At it's most basic, information architecture (IA) is about structuring and labeling information in a logical and intuitive way. It's also about user experience (UX).

Good Information Architecture is the beginning of a good user experience for any interactive product, be it a website, smartphone app, or touchscreen kiosk.

To start with, we need to find out what the user needs from the product. Interviewing and observing people who will use the product can be part of this. One way to research the structure of a website with users is to use 'card sorting'. Card Sorting is an easy way to observe how people to put the parts of a website in an order that makes sense to them.

Another way to consider the structure and design of a website from a user's point of view is to create 'personas'. You might start with 3 or 4 main 'types' of people who will use the website. It's ideal to have customer research which can be used to create these personas.

A persona description for a website should include the following:

  • Demographics: Gender, Age, Location
  • Occupation
  • How I access the internet (at work, home, on a mobile, etc)
  • What is a day in my life like?
  • What are my pain points?
  • What do I value?
  • What are my goals?
  • Why would I visit this website and how would I find it?
  • What reasons might I have for not using this service.

Give the persona a name and a picture or photo. The idea is to understand how the person will use the website, and what would be best for them. If we can really 'put ourselves in the shoes' of the persona, initial decisions about what should be where, and what should be linked, become much easier. 

For each persona we would like to find out the following in relation to the website, app, or kiosk:

  • What do they need?
  • What is the ideal outcome for them?

We can use these questions to test structures, estimate keywords used for search and landing page content, and to make the path to the ideal outcome as quick and frustration-free as possible. Many organisations tend to make a website structure which reflects the structure of their business. Using personas can help them to see the structure from their customer's viewpoint.