Structuring a Story: The Art of Information Architecture
Lead UX Designer
- Mar 07, 2023
Imagine a piece of fabric draped over the back of a chair. That fabric holds so many possibilities. Think about its color, texture, and pattern. Its thickness, smell, and material. We could spend hours exploring different combinations and creating unique fabrics, all of which convey a specific feeling and tell a different story.
What about the structure of the chair? Think about how its shape, height, or curvature impacts the way the fabric falls. The structure isn’t just a framework for the story to sit on top of – it’s an integral part of the story with the power to influence and drive what we experience.
Information Architecture (IA) is a User Experience (UX) practice that looks at how the elements of an experience are organized and how those element groupings connect. We commonly approach IA from a very practical place. We focus on what will make the most sense to our audience, reflecting their expectations.
That understanding is an essential baseline – it doesn’t matter what story you’re trying to tell if no one can find it. But like all design, there’s no one objective solution with IA. There’s room for creativity and intention in how we design a structure to impact the overall story.
Impact #1: Feel
Consider the depth and pacing of your IA. How should visitors feel about the information being shared? How will they move through it?
Consider different goals, different foundations, and different feelings. Maybe we want to convey a sense of richness and scale, encouraging visitors to explore and discover. Or maybe we need reassuringly straightforward shallowness that won’t let visitors get too far off track. Perhaps we even want a totally linear structure that cultivates feelings of guidance and support.
Impact #2: Values
Consider the framing and hierarchy of your IA. Grouping information says something about what it means – and what matters.
Are you elevating information about key messages you want to send or are they buried at the bottom of your structure? Look for opportunities to help visitors make sense of what they’re seeing in a way that reflects your values, not just their expectations.
Impact #3: Journey
Consider the potential pathways of your IA. The connections you draw can help guide visitors through the full experience.
Are you making it easy to move between relevant sections? Are there opportunities to surprise or intrigue visitors with paths they might not have anticipated? Think of your information groupings not just as discrete buckets, but as parts of a holistic flow.
Crafting the right structure for an experience is a balancing act. If you start with a strong understanding of user expectations, you can identify opportunities to refine and build on them intentionally. Create an experience that’s both effective and evocative, using both the fabric and the chair.
Our Experience Technology team strives to help clients find that balance. From initial discovery through all the levels of design, we seek to connect with our audience, immersing them in our story and amplifying its impact.