Finding something easily is paramount to a successful online experience. We’ve all been there when our levels of anxiety rise… We’re looking for something that we can’t find because things are unexpectedly named and navigation is unclear. We’re left feeling confused, frustrated and worst of all, lost.
Successful sites are user-centered
Fortunately, unclear terminology can be easily fixed. Information Architecture (IA) deals with the organisation of information, and how that information is presented to an audience through the navigation systems of an intranet, extranet or website.
At ClearPeople we ensure that the IA will be well received by an audience and that it makes sense to them. By providing strong information scents and organising the content into understandable groups using user-friendly terms, we help people find what they’re looking for right the way through their online journey. We offer a range of very useful practices to evaluate whether an audience understands and accepts a proposed IA or not…
Card sorting is a great starting point in designing an Information Architecture (IA). Typically a number of content topics/cards are created from the existing or intended content in a site. Then a test-group of the audience of the site is asked how they think the topics should be categorised. They place the topics into groups that make sense to them. Card sorts can either be open, closed or hybrid.
In an open card sort participants sort the topics into groups that they name themselves, which is useful in the early stages of IA creation. In a closed card sort participants sort topics into groups that are already named, this is useful in determining whether group labels are understood. A hybrid card sort is a mixture of an open and closed sort, where the groups are already named but participants are able to overwrite these names with labels that they believe are clearer.
The card sorting process allows us to quickly find out where the issues lie in a proposed IA and to understand how the audience thinks. We gather the right user insights necessary to make informed information architecture decisions.
Tree testing is a usability technique used for evaluating the findability of content through the navigation systems of a site. It can help to refine and improve a site’s structure before the build takes place. It’s also known as reverse card sorting or card-based classification and it is simplest to think of it as strength testing your sitemap. In a tree test a series of common user tasks are created and mapped against the sitemap. An audience is then asked to perform these tasks using the proposed navigation on the site structure. Results are evaluated and tricky terms that cause findability problems are quickly identified and adjusted.
Successful sites take users’ tasks into account. Click testing allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of the linking structure of your site. It examines what a participant would click on first in the interface in order to complete a task, including the navigation, spotlights and call-to-actions. Click testing identifies whether users are able to successfully complete an intended task in the user interface. It can be performed on a functioning website, a prototype or a wire frame.
“By providing strong information scents and organising the content into understandable groups using user-friendly terms, we help people find what they’re looking for right the way through their online journey.”