If you have a well-organized kitchen, it’s easy for just about anyone to walk in for the first time and find what they need with minimal effort, without asking where the cutlery or pans are. Kitchen setups like these have an intuitive and logical arrangement.
For websites, a similar concept is called information architecture (IA). As defined by the Information Architecture Institute, IA is simply “the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.”
If you’ve ever browsed a website and wondered where you’re supposed to click next, you’re using a website with poor IA. So, when you’re creating a website of your own, it’s important that you understand what IA is and how to implement an effective strategy. WordPress.com tools can help you with this.
What is IA?
Put simply, IA helps your audience find what they’re looking for on your website. By guiding them to the content relevant to their needs, you ensure that they are more likely to purchase your product or service.
Note that IA is not the same as site navigation. Although good navigation is certainly a key element, IA also involves organizing the content and flow of your website based on audience research.
The goal of IA is to make the structure and design of your website reflect the desires of your audience as well as your business goals. This is achieved by balancing the content of your website within the context it is presented — and in a way that will fulfill your users’ needs.
How do I use effective IA?
Considering that IA needs to account for content, context, and visitor needs, it is vital that you understand your audience. Unless you know how visitors will consume your content, you can’t present it to them in a way that makes sense.
It’s smart to start by building mental models of your typical site visitor. Once you understand how your visitors think and process information, you can understand how to present content to them that triggers specific emotions, motivations, and matching behaviors.
Thorough research and user testing play a valuable role in understanding these mental models. Get in touch with your customer base, either personally or via online surveys, to capture their needs. The best way to find out what your audience wants and why they want it is simply to ask them.
Once you understand these needs and can effectively balance them with the goals of your business, you can start designing your website.
How do I shape my IA with WordPress.com tools?
When building a website on WordPress.com, you have a number of tools at your disposal that can help to align your site design with your IA and that don’t require installed plugins.
WordPress.com sites already support custom navigation menus, which allow you to include links to category pages that are automatically generated from your content categories. There is also a navigation menu widget that can be added to any widget enabled on your website. All of these navigation features can be used to build effective navigation structures around your website content, leading your visitors to the relevant information they might need.
Search is also a powerful WordPress.com tool in a site designed to present relevant information to users. Although all WordPress.com sites have built-in search capabilities, those on the WordPress.com Business Plan can upgrade to Jetpack Search, which provides better quality results and an advanced search experience for your visitors. With Jetpack Search, your visitors are more likely to find what they need from their search results and in a much quicker manner.
Information architecture might sound like a daunting task, but at its core, it’s just about understanding the needs of your users, presenting them with relevant information, and guiding them to make a purchase. With these tools, you’re well on your way to making your business successful.
Watch the video below and get step-by-step instructions for customizing website menus on WordPress.com sites:
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