The Importance of Information Architecture – 2 simple rules

Imagine being a delivery driver and every package in your truck didn’t have an address on it. Instead the packages had a rough description of where they needed to go. So, rather than “14 Albert Road, East Town ET5 3XX”, it read: “Large block of flats. Near the station, but not the train station, the bus station. The front door is green…or grey-green. Purple curtains.”

This sounds a bit absurd, how would anything get successfully delivered? So why do we apply this type of thinking to how we manage and store our business information?

Designing the right Information Architecture

Designing an information architecture does not have to be an onerous task but it is a very important part of any information management system; intranet, document store, forms library, video library etc.

There are many trains of thought and approaches to designing an Information Architecture, many of which have been overcomplicated by strategists and UX vendors.

So let’s make it easy.

An initial design primer would be to consider the following simple rules:

  1. What labels do I need to add to my information to adequately describe it?
  2. What containers do I use to organise and present my information?

These two rules are the single most important facets of any Information Architecture and will help you go a long way in your initial design.

What does this give us?

Labels (metadata) will describe an Object (document, file, etc) – imagine we have a library of invoices without any metadata, how would we find out the value of each invoice? Or the department who raised the invoice or the company who we invoiced?

Now imagine if we added three pieces of metadata – Value, Department and Client. Now we can classify our invoices by value, client or by department. We can report on the invoices and we can find any invoice quickly without using a search function.

Containers. Traditionally we use folders as a container but as we know folders require an understanding of the file structure. Also, Folders are also very good at concealing information! But, by using Labels to describe our Objects it would make perfect sense to use them.

With this in mind, we can group our invoices into ‘containers’ that do not require a predefined understanding of a folder structure that effectively hides information from the end user. We can group by department, value and client labels without hiding the information.

Finally, if we do want to search for information, our searches will be three times more accurate just by adding three simple labels. e.g. Search for invoices over £1000 raised by the Marketing department paid to client ‘Great Corp’.

We can also re-use our labels for more than just invoices. We can use them in conversations, people information, projects, in fact anything!

Imagine how rich your information landscape and user experience could be by adding these simple labels!