product that feels natural, like second nature to them, so they can focus on the task they’re trying to accomplish instead of figuring out how to use to product.
“Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the Web. You can’t use what you can’t find.” — Ambient Findability by Peter Morville