Information Architecture Principles
A New Way of Thinking about Managing the Growth of your Website...

As your website evolves, three areas of influence will determine the calls for change:

  • Graphic design changes will be implemented to keep your website synchronised with your branding and style guides.
  • Content will be added to your website to help inform your customers about your latest products and services.
  • Customer interaction, such as ecommerce, personalisation and application style features, will be added to reflect the current demands and expectations of your customers.

Your content management system, with a good style guide or stylesheet, will give you a certain level of consistency when implementing these changes. But there will always be some inherent flaws in the structure of your website if you avoid the principles of Information Architecture.

Introducing Information Architecture for the Web

No matter how well your website is organised, the following issues will present serious challenges to the development and structure of your website:

  • Ability to find information

    Even if your content management system has a search facility, this may not be enough to find the right information. Confusing site structure and unhelpful search results will deter your customers from persevering with their search, give up and look elsewhere.

  • Navigation and scalability in content structure

    With traditional brochure style websites, where the content is directly linked to static menus, the information is fixed by the heirarchy of the pre-defined menus. You can modify and redesign your menus, but fundamentally the problem still remains – your website has not been designed to handle content beyond the menu structure. When you add more content, you are constantly challenged by deciding where it belongs.

  • Keeping your content fresh and relevant

    Every time you add an article to your website, is there an expiry date associated with it? How do you classify and cross reference past articles that cover similar subjects?

  • Access control

    Are there parts of your website that you wish to protect your privileged information? How do you manage access to these areas? Is it clear what articles belong to these access levels?

Information architecture is the science of organizing, ordering, categorising and labelling information. Its purpose is to make your website easier to use and easier to find the information your visitors are looking for. If you have high quality content, then incorporating information architecture will maximize its effectiveness.

The benefit of implementing information architecture brings you the ability to create collections of paths, or series of pages, which your customers can take. Navigation will then be based on guiding your visitors through these paths you have anticipated and planned for.

What Information Architecture Can Do for You...

  • Improve your internal linking

    For the human visitor as well as the major search engines, having a good internal structure will improve your visibility and help to add context to your content by prividing access to the bigger picture.

  • Better navigation

    By classifying your content, you can incorporate additional navigational tools, such as:

    • tag clouds - a collection of keywords that connect all pages that contain the same keyword,
    • related links - a way of controlling which articles you would like the visitor to read next

  • Capture and hold interest

    Having the capability to manage the flow of information will give you the power to capture and hold the interest of your customers. This will improve your website ‘stickiness’, and help to build up a relationship through multiple visits not normally possible without direct communication.

    It is this stickiness factor that will determine how successful your website becomes in terms of how well it can capture and convert prospects into customers.

    By managing the flow of information, you will be able to provide something new for your customers each time they visit. What’s more, you will be able to use a language that they understand for each stage of your buying process.

  • Nurture and educate with auto responders

    Auto responders are newsletter-like emails that can be made to be very specific and hence higher in value. People who subscribe to your auto responders will receive highly tuned information according to their request. The auto responder emails will help to guide them down a specific path, with the appropriate links to your website, that gives them timely and valuable information in order to make an informed decision.

    When combining newsletters with auto responders, you will have the ability to build credibility and trust with your customers and prospects. By giving them impartial information about the current thinking in your business area in your newsletters, you can provide opt-ins in your newsletters to subscribe to auto responders for people wanting more information.

How to Build Your Information Architecture

Netflare have developed a comprehensive method of implementing ‘quality-issue’ focused information architecture for your website.

This is based on 3 processes as below:

1) Zone Path Analysis

  • Marketing Analysis Re-cap

    The first step in zone path analysis is performed by reviewing the relationships with your customers and determining the quality issues that need to be overcome to improve those relationships. By considering different scenarios where those quality issues are encountered, then you can empathise with the customer and present questions they might ask.

  • Question Zoning

    The principle of question zoning is to collect similarly themed customer questions and group them into a series of zones that reflects the level of commitment from the customer.

    Each zone incrementally strengthens your relationship with the visitor by responding to their current quality issues and provides impartial advice and information appropriate to their current style of question.

    The zones are based on a style of questioning listed below:

    • Zone 1) Can you solve my problem?
    • Zone 2) Will it work for me?
    • Zone 3) What’s in it for me?
    • Zone 4) Why should I choose you?
    • Zone 5) What’s next?
  • Determining Path Scenarios

    Now that you have a comprehensive list of customer questions grouped into the 5 zones, you can derive relevant responses and generate path scenarios that takes your visitor through a nurturing process.

  • Article Classification

    You can create a heirarchical classification of terms to classify your articles and associate articles that belong to the same zone. Impartially written articles will be specific to a particular zone, but persuasively written articles will be classified in multiple zones in order to guide the visitor to the lower zones.

2) Writing Styles

Two styles of writing content are used in order to effectively guide your visitor through the zones.

Writing in an impartial style will help to win the trust of your reader. You should use an impartial style when writing advice, methodology, empathy, or how-to type articles for a given customers point of view or quality issue.

Writing in a persuasive style will help to focus the reader on the benefits of your point of view. You should use a persuasive style when writing about the benefits of your products, your services and your business in general.

3) Building Trust

By building layers of trust between you and your customers, you can build a product and service portfolio to suit the situation and the relationship with your customers. As your customers begin to trust you more, you can make more available to them in terms of delivering higher value products and services.

Instead of viewing your website as a collection of individual pages that attempt to persuade your customer to buy your products or adopt your services, consider it as a medium that communicates at multiple levels to your customers.

With information architecture, you will be able to build relationships with your customers automatically on your website by implementing methods of controlling the flow of information.

Instead of viewing your website as a collection of individual pages that attempt to persuade your customer to buy your products or adopt your services, consider it as a medium that communicates at multiple levels to your customers.

With information architecture, you will be able to build relationships with your customers automatically on your website by implementing methods of controlling the flow of information.

Discover more about Jumpsite

Review your existing website and how it is organised. Investigate the structure of your menus and determine how well it responds to the questions your prospects and customers tend to ask. Discover how to implement these methods by following the Jumpsite TL2 programme. Call 0800 107 4662 and register for the next workshop.