Information architecture (IA) is a discipline that can hardly be explained with one single definition. Therefore, this time my goal is to explain why does IA matter so much. It matters to clients engaging in the digital environment, but also affects the end-users.
Whether you are a business operating offline, online or both and whether you know it or not, you already practice information architecture. The structures that you use to interact with your customer on your websites, landing pages, mobile applications, printed catalogues, store shelves and so on — all reflecting your brand or your company through the content and services you provide.
All their experiences or interactions across channels build in your customers’ mind a personal image of your brand. They build a personal relationship. Most of you probably also know that your customers’ happiness depends mainly on how clear and easy to understand are the information and services you provide them.
“If either your information or services are out of date, not accurate, cluttered, buried, impossible to find or written in language that only makes sense to people that work within your organization, customers feel under appreciated and/or confused.” Abby Covert
IA – when things go wrong
Take a moment and think about it – in our daily life we’ve all been in situations where clearly a certain brand or company information architectures that weren’t serving you, the customer. Here are few Romania examples of damaged interactions that affected (and not in a good way) my experience with some local brands.
Posting print ads on your website is not the way to go! This might have been tolerated 15 years ago, but when this happens on Domo’s e-commerce website it’s even worst. PENNY’s newsletter is more or less the same. It seems they haven’t heard about clickable links! And make no mistake, they are not the only brands that still don’t get it!
Why would you care about IA
According to Peter Morville, the purpose of your IA is to help users understand where they are, what they’ve found, what’s around, and what to expect. As a result, your IA informs the content strategy by identifying word choice as well as informing user interface design and interaction design through playing a role in the wire-framing and prototyping processes.
In other words, IA is the backbone of the digital service you’re creating. It may be a website, mobile application, newsletter, landing page for your performance campaign etc. What good information architecture does for you is to organize the content in a proper and easy way for the users to understand.
So, why would you care about IA? Well, just think of how bad user experiences reflect on your business. You lose trust, you lose business. You may name it sale leads, newsletter subscribers, bad online reputation, frustrated clients etc. At the end of the day, shareholders expect to profit. Yes, some of you may say that it’s not all about money… and you are right! However, if your dream when doing business also involves some kind of greater good, you need the cash and for that to keep coming you must have really happy and loyal clients willing to buy your products and services.
My advice to you
Forget for a while the tones of data your expensive researches give you! Go out there on the field, in-store, talk to your real customer. Get to know them for who they really are, not by statistics. My experience says you’ll be surprised by what valuable insights they can give you. Hopefully, this might at least make you think twice about your approach when thinking about (re)designing your online projects.