There is an enormous amount of information on the internet. Every page you load is stuffed full of it. With so much raw data floating around the internet it’s vital to remember that in order for human minds to be able to actually process all the data, strategic visual architecture is required. Pages that have masses of information and cues all jammed together will elicit no response from a visitor since the effort required will likely be too great and the end result will usually be a click away. The very best optimized sites, however, can contain a massive amount of information that visitors will happily and easily process in a matter of seconds. This is entirely down to information architecture, which is one of a suite of facets that make up User Experience (UX) design. Some of the frontrunners in information architecture (IA) include social media sites. Social media sites require effective IA because the information that an average social media page contains is deeply diverse and, as such, can be extremely confusing to navigate if it isn’t designed well. So, let’s take a look at what is going on that dictates whether IA for social media is a success or a failure.
Development Over Time
No social media looks the way it does now without having looked very different in the past. “You may notice, particularly if you are using social media apps such as Facebook or Twitter, the occasional need for your app to be updated. Aside from bug fixing, mostly these will be small, or significant tweaks to the aesthetics of the app. Social media websites in their earliest form look completely different and evolve over time, in part due to the changes in content in part due to market research on the way people use the site”, says William Scott, project manager at PaperFellows and OxEssays. That evolution phenomenon is most interesting because it implies a sense in which social media websites ‘evolve’ as humans evolve. As humans have adjusted to navigating sites in a way that isn’t as dependent on text, for example, and more on intuition, it has been important for a company like Facebook to adapt their IA to account for how we as people have changed in our digital interactions. Flexibility, the ability to evolve, is vital for proper social media IA, I A of any time. If you ever think you’ve cracked the code with site design, think again.
A Clear Overview
UX design can sometimes lose sight of its origins. When you obsess over a cool feature of a social media site, like for example Instagram’s update to allow multiple photos in one posting, then you can forget about the broader user experience. Understanding how people who are using the app will be affected by the multiple photo design requires stepping back and thinking about how an average user uses the app as a whole. Before that update is able to be enacted, there has to be a guarantee that the overall UX won’t be badly affected. Some of ensuring your IA is in order involves user testing. But there are other solutions too. For example, Sitemap Tool from FlowMapp, which turns the possible user experience into a digital map so that the ‘flow’ of your site can be assessed in advance of making a big change.
One of the biggest challenges for any digital IA is that, as a field, it is highly interdisciplinary. “Knowing how to work effectively in IA is not something one person can really do. Understanding the technical specifications, for example how to code for the actual page design, is great and will be a valuable asset. But just as important is dealing with a constantly fluctuating set of variables relating to human psychology, classification, logical navigation, data management, testing methodology and a whole host of other complex fields”, warns Samuel Herzel, data manager at StateOfWriting an Academized. People take web design in general for granted. The thinking is that, since we are now well into the internet age, that ought to make things simpler, when in truth, at a high level, it makes it much more complex. Bring that into the social media arena and it becomes even more difficult since social media has its own set of rules and behaviors associated with it. That’s before mentioning the vast human element to social media which adds a further layer of unpredictability.
Doing proper information architecture for a social media site is a real skill, one that takes years to learn and usually will still require the input of others with their own specialties. But, as you can see, it’s a vital part of social media design and it is changing every minute of every day.
Weak interface solutions is one of the modern Internet’s current problems. Users that see imperfections regularly may not notice them, but then they encounter another website that has a better design and realize that the first one was not that good. It is this fact that pushes major organizations to experiment with the design of their website interface and make a complete redesign. Does my website need a redesign? And what tools are used to create an intuitive and user-friendly interface?
The reasons why companies may consider redesigning their website:
1. Absence of targeted traffic
Your site neither attracts targeted traffic nor attracts enough traffic. The lack of targeted traffic is one of the first reasons to change the current website interface.
2. Changing the principles or business objectives of a company
Structural changes in the company’s business goals lead to interface redesign. Such changes are especially relevant in a situation where a non-commercial site has to occupy a niche in commercial sites field.
3. The desire to accentuate the content
Websites are often created without the properly structuralized content. For this reason, a huge number of sites are not adapted for users and search engines. The search for the necessary content turns into a test. Content accentuation makes the necessary information easily accessible.
Evaluate your site by these criteria and determine the need for redesign. The process of redesigning is complex, multi-level work that requires a responsible approach at every stage. In the process of developing the first version of the site, you probably did not study the target audience, and the design was not excellent. Redesign is a correction of mistakes and its distinctive features are:
– the research of target audience and development of the user path based on the data provided by research
– the development of target audience-oriented content
– the development of content-oriented interface
The process of website redesign has nothing to do with rebranding. The redesign implies changes to the structure based on the data provided by UX researches.
Where to Start?
You should start the process of redesign by conducting a research of your target audience. Here is the list of some powerful UX tools used to make a full-scale research:
If you have planned to redesign your website, you should focus your attention on the customers that use the site on a regular basis and know the flaws of your interface. The UX designer should conduct user interviews, which sometimes can be of a challenge. The thing is that it is often hard for user to answer the questions about the specifics of interface interaction. This happens because users get used to the interactions with your website and it becomes like a routine for them – no specifics to describe, just the usual automatic actions When conducting an interview, it is important to receive the most detailed information from the user. One way is to conduct a contextual interview.
Contextual interview allows you to combine user observation and a classic interview form. During the user observation, you have to ask him to comment on the actions performed when using the website interface. During the contextual interview, it is necessary to questions, clarify them if needed, and record the answers. Help users to formulate their thoughts in order to get the most accurate information.
Finding Out the Users Personas
An important part of user-oriented interface creation is to work out the user “Persona”. It is a generalized representation of one part of the target audience, the users of which have similar views on your product. When creating a “Persona”, the UX designer should include the characteristics that are common to one group of your clients, according to the researches conducted before.
The Personas let you see the possible ways your project can go and may influence the decisions about the website interface. A “Persona” may also simplify third-party interactions that you deal with throughout the project. A detailed “Persona” describes the target audience in a quick and understandable way.
You should conduct a research of users personas in a team, because you can get to know your target audience and use that experience in further interface updates. A creation of “Persona” begins with defining users characteristics that should be obtained in the course of researches (e.g. user interviews, analysis of user reviews). Group the characteristics of “Persona” into clusters and analyze them. Then, exclude the characteristics that are useless for the business and group clusters that include common characteristics together. The clusters should be further personalized, made memorable and realistic. Specify the information:
– Name, age, gender and a photo
– Description of activities
– The experience of using your product and your competitor’s
– Their goals and problems your website solves
it is important to remember that it is necessary to create a realistic image – this will help the team to memorize the person they are developing interface for.
You should develop the target audience-oriented content in accordance with the research data obtained.
Content-oriented approach is one of the most popular methodology for website design and redesign development. In this approach, the content is the essence of your website. The design should provide the user with an intuitive and comfortable path to the desired content. Instead of developing a nice-looking UI that has poor layout logic, start developing content that is needed by users. This approach saves you the time spent on iterations, if you have started the redesign with the development of UI. Target audience-oriented content is one of criteria that lets you build the information structure that is intuitively understandable to users. In its turn, the information structure will become a good basis of further UI development that will be aesthetic, authentic and intuitive for the target audience.
Before you start redesigning your website you should consider the project’s budget in order not to use the excessive amount of methods. If the designer knows the budget, he can distribute it among different UX methods in a correct way. Some project may require more “contextual user interviews” with “user observation”, some may require a “usability testing”. In any event, it should be remembered that you should use empathy in order to understand the users to whom you develop the interface for. This is possible only if you research the target audience with UX methodologies and SEO data regularly.
In the course of this article, we have reviewed some simple actions and methods that may be implemented by an UX designer to redesign the website in a quick and efficient way. It should be understood that target audience research is not limited to user interviews and “Persona” creation. The amount of “UX research” methods is full of elegant elements that help designers to make their projects better and better. The main purpose of this article was to unveil some user-research methodologies in UX design and to understand some core principles of developing a well-structured website. The next articles will focus on powerful tools that an UX designer may use to develop an intuitive interface, and what tools should be implemented to keep the constantly changing user needs under control.Read more
We have reviewed the specifics of the structure of the three most popular Visual Sitemap types. You can use the templates that were discussed in our article to design your own unique site structure right now.
In this article, we will research an averaged structure of a Sitemap. Before proceeding with the Sitemap analysis, it should be recalled that the relevant website structure implies a consolidation of the amount of information obtained as a result of conducting and processing the UX research and the semantic core clustering. Any proper Sitemap begins with a clear understanding of the website’s target audience.
You can read more about the website structure methodology in the following article:
How to Plan a Website Structure
However, some common features may be present in different Sitemaps and provide familiar patterns of user interaction.
Sitemap of an Online Store
Online stores have a complex, branched structure. The actual place of an online store in the market and its volume of sales will actually depend on good, thoroughly-developed navigation system.
Typical elements of an online store:
- Home (main) Page
- Product catalog
- Product card
- Shopping cart
- Order processing
- Text Page
An example of a hierarchical Sitemap of an online store can be found here:
Home (main) Page consists of the key information about the online store. Online store Sitemap should start from this page. The customer should receive general information about the specialization of an online store and intuitively comprehend how to navigate through it.
Product catalog is the implementation of a thoughtful cataloging of the online store, that provides intuitive user navigation. Sophisticated cataloging implies a detailed understanding of the target audience needs.
Product card is required to provide the most detailed information about the product. This page should include product photos, basic characteristics, the comparison module and the “Add to cart” button.
Shopping cart is the page which consists of products that the user has selected for purchase. There, the user should see a list of goods that he chose to buy and pricing.
Order processing The user enters this page after confirming the purchase on the **Shopping cart** page. Here, the user needs to fill in personal data, select a delivery method and complete the purchase.
Text Page is a kind of a ‘Product Blog’ in an online store. This page displays the current information about the product that is selected by the user.
Account is the page on which the users can enter their personal information and set a preferable payment method. Entering this information will speed up the order processing.
Contacts page raises the level of user confidence. Contact information provides an opportunity for the user to get advice or clarify some details that were not described on the Product card.
News Portal Sitemap
Considering the most obvious elements of the news portal structure, a number of specific features can be highlighted. One of these features is a huge array of information that comes through the news website every day.
Typical elements of a news portal Sitemap:
- Home Page
- News catalog
- News Pages
Home Page implies the display of the most relevant news for the user. Being on this page, the user should easily find the news on the topic that interests him.
News catalog A large news portal is updated with a huge amount of information every day. Given the huge number of topics, you must create a dictionary of tags, and catalog the topics in accordance with it. Thus, journalists will have the opportunity to organize news on specific topics, providing convenient navigation through the website. When forming a dictionary of tags for a news portal, you need to rely on the research of the target audience. Make sure that it is fresh and up to date.
News Pages exist for convenient reading of news. You may also want to display the links to similar news articles here.
Corporate Website Sitemap
Corporate website is often used for presentation purposes. The main objective of this site is to introduce the user to the company and its products.
See an example of a corporate website Sitemap by clicking the following link:
Typical elements of a corporate website Sitemap:
- Company’s news
Product/Service page shows all the information regarding the product or services offered by the company. The detailed information on such pages allows the user to get acquainted with the company and make a decision whether to interact with it or not.
Company’s news demonstrates the latest company news that may be of interest to both employees and customers of the company.
This page contains the history of the company, and there may be some photos of employees. it raises the level of user confidence and allows users to trust the company.
Corporate websites usually do not have extensive Sitemaps. As a rule, these sites are not meant to attract a lot of traffic. Corporate websites are needed for a convenient presentation of detailed information regarding a product or a service provided. The target audience of such sites, as a rule, are people already familiar with the company’s products or services, but they want to get more detailed information.
Different sites are made for different purposes and, as a result, have different structure. If you want to design a convenient website structure, you must first put yourself in user’s shoes.
This information allows you to design an intuitive interface that will certainly affect the User Experience in a good way, and as a result, the overall success of your project. To ensure clear navigation, you should also follow the basic rule of Sitemap developing – the ‘viewing depth’ should not exceed three or four clicks, depending on the amount of website content. In this article, we have provided examples of three popular types of Sitemaps. Naturally, these examples are not the only true ones, and may not be appropriate in your particular situation. However, you should accept niche-specific user interaction patterns when planning a Sitemap.Read more
Regardless of the complexity or purpose of your website, chances are that a sitemap isn’t the first topic on your agenda. Site admins and content creators often rely on practical, user-centric web and content development, without paying a lot of attention to the back-end side of things.
However, disregarding the importance of sitemaps is risky because they can help to accomplish a critical goal of making it easier for search engines to find your website’s pages. In other words, they’re a great part of your SEO, so not having one could be a disadvantage.
But how exactly sitemaps improve SEO? They let search engines know the literal mapping of your website’s structure, starting from the top (landing page/navigation bar) to the bottom level (articles, products, etc.). This makes indexing, therefore, choosing your website for search results, much easier.
Since sitemaps are so important, let’s explore them a little bit more by taking a look at how to create a good one and the ways in which they benefit your website.
Benefits of SiteMaps
Easier Website Management
To maximize the benefits of a sitemap for your website, you have to create one from scratch As you develop your website and expand it with different categories of content, it will become harder and harder to manage, so a dedicated sitemap can help to develop a more structured, organized website from the get-go. Things like server file management, remote collaboration and page structure modification become a bit easier as a result later on.
A well-established sitemap allows to improve the experience of your visitors and customers by mapping of their journey through the website and giving ideas on optimizing it. For example, you might want to help your visitors find product pages as quickly as possible from the home page or a landing page. With a sitemap under your belt, you can create a flow which redirects them to that very section of your site.
How to create a Visual SiteMap
1. Preparatory phase
Creating a visual sitemap requires input from a web developer and manager because the latter can define business-related knowledge while the former converts it into a good sitemap.
Before starting designing a sitemap you should define:
- The current goal of your business
- The main areas of your business
- Expansion goals that the business will pursue in the future.
Answering these questions will help you to create a sitemap that will meet all the requirements of your future users, increasing sales, and improving the overall experience of website’s users, and therefore, achieve long-term goals.
2. Create a Basic Structure
You should always start creating a sitemap from the Home Page — this way, you can create a clear hierarchy. For example, the Home Page can be the only first level page, and the second level pages – products, blog, contacts us etc. – should reflect the basic navigation.
3. The Second Level Design
The second level of the sitemap comprises a number of important site sections with a common theme such as categories of products. When designing, it’s important to look at it from the user perspective to make them easy to navigate, and providing the user with the ability to spend less time finding their way around.
Second-level pages should contain links to content inside so-called “child pages,” providing easy navigation to them. It is important that the navigation usually includes less than 10 pages of the second level.
4. “Child” Pages
Child or third-level pages are pages that contain the specific content focused on one idea. For example, if a second level page “Sports Nutrition” leads to a number of third-level pages such as “sports bars,” “amino acids,” and “protein”.
For most websites, 3 levels of page hierarchy are enough to include all content, but there are also sites where 4 or even 5 levels may be required. These are complex sites with a large range of products.
Once you have created your sitemap, the best solution is to create a duplicate to be able to test the performance of different options. This can help to create an intuitive and easy-to-use sitemap. At the testing stage, you can also experiment with different structures of the map and other ideas to find the best option to meet the needs of the visitors.
6. Page Content
Once you have finished working on the structure of your website, you have to make it more detailed to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. For example, you can add descriptions to pages so you know what subsections will be added. By doing so, you’ll never lose the focus on the main goals and consolidate up-to-date information at all stages of development.
Elisa Abbott is a freelancer whose passion lies in creative writing. She completed a degree in Computer Science and writes about ways to apply machine learning to deal with complex issues. Insights on education, helpful tools and valuable university experiences – she has got you covered 😉 When she’s not engaged in assessing translation services for PickWriters you’ll usually find her sipping cappuccino with a book.Read more