Information Architecture and Design

Like a city planner, the Interaction Designer creates the navigational structure of the website/application.

The Information Architecture Institute defines information architecture as, “the art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.”  In layman’s terms, information architecture is creating a clear and easy to navigate structure for a website or application.  This becomes the core framework for that website/application, indicating what kind of content should be developed, and where that content should be placed. Information architecture is an important first step in the overall design process.

So, what does an Information Architect (or in in the case of the Web Services Department, an Interaction Designer) do?  They gather the technical requirements for the website/application through a variety of techniques, including but not limited to, the following:

  • stakeholder interviews
  • usability tests
  • card sorting exercises

They then analyze the data they’ve collected, distilling it into the overall goals of the website/application.  The next step in the Interaction Designer's process is to determine how best to meet these aforementioned goals.  Like a city planner, the Interaction Designer creates the navigational structure of the website/application, called a sitemap.  Interaction Designers can also create wireframes to further flesh out the content hierarchy within individual pages of the sitemap.  These wireframes should not be thought of as prescriptive of certain design aesthetic or layout, but rather a means of showing how the overall site goals are being emphasized at the individual page level.

Once an Interaction Designer has completed this process, the website/application project is moved into the capable hands of the Front-End Designer.  The Front-End Designer creates the design aesthetic (colors, font, features, etc.) collaboratively with the project stakeholders in a way that adheres to the overall goals collected by the Interaction Designer.