Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.
Skill Level Beginner
- [Instructor] Without structure, the information in apps and on websites would be impossible to find and understand. Information architects are the people who provide that structure. Information architects use the principles of information science to present data to users in a way that meets their expectations and best helps them to complete their tasks. Normally, that data is presented in computer systems, websites, and apps. But there's no reason why it couldn't also be printed or even used to help design things like directional signs in buildings or timetables in railway stations. People sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that information architecture is just building the navigation menus for a website. In fact, development teams will often pretend they're fancy by using the term information architecture to refer to the navigation menus. Yes, the menus are one outcome of what information architects do but they start by building a top-down view of the information space. What information is being presented? What's missing, what should be removed? What order and structure should it be presented in? To get an understanding of how users group content on a site, information architects will perform a card sort study. Originally this would've been done using three inch by five inch index cards, hence the name. Now instead of writing each piece of content to be sorted on a card, we use software that makes it easy to manipulate the terms and then does much of the analysis for us. They'll also be building a bottom-up view based on visitors' goals. Does this section of the site make its purpose clear? Can people find the information they need to feel confident about proceeding? Is the way forward clearly labeled? Is more detail available for the folks who want it? They get this information from studying the existing site and content and by running usability test sessions. All this research lets information architects determine the interfaces for how items could be sorted and filtered, what shows up in recommendation areas, how breadcrumbs work, how command syntax is created, even the layout and hierarchy of page types on a site, the types and location of content chunks on each page, and the way help files are organized. Along with these practical aspects of the interface information architects are also responsible for more strategic work to help define overall data structures, content management systems, and communication standards. So they'll be working with many people across the team at various different stages of product development. In most companies, the person responsible for information architecture work will also have other responsibilities, most likely in related fields like interaction design, user research, or content writing. If you'd like to learn more about the information architecture role, check out my course on understanding information architecture. For advice on creating a good information architecture for your product, see my course UX Foundations: Information Architecture, which dives into the practical details, and Morten Rand-Hendriksen's course UX Foundations: Content Strategy.