What if your website could tell visitors what to do?

Fred’s guide to Information Architecture

Jul 07, 2011 | Skip to comments » | Share | |

What if your website could tell visitors what to do, guiding them through the maze of words, pictures and interactive media on your site? What if it could do this and at the end of it all drop a “pot of golden treasure” in your lap?

Information Architecture, also known as IA, is the key to it all (golden treasure not included). Google the term and you will find over 1,500,000 results telling you how powerful it is. But, what is IA? And more importantly how can you use it to achieve web excellence?

Information Architecture

Information Architecture is, as A List Apart describes it, “The art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities, and software to support usability and findability.” Or, in other words, it is the way you organize your website to make it helpful and usable. Seems simple enough, right?

As an example let’s take a look at a site called Foodily and see how their site works. But, most importantly we will see how it works through the eyes of their user, Fred.

The Story

Once upon a time there was a man named Fred. Fred had a wife, but as some see it his wife had him. Furthermore her birthday was coming up soon and he needed to bake a cake for her.

The Search for the Perfect Cake

Fred, being a chef, knew how to cook. He also used his favorite website, foodily.com, to find great recipes. It did everything he needed.

This is that part of the story where you go to foodily.com and follow along with Fred. You might even find you like his favorite website too.

The best part of foodily.com is that Fred can search for food based on ingredients, what each recipe has and doesn’t have.  He really likes this part of the site because it helps him filter through the information.

See, filtering is a big part of IA. It’s what a well-structured navigation, search and content do for a site. It helps your visitors filter through your content quickly to find what they are looking for. No point in placing your contact page under the products section. Is your product “contact us”!?

So, back to the story, Fred searched for cake without cinnamon, which his wife is allergic to.

Fred sees that his search has some results. He can scroll through the results. Perfect (see the slider). He can even remove parts of his search because the search has been tagged (see the items with the red x’s). This is a great feature for organizing the results, especially when looking for recipes.

Fred Also sees his search results.

The Lemon Cake looks luscious; it has a great graphic so he can see what he is getting. Its looks like the most important information is at the top.

Again Foodily is using IA to organize the most important part of the site and push it to the top. It is also pulling back the less important information and hiding the details. These are kept to a separate link under the photo. Here the most important part is the photo and the ingredient.

Fred is presented with the information he cares about: ingredients, cook time, a photo, and details if he is interested.

This birthday was great.

Goal Achieved?

Goal achieved? Do you think foodily.com did its job? Do you think Foodily.com made Fred’s life better? I think so. I think the search engine did a great job. It organized the information really well. It told Fed everything he needed to know. It guided him to the cake he needed with one search.

Imagine doing this with Google. Do you think Google has the Information Architecture to get you or Fred the right cake so fast?

The main take away here is to notice what is missing. Good IA takes away what is not needed and pushes to the front of your website the things that are important to the visitor. If you do this they win and you win.

Foodily does this by removing the things we don’t care about and pushing the important things to the front, like the picture. Visual stimulation you can taste!

Next Steps

So how will you improve your website’s Information Architecture? I suggest reading more on “A List Apart”, as it has many articles on improving IA. Also, you can hire a company like Merge to help you make your website do the work for you.



Are those peeps on the simnel

Are those peeps on the simnel cake??

I'm not sure, the cake is

I'm not sure, the cake is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10634/index.html one is missing an eye

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Press Releases


October 3, 2011
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Merge, a digital agency in the Upstate, is now a registered Apple Developer in the iOS Developer Program, which allows the...
August 3, 2011
Merge, a leading digital agency in the Upstate, completed a successful second quarter with the June launch of a new website for Orion Air Group, a...
August 3, 2011
In July, Merge launched sites for two Upstate non-profit organizations, Greenville County First Steps and the Julie Valentine Center. ...
July 12, 2011
Merge, a digital agency in the Upstate, is now recognized as a Google Adwords Certified Company, becoming one of only 15 businesses in South...
April 26, 2011
In January, Merge launched a new website for the Center for Development Services (CDS), which now better reflects the valuable services they provide...
January 29, 2011
D&W Fine Pack has retained Merge to develop and execute a strategic, interactive solution to enhance the company's brand and to clearly market...
January 3, 2011
GREENVILLE, S.C. - January 3, 2011 Merge, a leading web development firm in the Upstate, has announced the hire of Eric Evans of Greenwood, SC, as...
December 20, 2010
GREENVILLE, S.C. - December 20, 2010Merge, an Upstate agency providing strategic web solutions, has announced the addition of Meredith Garner as the...
December 15, 2010
GREENVILLE, S.C. - December 15, 2010 Merge, a Greenville-based web development firm that provides comprehensive and strategic web solutions, has...
November 22, 2010
GREENVILLE, S.C. - November 22, 2010 Greenville-based web marketing firm Merge has been selected by TEDxGreenville to provide strategic enhancements...