Information Architecture

The Information Architecture, or IA, is a very general term encompassing the ways that content can be organized, labeled, navigated, or searched.  It is what allows your users to find what they are looking for and complete their tasks.

Good IA is clear and understandable to a wide range of users. It is also flexible enough to accommodate the addition of new content.

To read more about how these elements work on the ACF website, visit the Drupal section on Menus and Architecture.

Navigation and Sitemaps

The most obvious part of your IA is your navigation — the menus along the top and side of your site.  But there are other important IA components to consider. Since a user could enter your site from any page (especially if they’re coming from a search engine), the IA should be reflected in everything a user might look at to understand where they are in your site including navigation, breadcrumbs, and URLs. 

The simplest representation of your structural IA is a sitemap.

What is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is a representation of your Information Architecture — the way the information on your site is organized.  Its main goal is to present the organization and hierarchy of information. 

Sitemaps can be complex diagrams that show all the relationships between content, but they can also be as simple as a tiered bulleted list.

You start with your main categories. These are the elements on your top navigation.

  • About
  • Resources
  • Grants
  • Programs
  • Partnerships

Each category may have several pages.

  • About
    • About this Office
    • Accomplishments
    • Local Contacts

If any of those pages have sub-pages, they’ll appear on the sitemap as well, underneath their parent pages.

  • About
    • About this Office
    • Accomplishments
      • 2016
      • 2015
    • Local Contacts

Metadata and Taxonomy

IA also covers how content is labeled.  In the case of ACF, it’s particularly important in the Resource Library, which allows content to be organized by any combination of labels, tags, and keywords.

For example, say you have a report on a research study about kids in foster care systems, via a specific program called the Youth Program.

For that one item, we have several different labels or tags.

  • Type: Report
  • Topic: Foster Care
  • Program: Youth Program

By adding all three labels to that resource library item, that report is findable for someone looking for this type of information in several ways — maybe one, like all information on the topic of Foster Care, or a combination, reports from the Youth Program.

Consistency is Key

The most important thing with any IA is consistency. Every piece of content that is added to your site should be evaluated to make sure it fits within your IA. If it doesn’t, either the content needs to be adjusted, or the IA should be revaluated.

Further Reading

Information Architecture Basics (Usability.gov) Visit disclaimer page

Top 10 IA Mistakes (Nielsen Norman Group) Visit disclaimer page