Rosenfeld and Morville give these alternative definitions to an information architecture:
- The combination of organisation, labelling, and navigation, schemes within the information system.
- The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content.
- The art and science of structuring and classifying websites and intranets to help people find and manage information.
- An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital space.
In practice, creation of an information architecture involves creating a plan to group information logically – it involves creating a site structure which is often represented as site map. A well-developed information architecture is very important to usability since it determines navigation options and findability (Morville, 2005).
A planned information architecture is essential to large-scale websites such as transactional e-commerce sites, media owners sites and relationship-building that include a large volume of product and support documentation. Information architectures are less important to small-scale websites and brand sites, but even here the principles can be readily applied and can make the site more visible to search engines and more usable. It is also important for search engine optimisation, since it determines how different types of content that users may search for are labelled and grouped.
The benefits of creating an information architecture include:
- A defined structure and categorisation of information will support user and organisation goals i.e. vital aspect of usability.
- It helps to increase “flow” on the site – a user’s mental model of where to find content should mirror that of the content on the website.
- Search engine optimisation – a higher listing in search rankings can often be used through structuring and labelling information in a structured way.
- Applicable for integrating offline communications – offline communications such as ads or direct mail can link to a product or campaign landing page to help achieve direct response sometimes known as “web response”. A sound URL strategy can help this.
- Related content can be grouped to measure the effectiveness of a website as part of design for analysis.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.