Expanding an information architecture

I worked on revamping the information architecture (IA) for a software company transitioning from a traditional licensing model to cloud-based services. We needed to accommodate new products and technologies while addressing usability issues that had cropped up over time.

How I helped

Since the site hadn't seen an IA overhaul in years, we needed to get a better understanding of its current state. What terms were we using? How was it structured? I created a map of the site a few levels deep showing the current content and hierarchy.

We printed out a large version of my content map so that we could see how proposed changes would effect existing structures.

We printed out a large version of my content map so that we could see how proposed changes would effect existing structures.

Next, I began interviewing users, creating our interview guide and handling all recruiting. Rather than explicitly defining tasks, we asked users to explore the site based on their needs and interests, then give us their thoughts as they used it. If the participant navigated to an area outlined in the interview guide, we would ask questions from the guide related to that area.

I also looked at site analytics. My teams was especially concerned with high bounce rates on our main pages (between 60 and 80 percent in some cases). While site analytics by themselves can often be misleading, our interviews showed us that the terms we used were often confusing, which resulted in participants visiting a page, then quickly leaving it when the content they expected wasn't there. Our theory was that by using terms related to our customers' tasks, we could dramatically reduce bounce rates and make our navigation far more usable.

I began mapping existing content to our customers' tasks, and the tasks themselves became new terms in our navigation, on our footer, and on new landing pages. The end result is an information architecture that focuses on what our visitors are trying to do, rather than our own branded terms.

The results

In addition to restructuring the site to fit the new direction of our company, our bounce rates were dramatically reduced, and analytics showed our customers exploring the site more deeply.