Building the information architecture should not be done in a vacuum. From user behavior, to future-proofing, there are lots of things to take into account, beyond organizing the information in a logical way.
These principles are based on the understanding that the architect’s focus should be purely the structure – something that can be shown with maps and flowcharts.
To do this, the architect should get a good understanding of the functionality of the site, and they should also have a complete inventory of the content. Once these requirements are met, the information architect can begin optimizing the IA using these 8 principles:
- The principle of objects: Content should be treated as a living, breathing thing. It has lifecycles, behaviors, and attributes.
- The principle of choices: Less is more. Keep the number of choices to a minimum.
- The principle of disclosure: Show a preview of information that will help users understand what kind of information is hidden if they dig deeper.
- The principle of exemplars: Show examples of content when describing the content of the categories.
- The principle of front doors: Assume that at least 50% of users will use a different entry point than the home page.
- The principle of multiple classifications: Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.
- The principle of focused navigation: Keep navigation simple and never mix different things.
- The principle of growth: Assume that the content on the website will grow. Make sure the website is scalable.
As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration. Depending on the size of a website, IA can be a complex task requiring ongoing maintenance. But, it is one which is very much needed. Otherwise, it can mean failure for a business.