Why is information architecture important?
Over time we tend to add more and more functionality while sacrificing usability. Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about which features are actually needed and which are just nice to have.
Most problems come from having too many features. These systems tend to suffer from bad navigation and adding more and more functionality will often create a monster that is just too cluttered to handle.
Our consultants can help you break down these large systems into individual components. The methods we use the most are mainly card sorting and storyboarding.
Card sorting is a way of letting your customers group information for the navigation scheme. Participants are asked to organize content in a way that makes sense to them.
They review menu items and are guided to generate a category tree. This method helps you build the structure of your website and give correct labels to the categories.
It also makes sure you organize the information on your system in a way that is logical to your customers. Remember, you are not your user and without their involvement you can never be certain on how they will be using your system and what the problems are.
We use 3 different card sorting techniques
• Open – customers are asked to organize the cards into groups and name them. Useful to discover patterns in how participants use the navigation schemes
• Closed – customers are asked to sort items into pre-defined categories. Useful to make sure the patterns discovered keep repeating on a regular basis
• Reverse – customers are testing existing structure of categories and sub-categories through navigating a collection of cards where they will have to find the card most relevant to the given task. It’s used to judge whether a predetermined hierarchy provides a good way to find information
All card sorting methods can be done both online and offline.
We also use storyboarding a lot
Storyboarding helps to think and visualize the customer journey from entering the store to making a purchase. With storyboards we can see the emotional triggers that go off when customers are using your product or service. It makes achieving those rare “a-ha!” moments easier and much more frequent.
It works well because the act of drawing helps us come up with better ideas and images make communicating those ideas a snap. Storyboarding tests our concepts and lets us experiment at little or no cost. It also allows for fluid team-based brainstorming, reveals more ideas, and tests them for authenticity.
But most important, this method is easy to use and is guaranteed to make the work process a fun experience!