Information architecture (IA), according to Wikipedia, in so many words, is the act of organising websites and other online communities in such a way that they are easier for visitors to navigate and understand. Upon first consideration, it seems like a relatively simple field. However, the fact remains that an astonishing number of websites are poorly organised and dreadfully laid out.
Getting it right is difficult and usually requires the expertise of a website development firm. Even then, it’s worth shopping around to find a service provider that excels at IA.
To that end, we’re going to look at a few common pitfalls in IA:
This one may seem a bit too obvious, but the truth is that far too many websites come up lacking in the structural department. A website without structure can start to feel like a dense forest or an outright sinkhole-with everything swirling around a well-hidden point. Opposite this would be a well-designed site with well-structured links between pages and clear connections throughout.
Mismatched link labels
Skipping contextual links
- Failure to integrate search with structure Third-party search engines may not be able to decipher your site’s structure, and this can make the search process a bit less productive. However, when you are building a website through a professional developer such as Felinesoft, you can strengthen the site’s on-board search infrastructure, as well. When users are able to pinpoint their own location on the site relative to the areas in which they would rather be browsing, the entire search experience improves.
Links that are difficult to click
Fly-out menus come to mind here. The user hovers the mouse pointer over the menu and it unfolds, only to tuck back into the site again if the mouse overshoots the target zone. Links shouldn’t be difficult to click or inspect, nor should a website visitor be expected to have to try several times to land on a single link.
Speaking the wrong language
Part of building a successful website that achieves specific benchmarks has to do with writing in such a way that people can find you. Your potential site visitors are (presumably) going to find your site through a search engine, and this means that they will be using predictable words and phrases to get there. These are the same words and phrases that your site should employ.
Having more than one primary navigation bar
It seems to go without saying that a ‘primary’ navigation bar is one-of-a-kind. However, some websites are guilty of setting up too many navigation zones. The simple reality is that site visitors will have trouble making sense of your site’s navigation if there are too many disparate choices for them to explore. Limit the main navigation zone to a single area, and make sure that each of the choices within that zone are clearly marked.
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At no point in the navigation of a website should a user ever find themselves faced with a dead end. Your main navigation bar significantly eliminates this risk. Beyond that, avoid embedded links in images that would link to a page displaying only the image (without any navigation options).
Too many Choices
When people are faced with too many choices, they are much less likely to be successful. The same applies to the navigation of your website. This is not a vote against operating a fully fledged website with plenty of content available. However, it is important not to overwhelm your site visitors with places to click and actions to take. Many developers recommend holding the top-level navigation to roughly five or six possible choices.