Information architecture is often an overlooked component of website design. Designers frequently just let the content management system (Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, etc.) dictate how content for a site is organized. That works fine as long as the site fits perfectly into the narrow content formats most content management systems are designed around.
But too often, a website’s content breaks the boundaries of the content management systems. Without a clear understanding of how information architecture works, you can end up with a website that is more confusing than it needs to be or, at worst, makes your content virtually inaccessible.
Connect4 Best Practices
- Design the website based on the target user
- Research user needs
- Every website has a clear purpose
- Use personas to characterize the various site users and then design the site according to those requirement
At Connect4 Consulting, we rely on five different paradigms of information architecture: single page, flat, index page, strict hierarchy, and co-existing hierarchy.
The first paradigm is the single page model. Single page sites are best suited for projects with a very narrow focus and a limited amount of information. These could be for a single product site, such as a website for an app, or specific event, or a simple personal contact info site. Infinite scrolling has made this a more compelling paradigm as of late but it’s still only effective for projects with limited content and a high level of specificity.
This information structure puts all the pages on the same level of importance. This is commonly seen on brochure-style sites, where there are only a handful of pages. For larger sites with a lot more pages, the navigation flow gets unwieldy and it is hard to find content.
Some websites use a strict hierarchy of pages for their information architecture. On these sites, an index page links to subpages. Each subpage (parent page) has its own subpages (child pages). In this paradigm, child pages are only linked from its parent page.
There’s also the option of co-existing hierarchies. There are still parent and child pages, but in this case, child pages may be accessible from multiple parent pages/higher-level pages. This works well if there’s a lot of overlapping information on your site.