What is information architecture?
Information architecture (IA) is the art and science of organizing and labelling data including: websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.
Information architecture is also defined as follows:
The combination of organization, labeling, search and navigation systems within websites and intranets.
(Definition of information architecture at Wikipedia)
I like to focus on the navigation and structure of a website when thinking about IA.
This post contains lots of tips for keeping your blog’s information architecture as clean as possible.
A Quick Exercise
Count the number of different navigational methods you have on your blog. Each set of navigational buttons or links counts as one method.
Do you have multiple sets of links across the top of your blog, down the side, across the bottom, under each post, or even halfway down your sidebar in the middle of some widgets?
The more ways to navigate your blog, the more ways you’re giving readers to get lost and confused.
Keep Your Top Navigation Links Tidy
At the top of your blog, stick to one navigation bar that doesn’t go onto multiple lines, and doesn’t go the whole way across the page.
Reserve these links for your most important and valuable pages.
If you have pages with subpages underneath, your theme may show these as dropdowns. For instance, on Quick Blog Tips I have a “Bonus Content” link with several subpages.
If you do have subpages beneath a link at the top, make sure the top link also goes to a page when people click on it. So for instance, “Bonus Content” might have six links underneath. But if you click the “Bonus Content” link, it could take you to a page explaining what additional content you produce for your blog.
Organise Your Archives
Once you’ve been blogging for a few months, you’ll find yourself with an increasing volume of content to organise. There are a few ways to make your archives easy to understand and navigate.
Providing a way to browse by date is helpful. Catching up on older posts allows new readers to check out your previous topics. However, it may be more useful for them to drill down by category. Browsing by date shouldn’t be the only option you offer.
Browsing by topic is easiest if you take the time to think up 6-12 categories and no more. Having 30 or 40 categories doesn’t make it easy for readers to find the content that will be of interest to them. You can put general posts into a “general” category. This includes news and off-topic posts.
Building a custom archives page means you can display the categories you want readers to look at, and hide any categoies you don’t want to promote too heavily, or that need tidying up.
Check out the QBT Archives page for some ideas.
Using the Footer
When readers get to the bottom of any page, you may find it useful to include some useful links in the page footer.
This shouldn’t be seen as a dumping ground for any old links. It should be a neat set of links that might be of interest to readers. If it’s just a bunch of useless pages that aren’t in any kind of order, you’re wasting people’s time including them in the footer.
If you want to put something at the foot of the page but you don’t have a large set of footer links, another option is to include a clear link to your archives. This may get readers clicking through to more of your posts if they want more to read.
Make it Clear What You’re Linking To
If you’ve littered your blog with a lot of different navigational links, is it obvious what each set of links is for?
Listing out your recent posts, popular posts, or related posts can be really useful for readers. However, when related posts are mixed in with a set of “links you might find useful” that take readers to questionable sites with popups and ads everywhere, you break the bond of trust that you’ve made with your readers when they’re on your blog.
If an ad is made to look like a link to another area of your blog and clicking it will land me in a tangled mess of popups, you’re deceiving readers and they won’t thank you for that.
How much thought have you put into your blog’s information architecture? What’s the clearest navigation style you’ve seen on a blog?
QBT Season 2 continues every Monday at 5pm GMT / 12pm EST / 9am PST.