Posts tagged information architecture
Building a Website? Let's talk about Information Architecture

You don't have to be a technical designer to understand the management of design. Let's talk about websites. When approaching a web design project, it's important to begin with a discovery phase that involves a deep dive into strategy, content, and user needs. From there we move into the fundamental challenge of building the structure of information that will ultimately serve as the map for the design team.

In design terminology, we call this information architecture or IA. Before deciding on colors, icons, and layout, we should know what the user is hoping to achieve, and how we can make it easy for them to find the information they seek, and help them understand it. Similar to the design of a book or magazine, starting with the table of content and an outline of what the content will be can help inform how it will be presented in the subsequent design phases. 

IA has two primary goals:

  1. Helping users find information
  2. Helping users understand the information

Understanding What Users Seek 

Design thinking always begins with people. Complemented by web analytics which studies behavior, understanding a users needs is done by creating personas. At verynice, we collaborate with our clients using fun and engaging methods to identify who these stakeholders are and what their journey to the end goal looks like. Take a local library for example. What types of people are visiting the website? What do they hope to achieve? For Jaime, student, age 13, it may be how to get a library card; for Marta, retired teacher, age 66, it may be whether they take book donations; and for Jerome, 20, student, it may be about finding a book before he makes the drive. These are just a few general examples of user needs within the context of information architecture on a website. Can you think of others? 

Organizing the Information Your Already Have 

In many cases, we work with an already existing website that needs to be improved. In this case we use a method called card sorting that enables us to think collaboratively with our client in order to keep, consolidate, or discard particular pages and content. Think of it as cleaning or reorganizing your bedroom. At a certain point it makes sense to toss things out while organizing items in a way that makes them easy to find later on. 

Sitemaps

Site maps are a useful way of looking at the structure of the information, how it is labeled, and what the relationship is between content. While easy to confuse for a layout, the sitemap is meant to be a lean and functional blueprint, not an abstract rendering of the website. This is important to keep in mind as you begin a web design project so that expectations are clear.  

Information Overload

With the increase of information comes a reduction of attention span. Futurist Alvin Toffler talked about this phenomenon within the context of increasing speed and scope of technological innovation in his book 'Future Shock' back in the 1970's. And here we are today – living in a world of search engines and e-commerce. As more and more information is created, designers become the custodians of information. Taking it a step further, great information architecture can lend itself to benefitting better systems and artificial intelligence as structured information is required to produce the complex networks for automation. That said, it's important for all organizations to take this phase of web design seriously. The world is a card catalog.


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School on Wheels: Highlighting a Brand Through UX Design
 

A great organization  should have an equally fantastic website… but that isn’t always the case, as most of us have experienced at one time or another. It’s especially crushing when a nonprofit that effectively serves a cause we love is being held back by a site that is dull or difficult to navigate. This was the case with our recent clients, School on Wheels. Their mission could not be more noble or their execution more on target— they provide academic help to children who are homeless or living in shelters and foster care in Southern California.

When School on Wheels approached us for a simple site refresh, we soon discovered that a quick update wasn’t going to be enough to boost their message and reach more users. Because so many different users visit the website, their content was dense and the site hierarchy was often misleading. In order to give School on Wheels a truly user friendly and well-branded site, we needed to take a deeper dive into organizing their information.

The first piece of our solution was a comprehensive workshop in which we worked with School on Wheels to better understand the needs of their site users. We all took part in an exercise that categorized all the content from their current site onto index cards — by dividing the information into categories that we could physically group and move around, we were able to better understand how each part of the site relates to the others. This activity is not only important for our team to understand the site content but also for our clients to think critically about their website and its function. This exercise enabled our team to turn almost 70 pages of information from the site into just five main pages accompanied by a logical grouping of pages in the footer. Together, these elements formed an organized site map with a clear hierarchy.

In addition to the information architecture, our design also played a big role in creating a streamlined, usable site that highlights both School on Wheels’ mission and adds consistency to the brand. By offsetting the playful, bright color palette and youthful typeface with a very simple layout, we were able to draw users directly to the mission statement and images of the children who benefit from School on Wheels’ tutoring services. Our goal was to funnel visitors to the site directly into their desired pathway, whether that’s to donate, volunteer, or simply to find more information on the mission and programs.

At verynice, we know a streamlined and approachable site does more than just provide users with a good experience. By creating a site that School on Wheels can use to funnel visitors into their network as volunteers, donors, and advocates, we hope to empower them to grow their community of support— and effectively expand their mission to provide more tutoring services to underserved and homeless children.

Credit List:
Project Lead/Strategic Direction: Matthew Manos
Design Direction: Kate Manos
Art Direction/Design Lead: Alisa Olinova
Design: Josiah Pak, Jessica Nam, Jean Pongsai, Elisa Michelet
Project/Accounts Manager: Noah Goldberg-Jaffe

We love creating good UX design at verynice. Learn more about our work and the services we offer, right here