Understanding information architecture

Last updated: September 21, 2022

Information architecture (IA) focuses on how we organize, structure and label web content to help people find information and complete tasks. Think about the structure of your content and take time to develop your IA.

Your content may be related to pages or websites that other areas of government have created. It’s important to consider how your information may be linked to avoid duplication and create clear paths for your audience.

On this page:


Before you start

  • Review what you already have, do an inventory and audit
  • Check your site analytics
  • Research related websites and pages within gov.bc.ca
  • Find out what the business and project goals are
  • Identify your audience and their key goals

Use the data

To plan an effective IA you need to refer to the insights and analytics you have already gathered.

Design research

Design research will help you understand how people use your content. Include questions about:

  • How people search for your content
  • How people navigate to your content
  • What are the audience's goals? (why they come to your pages and what tasks are they trying to complete)
  • Any issues they’re running into trying to complete those tasks

Analytics

Review keywords people are using to arrive at your content. Think about whether any of these words could be used in the page title and headings. This will also improve your search engine optimisation.

Use page analytics in addition to design research. Analytics by themselves do not tell us enough about audience behaviour. However, they can help you understand which pages have many visitors, and which ones do not. Consider:

  • Which pages have the highest number of visits
  • If pages with low visits are needed, or if they can be removed
  • How long people are staying on the page
  • Where they’re coming from to get to your page, and where they go when they leave

Collaborate with other teams

When you do your inventory and audit you may come across content that is similar or related to what you’re working on. Find out who owns it and see if there are ways you can work together to avoid duplication and improve the experience for your audiences. This may include sharing information about your:

  • Research
  • Analytics
  • Content Strategy

If you’re considering moving your content it may impact other branches’ content. Contact the GDX Service Desk to find out more.


Link content

If another government team has already created the content do not duplicate it, link to it. Consider how your page relates to theirs, they may want to link to your content as well.

Learn more about linking content.


Move, rewrite or remove content

Once you know what relevant content currently exists, it’s time to look at the quality of those pages:

  • Review the length of your pages. Would the information better serve people by being combined or separated?
  • Remove duplicate information and replace it with links
  • Is all the content useful? Reduce the clutter and stick to what people are trying to find
  • Are all the headings and page titles clear and descriptive?
  • Are the topics and subtopics relevant to each other and makes sense as readers navigate down? If subtopics are not accurately described by their topics, consider moving them

Taxonomy: grouping your content

Taxonomy refers to how the content is grouped and labeled within your IA. There is not one way to do this. The results of your design research will help you understand how your audience thinks about the content and expects it to be grouped. This will help you map where content will be easiest to find. For example, by:

  • Alphabetical order
  • Audience
  • Date
  • Process or steps
  • Services
  • Subject
  • Task

Once you have decided on the taxonomy your next step is to build the IA.


Map the new IA

Review the information from your inventory and audit, taxonomy and design research to work out where the content should live.

Present the draft IA to all the content owners identified in the inventory. Include:

  • The old IA
  • The type of research used and the results
  • The changes and rationale behind them
  • The new draft IA

Mobile-first approach

More people are using mobile devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, to access gov.bc.ca. Simple IAs work best on mobile devices. Design your IA to work well by including different types of devices in your design research. You may also want to create prototypes to test.

For information on what types of devices your audiences uses to access your content, check your analytics.


Visualise the IA

Use a visual tool or site map to visualise your IA as you develop it. Visuals are a useful way to show stakeholders your work.

Depending on what software you have access to, you can create visuals using tools such as:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Adobe XD
  • Mural
  • Miro
  • Xmind

Test it

Once you’ve built an IA you think will work, test it. Make sure your audience finds it useful and easy to follow. Testing is about continuous improvements. Consider testing your IA each time you make changes to it.

Some ways to test your IA: