Many times, when digital marketers think about improving UX, they focus on messaging, page layout, calls to action, page usability and design, and pay little attention to the information architecture of the site. A site’s information architecture, or how the content on the site is organized, labeled, and prioritized, can have a dramatic impact on user experience, engagement, and conversion.
A well-designed information architecture provides a vital function for your visitors and should clearly communicate:
- Where they are on your site
- What’s available on your site
- How to navigate your site
Remember that many visitors may not start their visit on your homepage, and instead land on an internal page. Those visitors may not be sure where they are on your site and won’t have the benefit of a well-laid out homepage to communicate what’s on your site. One of the resources they may rely on to get that information is your navigation, which is a visual representation of your information architecture.
An effective information architecture supports three key visit features:
- Findability – the ease with which your visitors can find what they’re looking for
- Discoverability – the ease with which your visitors can determine what’s available on your site
- The ease with which your visitors can then navigate to the desired content
So, what are some tips for creating an information architecture that will create a better user experience for your visitors? Well, since your visitors are the ones that will be using your site, you’ll want to perform both quantitative and qualitative user research to determine visitor behavior patterns, intent, level of knowledge, typical visitor concerns/questions and visit goals. Your analytics are a great source for providing insights into how your visitors currently navigate your site, which pages are more important and which pages tend to lead to site exits. Heatmaps and visitor recordings should also be quite helpful.
For qualitative, we use a process called visitor modeling which identifies the various classes of your visitors and the characteristics they share. These characteristics are typically less demographically oriented and more geared towards their psychographics. In other words, we want to understand what’s going on in the visitor’s heads.
Knowledge about how your visitors intend to use your site will allow you to:
- Order your navigation based on visitor priorities
- Label your navigation to set the right expectation for your visitors
- Label your navigation to be meaningful to your visitors (will your visitors wonder if your “About” link takes them to an “About Us” page or a page about your products or services?)
- Label your navigation using language or words your visitors can understand. Will your typical visitors (especially early-stage) understand acronyms that may be commonplace to you and your organization?
Beyond understanding how your visitors intend to use your site, you can employ qualitative testing tactics, including:
- Tree Testing to determine how visitors are navigating your site and how they’re finding information. The results of tree testing show how your test participants (which should closely match the demographic and psychographic makeup of your prospects) performed typical visitor tasks, if they were successful, and which route they took to complete the task.
- Card sorting is another tactic for discovering how test participants understand and organize the content on your site and how they expect to see products grouped and found.
Since A/B testing a modified information architecture can create some logistical and technical challenges, you can consider employing usability testing to ascertain how your prospects will try to complete a pre-defined high frequency task.
When putting together your roadmap for improving visitor engagement and increasing conversion, remember that your information architecture is an important component impacting UX. By conducting thorough visitor research including qualitative and quantitative, you may find opportunities to significantly drive positive bottom-line results.