Have you ever attempted to cook something using a recipe? Or should I follow the directions provided by Google Maps? You essentially follow a series of simple steps to finish a larger task.
We must think similarly when trying to design a positive user experience for digital platforms. The user can easily follow through if we start breaking down the current task into smaller steps. This critical aspect of the user interface is handled by the navigation system. In this article, we will compare and contrast information architecture and sitemaps, two components of a successful global positioning system design.
What is IA (Information Architecture)?
Richard Saul Wurman, a graphic designer and American architect, coined the term “information architecture” in the 1970s.
The process of structuring and organizing the content of any digital platform to enhance navigation and usability is known as IA (information architecture). IA assists users in intuitively comprehending, identifying, and navigating digital products. IA considers the content and design interfaces of each screen, the flow between multiple screens, and the information consumption patterns of users.
A simplified information architecture for an electric store, for instance, would look like this:
We would design the electrical ecommerce website for the store using the menu shown below. This is done to facilitate navigation and to adhere to information architecture.
8 principles of information architecture
To better understand Information Architecture, consider the 8 principles proposed by renowned information architect, Dan Brown.
1. The principle of choice:
Provide customers with options that will assist them in solving challenges without overwhelming them. When it comes to options, remember that less is more.
2. The principle of objects:
Consider each piece of content to be an entity with its own set of features, behavior, and lifetime.
3. The principle of disclosure:
Give them appropriate information to assist them progress to the next step at all phases of the user experience. Only reveal what is required and avoid overwhelming users with information.
4. The principle of front doors
Users may begin their journey from a variety of entry points, not usually the homepage. As a result, make sure that consumers understand where they stand and how they might proceed.
5. The principle of exemplars
Give examples of how to describe the information in the categories. This will improve data processing.
6. The principle of multiple classifications
Create several categorisation systems to allow people to navigate the digital product in a variety of ways.
7. The principle of growth
Consider scalability when designing. Always expect that the product will expand and be prepared to manage the expansion.
8. The principle of focused navigation
Maintain basic, clear, and consistent navigation. Content, not location, should determine the navigation menu.
What is the significance of information architecture in a user experience project?
Currently, consumers have so many choices when it comes to digital products that they choose the ones that will help them achieve their goals simply and conveniently. Products with an effective IA respect their users’ time and effort and direct them to their objectives in the most efficient way possible. This keeps people happy and enhances the user experience.
The following points summarize the importance of information architecture in a UX project:
- When IA is in place, the odds of usability and navigation issues emerging are reduced.
- IA serves as the backbone of any UX design project by providing structure to the information provided by the product/service.
- IA streamlines the process of implementing updated features and estimates the timetable if there are product changes or upgrades.
- Other components of the UX design process, such as sitemaps, wireframes, and so on, are created from the IA. In other words, the IA serves as a blueprint for the design structure.
When does information architecture come into play in the UX process?
The basis of strong UX is information architecture. The first step in designing UX for a service/product is to create a clear framework. Only when the structure has been determined should you begin with wireframes.
Focusing on and creating IA prior to wireframes ensures that the material flows naturally on each screen and from screen to screen. However, in order to do so, you must first define the features and functions. An intuitive flow will dramatically improve the usability of your product/service, allowing you to meet both business and user objectives.
How to create an effective information architecture?
Developing an effective IA centers on the users who will use the product/service. Additionally, it focuses on the context in which the product/service will be used. In addition, it emphasizes the right interpretation of the content to determine what users expect from the product/service.
To create an effective information architecture, employ qualitative research methodologies such as:
- Sorting cards to determine priority and connections between features and components.
- Focus groups, user interviews, and stakeholder interviews were conducted to determine the functionalities and UI aspects that users demand.
Following user research, the next step is to present the information gathered in a sitemap. There are several tools available to assist you in visualizing your research findings. Miro and Figma are ideal places to start because they are both free and allow for real-time collaboration.
What is a sitemap?
There are two types of sitemaps: XML sitemaps, which are a list of all pages on a website, and visual sitemaps, which are used in the UX design process. We’re talking about the latter here.
Visual sitemaps are diagrams that depict information architecture. They are hierarchical diagrams that depict the structure of digital items and how various portions are linked. Information architecture and sitemap work together to optimize the user experience.
Returning to our electrical ecommerce business example, a simple sitemap might look like this.
When should a sitemap be created?
The fundamental purpose of generating a sitemap is to improve the clarity of the information architecture. So, in a UX process, sitemaps should be built after the IA and before beginning user flows or wireframes. Before moving on to more intricate and sophisticated processes, the goal is to clearly convey the structure of the IA to all parties involved. This will enable them to reach a common understanding.
Why is a sitemap necessary for a UX project?
Sitemaps are fundamental because they aid in the formation of a clear image of the aims and goals of digital goods. When the purpose is clear, the user journey can be properly matched.
- Because the level of information in your IA might vary, sitemaps aid in understanding the scope of work. This might help you determine whether you and other stakeholders are on the same page.
- A sitemap improves website navigation by displaying a map of how to navigate around. It also provides information to search engines to assist them in crawling the site.
- Sitemaps serve as a road map for developers. It guarantees that they do not overlook essential aspects of information architecture while designing app or website pages or screens.
- Sitemaps also help us understand and represent the hierarchy and structure of information that users will encounter when using the product/service. This ensures that we design with UX flow in mind.
How Do We Make a Sitemap?
A sitemap may be created if you have a thorough understanding of your digital product. It does not need advanced design abilities; all you need to know is how to utilize basic blocks and lines and link them as needed.
Follow these steps to generate a sitemap.
- List the principal and secondary pages of your site or the app’s display. Your landing page will be the root element, and everything else will be subordinate to it.
- Add any reference number and descriptive label to every object and symbolize it with a box so it is easy to identify.
- Utilizing lines, connect all the pages from high-level categories to individual pages. For example, via the Landing Page-> Chocolate Cake Recipes -> Subcategories of Cake Recipes.
- Choosing a flat sitemap or a deep sitemap depends on the complexity of your product. Deep sitemaps have more sub-levels than flat sitemaps, which have fewer vertical levels.
Creating sitemaps early in the design process allows you to build products that are efficient and simple to use.
Sitemap vs Information Architecture: Do you require both?
You will need both information architecture and a sitemap if you want to produce digital goods that satisfy people. They are critical to the development of a superior navigation system. When the navigation system is well-designed, people may readily interpret the information and have a better user experience. They may mentally construct a hierarchy and effortlessly navigate to their intended activities.
In conclusion, we can conclude that in a UX process, information architecture serves as a basis for navigation design, whilst sitemaps are the visual depiction of information architecture. Aside from these two features, user flows and user journey maps are also critical components of the navigation system, which we will discuss in a subsequent post. I hope this knowledge was useful in understanding the navigation systems of digital items.
Stimulus UX is a UI UX design company that provides full-cycle UX/UI and development services for digital companies. We leverage IA, sitemaps, user flows, and user journey maps to create amazing navigation systems in our products. We generate wireframes and prototypes based on this before moving on to final design. Do you want to learn more about how we work? Please contact us.