What is information architecture (IA)?
Let’s start with defining information architecture. Simply put, information architecture (IA) is the structure of shared information. It’s the practice – the art and science – of organizing and labelling information so it’s understandable, whether that information is on websites, intranets, online communities, or software. In a digital workplace, information architecture is critical because your top priority is ensuring people can find the information they need quickly, easily, and intuitively. Now that we know what information architecture is… let’s look at why it’s important.
The importance of IA
Information architecture forms a foundation for user experience design. An effective information architecture is one of the key attributes of a successful digital workplace solution along with visual design, functionality, and interactivity. So, in a digital workplace, the primary focus of information architecture is the structure itself, and secondarily the user interface that represents that structure within the design.
The benefits of good IA
Good information architecture creates a better user experience. In a digital workplace, satisfying your end user is the top priority. Users shouldn’t have to think about where to look for content. It should be obvious, easily searchable, and clearly signposted. Done well, information architecture can help drive your key digital workplace goals:
- Increase efficiency – By signposting content effectively and making sure your digital workplace is easy to use and navigate, employees don’t have to waste valuable time. And that leads into the second benefit.
- Improve productivity – Good IA connects related content and surfaces it to the right users at the right time, allowing them to get on with more important things – like getting work done
- Integrate systems better – By making information easily available to everyone – regardless of their department, area of expertise, or geographic location – effective IA breaks down the silos to streamline processes and enhance collaboration across your organization
Designing your IA strategy
There are two mainstream approaches to defining an information architecture - top down or bottom up. Depending on your organization, our Consultants will leverage the approach that best suits your organization.
1. Top-down IA structures (company-focused)
This approach takes all the knowledge you’ve gathered from your business strategy (including user needs) and creates a basic, high-level information structure. Once you have the structure, you work top down to create all of the relationships as the architecture deepens (e.g. children, permissions, meta data, etc.)
Building an information architecture top down based on key attributes within the digital workplace:
- Key business needs
- A hierarchical structure of content
- Metadata and classification
- Corporate vocabulary
- Business structure
2. Bottom-up IA structures (employee-focused)
This approach focuses on the detailed relationships between content first, examining how the digital workplace can facilitate specific user behaviors. Once you agree on the behaviors, you start to build the high-level site structure that will support these behaviors.
Building an information architecture from the bottom up based on key attributes within the digital workplace:
- Key business challenges
- Key employee needs
- Key business outcomes
- User demographics and behaviors
- Key tools/applications
- Key content types