Architecture is defined as both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings and other physical structures. Information architecture or IA is similar to building architecture in that it organizes elements of design in a way that is pleasing to user behavior. For websites, information architecture is used to support a well-crafted user experience.
When architects begin the process of designing a building, they spend a lot of time researching and analyzing things like the amount of space needed, who will use the space and how similar spaces have been used in the past. Lots of research and planning happens well before a developer is called in to start breaking ground.
Before a website is developed, it’s important to research and analyze the needs of the user. At Ascedia, we create user personas before mapping out a site. Personas are a representation of the goals and behaviors of a group of website users and we create them using research and data collected from interviews with users. (For more information on developing personas, download our white paper!)
When you’re in a building, you usually have specific tasks you want to carry out and visitors have certain expectations on how to locate things. For example, finding a restroom in a public space needs to be simple and intuitive. You wouldn’t want to put a men’s room in one corner and the ladies restroom all the way on the other side of the building.
When it comes to a website, similar rules apply. Spatial navigation expectations need to be researched and adhered to. When users visit a site they have certain expectations on how to navigate through the site and these need to be considered. Similar to signs leading people to a restroom, properly placed Calls To Action (or CTAs) can help direct users to the places on a website they want to go.
As a way to decide where to put CTAs on a website, we create a user journey. User journeys are mapped-out, step-by-step processes a user takes to achieve a goal or complete a task. This journey consists of a number of website pages and decision points that carry the user through five key steps: awareness, first interaction, decision making, conversion and nurturing. Within each step, CTAs are strategically placed to help guide the user to the next step. The overall goal of this process is to create an “ideal” user journey that’s free from frustration.
A blueprint helps the developer actually bring the architect’s vision to life, and it’s often helpful for designers to follow the same path. Comparable to a blueprint plan of a building, wireframes are visual guides that represent the skeletal framework of a website. Wireframes are created by taking into consideration the user personas and user journey research and creating a sketch of the site. The wireframes become the layout plan for the functionality of each page on the website, and include the navigation, content blocks, CTAs, conversion forms and more.