Summary: Information Architecture helps you structure your content and information in an efficient way. Define your audience, establish the information you want to convey, align your design and language to your information, create guidelines, and start measuring.
Since more and more people are directing their sights towards the UX field, it’s time to educate on it.
Information architecture is a practice of sorting and labeling website content in a usable way. All websites convey information, so it’s a field that is important in creating and optimizing websites.
Because of that, all people who produce any type of content and optimize websites should understand the basic principles of IA. Let’s learn How to use Information Architecture in Marketing Your Website.
Common mistakes in IA
Here is a checklist of most common mistakes of Information Architecture in marketing.
If you are guilty of at least one, well… you’d better read this article.
- Unclear links and elements – since flat design came to the spotlight, many website elements such as CTA’s, links and other clickable elements have been “flattened” and they no longer signify that they are clickable. This causes high usability and discoverability problems.
- Bad Naming – you call the same objects through different names, usually randomly. “Free trial” and “14-day free plan” are completely different to you user, even though to you it’s the same. Same with page titles – the label “documents” that once clicked takes you to the “Case Studies” page creates bad experiences.
- Iceberg melting – instead of presenting information step by step (depending on the complexity), you send an avalanche of information on your user. This also means too many links or buttons to click shown at once.
- Banner scanner – Your banners and CTA’s are in user’s blind spots, i.e too common places for banners.
- Dead ends – some of your pages can be reached easily, but cannot be navigated back – for example, squeeze pages for eBooks. They are often featured on Google results, but once you reach a page like that, it is difficult to go to the main page.
Done? At least one? I thought so.
What is Information Architecture?
According to the Information Architecture Institute, IA is “about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for in the real world as well as online.”
It’s a practice of structuring content and information in ways that make sense for our audience. Information needs to be labeled for the determined groups, as it enables content to be usable, findable and understandable.
Information Architecture in your surroundings
There are certain songs that make you sad or happy. If asked to arrange them, you’d end up with a list of your own party anthems and “cry yourself to sleep with chocolate” songs. But, if during the same study we asked someone else to label the same songs, the effects could be different.
The song by OutKast – Hey Ya is a catchy where many go wild on the dancefloor once the chorus steps in.
It’s possible to label it as a “happy” tune. But, once you look at the lyrics, it’s about a hopeless relationship where there are no chances for happiness. Pretty dark – labeling it as “sad” would also make perfect sense. How to categorize it so there is no confusion, then?
Less information means less users
If you create a playlist “Autumn tears” and feature Hey Ya somewhere at the top, people who want something slow and tearful would not listen to it.
This happens on our websites (or stores) as well.
If you have a huge banner about shoes on your website, this could be bad for you. A customer that is looking for pants will see shoes first. But, since it does not interest her, she’ll be more likely to leave.
People leave when they see no value in your information.
When you market something, you want your potential customers to see content such as articles, images, ads, or graphics. These provide information about you, your brand, and your product’s benefits.
Proper information architecture in marketing helps your customers and users interpret the information in a way you want them to.
Many people consult experts to organize their websites. But, understanding the basic principles helps overcome some steps and expenses. Also, the basics will help you verify your current designs and decide whether you need help in the first step.
How to use IA to win your website
Let’s see how one can use IA in marketing and how to approach it.
Define your target audience.
Marketers and conversion optimization experts do that firsthand in other to optimize their activities. But, in case of structuring information architecture in marketing this step needs to be approached differently.
Do not focus only on superficial data as gender, age group or other demographic data. These are statistics that only show the general audience. But, they do not cover their preferences in any way – and this is what you need.
Instead of preparing a yet another useless spreadsheet, create a thorough user persona.
A user persona is a tool that showcases the ideal user or customer for your business. It features not only the demographic data, but also their preferences, goals, environment, hobbies, dislikes, professional activities and other data that constitutes a real person.
The persona will make you understand the problems and needs of your customers.
It’s a superficial stereotype, but consider this: men and women tend to understand colors in a different way. Where men see white, women are able to see the crème shade that they’d call ecru. The label “ecru” conveys different information to women (warm, soft, sophisticated) than simple “white.” But, men would be more likely to go with “white,” as it is familiar to them.
Define the information you want people to understand through your marketing.
Once you have the recipient of your message, now you need to structure the message itself.
What you want to say about your product? The old principle of marketing is benefits, not features. Write down what kind of benefits your customers or visitors will gain thanks to your service. Don’t worry about language, design or whatever else yet.
Focus on what you want to say when you create a website.
Example: You have a CRM system for small businesses. In that case, you may want to say your product is:
- Good for small businesses and clients,
- Perfect for managers who start their sales managing,
- Simple to manage and easy to learn,
- Pretty cheap.
These are the features and this is the information you want your customers to understand. Now it’s high time to transform it into the benefits language.
Create a copy that fits your target audience and conveys the information you want
Once you know what you want to say, you need to think how you’re going to say that.
Focus on the language your target persona uses. You can also look at the successful competitor, but high chances are you already know some of the lingo.
Warning: do not use such articles as “CRO dictionary.” Content writers bloat them with terms that are not used by many or at all, and only extend the length of the article.
Good way to learn is to go to Quora.com and read some posts about your field – plenty of inspiration there. Also great for defining the user persona in the first place.
Once you have the language, also make sure it’s consistent throughout the whole page.
One rule of usability on the Web: synonyms suck, consistency rocks.
Don’t try to say the same thing over and over again only changing the structure. Just keep in mind that one piece of information should have a name, and one name only. A “free trial” must be called “free trial” everywhere.
Align the language with your design
This is simple, but usually forgotten because of the “too many cooks” syndrome when designing a webpage. Make sure the design fits the tone and the language of your website.
The visual cues such as colors, images and their alignment are also information. Never forget that and never skimp on design.
If you are a serious marketing analytics software, don’t use a barrage of emojis or bright pastel colors. It’s a bad contrast that only creates distortion.
It’s a common mistake on landing pages, so be sure to avoid it.
Once you’ve established that your language and your design are in harmony, make sure to follow that . Create guidelines that all your employees, future and current, will follow. Document all changes.
Decide on metrics, and track your and users’ activities
When you are optimizing information architecture in marketing, you need to decide on metrics that you’ll use for measuring the success of your changes. Bounce rates, pages visited/time spent, conversions etc.
A good idea to study the effectiveness of your navigation is to see how people react to it in real time.
Improve, track, improve and track some more
These are the most basic steps to starting with Information Architecture in Marketing. They are important in understanding how crucial this field is to every website on the Internet. Once you decide to improve, you should track your efforts and reiterate based on the data you get.
It’s also good to consult your users and visitors how they react to your current and new designs. But, that requires a completely different type of study altogether, and is much more time-consuming.