Effectively, [information architecture] helps us to make sense of a world where data is being generated at an unprecedented rate. Our ability to make sense of all this data is heavily influenced by how it’s accessed, organized and delivered. The numbers, words and pictures have to manifest as something you can interpret, understand and act upon.
– Osric Powell, Econsultancy
As those who have worked in web development/design know, information architecture is one of the first – and most important – steps in creating a website. Regardless of how great the content is, or how perfect the design is, the site will do poorly without proper information architecture. The purpose of information architecture, or IA, is to effectively connect content, context, and the end user.
More specifically, information should be organized in a way that makes sense (given the context), and the organization should be easy for the user to navigate. Ultimately, the goal is to create a structure in which visitors to the site will have no difficulty finding what they are looking for. A good reference for the significance of information architecture is e-commerce; e-commerce websites sort products by category, type, price, recency, etc… On a site where hundreds of products may be sold, information architecture makes it possible for visitors to find what they are looking for without having to browse through all products.
As Powell points out, “How many visitors leave your site because they cannot find what they are looking for, or because the information is poorly presented? What is that worth in terms of lost revenue? What is the cost to maintain, develop and innovate your IA and what are the benefits worth to your business?”