Psychology of Information Architecture

Maurice Quek MM

Have you ever visited a website and think to yourself "Everything I need is in the right place, at the right time, and all so easy to find!". This could be a charity website where you wanted information on volunteering, a website in helping you choose the correct health insurance cover or even a shopping website where you found your perfect pair of shoes.

Intuitive navigation and displaying relevant content in a website is no coincidence and is delivered via a concept known as Information Architecture (IA). In short it's a way to structure your website content tailored for your users with the goal of making your content easy to use and easily accessible.

To design good Information Architecture and subsequently a good website, we need to understand how a user thinks, understand their world and gain a perspective of how they would use a web site. Enter cognitive psychology and mental models. A mental model is a person's thought process in interpreting how the real world works. It represents how the person views their surrounding world and the relationships between the various components. With this representation it allows an individual to shape their behaviour, problem solving logic and tasking. Information Architecture can be thought of as equal parts arts and science. Applying a dash of psychology along the way can help greatly to a good IA. We can apply scientific methods as simple as observation i.e. how a user interacts with a website and noting down results. On the artistic tangent, it is more than applying the mechanics of a scientific method. Rather it draws upon the intangible such as professional experience, empathy, intuition and judgement of the IA designer.

Recently at Adelphi Digital we provided Information Architecture services for a customer that required their website navigation to be improved and revitalised. They explained that over the years it underwent content modifications and additions which resulted in poor user experience, poor user retention and navigation difficulties. We began to solve the customer's problem by utilising the Information Architecture concept. We conducted user interviews with their users, internal business stakeholders as well as simple candid conversations. These methodologies allowed us to gain an insight into how their users think, how they used the website and also identifying the likes and dislikes. The knowledge we gained produced a navigation specification that was white site tested with their users and subsequently refined. The Information Architecture methodologies and concepts that we used resulted in a revised navigation and gave their users a superior website experience.

Here at Adelphi Digital we can help you on this Information Architecture journey and gain insights into the mental model of your users. We employ many methods to achieve this such as user interviews, card sorting activities, white site testing and more. Sometimes unorthodox methods as simple as a candid chat can produce valuable information. With these various methods, we sit with your users and observe their mental and physical behaviours, jargons, likes and dislikes when interacting with content on your website. This all helps you to identify and empathise with your users and will go towards forming the basis of a good Information Architecture.

Focusing on an effective Information Architecture will help your business achieve increased user retention and conversions by offering your users a superior user-centric experience.

Verily, can we help you with your content strategy?