Do you own a hotel with no corridors?

‘Information Architecture’ is the sort of phrase guaranteed to make many people hit the ‘back’ button. But in website design, it’s critical. Businesses like yours spend small fortunes getting prospects to their websites, then allow them to miss the information they came for. One example is when sites thrust ‘market sectors’ into their visitors’ faces, encouraging them to look at ‘solutions’ for the industry they’re in, then only show them a limited range of products.

Information architecture has grown in importance with the rise of mobile devices. Should a mobile user be presented with fewer choices (big buttons rather than closely-spaced links) but more stages in getting to the right place? Or should they be given more choices (‘flatter navigation’) to help them avoid becoming ‘lost’ in the site?

I think there’s an easy answer to many information architecture problems which can be retrofitted to any website. I’d bet that your site has been designed like a pyramid – a home page at the top, leading to several different sections on a lower level, each of which has several subsections of its own on a lower level still, and so on. Down on the fourth level there might be hundreds of dead-end, destination pages, and the only way to get to other such pages is to keep going back up and down again.

This is a bit like designing a hotel with no corridors, but individual steps down into each room from a lobby above. Want to go to the next room? You’ve got to go upstairs first, then back down again. Not ideal. Want to go to a room on the same floor but in a more remote part of the hotel? You may be spending a lot of time going up and down stairs. What’s more, you might only have known that other room existed if you’d passed it while walking down a corridor. In the pyramid structure, you never saw it in the first place.

The web allows us to provide direct passages from one ‘room’ to another, wherever they are in the ‘hotel’. But it’s a facility which is woefully neglected. Use the opportunity. If you have a case study about your blue widgets, or a blog post about how many you’ve sold, link to it on the product page about blue widgets. In your sales presentation, this could be something you want people to know about. They won’t know it’s there unless you tell them.

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