information architecture, navigation and interaction design » alpha cube

By: Alpha Cube  09-12-2011
Keywords: web site, web application, information architecture

What it is

Information architecture is the structure and navigation of a Web site or Web-based application. A well-designed information architecture provides effective, goal-oriented interactions between users and the Web site or Web application and helps answer questions such as:

  • How will users find information on the site?
  • How many steps will it take to complete a transaction (for first-time and repeat site visits)?
  • How will a user know where they are in a site at all times?
  • Is a site's content just "sitting there," or is it structured to actively drive users toward an end goal?

How It Benefits You

  • Users can quickly understand the structure of your Web site or application. Content categories (taxonomy), navigation structure, and vocabulary (nomenclature) are organized in a way that is intuitive and predictable to users.
  • Users spend less effort finding information they need.
  • Customer satisfaction increases and frustration with the software decreases.
  • Customer retention increases.
  • More users complete their tasks successfully (for example, there are fewer abandoned shopping carts and more completed transactions).
  • At all times, users can easily identify where they are and where they came from within the site.

What We Do

To design an effective information architecture, we first focus on understanding the target user and identifying their goals and tasks that must be supported by the web site or application. For this stage, we use one or more of the following information-gathering activities:

  • Discovery meetings to understand the site or the application goals, branding, and other critical issues.
  • Interview subject-matter experts on your team and/or real application users to understand users' needs and tasks.
  • Goal and task analysis of how various audiences might interact with the system (and identification of ways to streamline that interaction).
  • Create content inventory of the current site.
  • Conduct benchmark usability testing to identify problem areas for users in completing key tasks.

Using this information, we group the site content it into a logical and streamlined organization, using techniques such as card sorting and card-assignment among others. The goal is to organize the site around readily understandable interaction models, with the structure being neither too broad nor too deep, but intuitive and inviting further exploration.

From this site organization, the site's navigation logically follows. Often, multiple navigation paths are provided to support a diversity of audiences and tasks. We also develop labeling systems that provide a strong "scent" for information and invite site exploration. We may also design information on individual pages to facilitate navigational flow by making certain options particularly salient. Finally, we design supplemental navigational systems such as search/browse systems and site maps.


The main deliverable for depicting the information architecture is a site map. Site maps are graphical representation of the site's structure and show the following:

  • the overall content organization
  • primary site navigation
  • secondary and/or tertiary site navigation
  • work flow for "transactional" site areas (e.g., registration or checkout processes on an e-commerce site)

Where necessary, site maps maybe accompanied by sketches of content layouts for important pages on the site such as home page, navigational landing pages, and so forth.

Keywords: information architecture, Task Analysis, web application, web site

Contact Alpha Cube

Email - none provided

Print this page

Other products and services from Alpha Cube


localization to Spanish, Spanish translation, Spanish usability test, interface design » alpha cube

Conduct a usability test of your software or hardware product, which can be tested with real customers to get their immediate feedback and make necessary adjustments to the user interface, prior to development and final production. Localization is the process of adapting content to meet a specific language, culture and requirements of a local market.


just-in-time" usability testing, recommendations for enhancements » alpha cube

During the test, our team observes the paths users take to complete tasks, the reasons why users may get confused or frustrated, whether users succeed in doing the task, and how satisfied they are with the experience. Conduct a single usability test and deliver a report with specific recommendations to change affected areas, as well as recommendations for further enhancements.


user experience evaluation, expert design review, heuristic evaluation, competitive assessment » alpha cube

Our team evaluates the user experience design of your product to assess how well the design is meeting user goals and established business objectives. Creates a report with specific recommendations to change affected areas, as well as recommendations for further research. The user interface is assessed to identify compliance with recognized usability principles and industry best practices.


design patterns development, ensuring consistency » alpha cube

To address design problems in Web designs, many corporations develop user interface design standards documents or "look-and-feel" guidelines. Applying patterns regardless of the software development methodology used by your team, from waterfall to iterative and agile approaches. They explicitly focus on a problem within the context of use and guide the designer about when, how and why a solution can be applied.


user interface design for web sites, web applications, mobile devices » alpha cube

Our team's focus is to minimize or eliminate frictions, which are activities and tasks that users may do which are extraneous to their main goals. We design the final visual aspects of the site (images, icons, buttons, etc.) and deliver comps or a high-fidelity prototype. Users can focus on their goals, rather than being distracted by user interface actions and design elements.


interactive prototyping, medium or high fidelity prototype » alpha cube

As outlined previously, prototypes provide a common ground of understanding between users, client team members, and development team members. These prototype models can then be evaluated, changes made rapidly, and the prototype evaluated again, thus informing the design process. Prototypes can also be made available for input from a wide variety of users, client team members, and development team members.