Information Architecture: Keeping Your Website User-Friendly
We all have that miscellaneous drawer somewhere in our houses. While the junk drawer seems like a great way to store small, useful household items, in many cases, it’s an ineffective solution to poor organization and hoarding.
The same thing happens with websites. It can be hard to figure out a designated home for a lone pharmacy technician training program that doesn’t fall under GME, CME, or CNE. So we create junk drawers on our websites, filled with hard-to-categorize “other stuff.” This junk drawer makes it hard for users to find information easily and complete tasks effectively.
“It’s very important for a health information site to be organized because, for the user, it’s often an urgent or immediate health need,” says Jillian Penrod, MPH, MSLIS, founder of Infotistas, a Philadelphia-based information strategy firm focused on consumer health.
“Health information sites should be seen and handled like emergency rooms because that’s really what it is for some users,” she says. “In that way, how can we apply some considerations like effectiveness and urgency to get the users the information they need.”
Figuring out what stays and what goes — or where it goes — on a hospital website is a major task in site redesigns. How can a site visitor find the right information in as few clicks as possible? “[Patients] don’t have time to fritter around,” says Penrod.
Addressing issues of disorganization, or sorting the junk drawer, means applying an information architecture (IA). IA is the practice of deciding how to arrange the pieces of something to be understandable. A subset of user experience (UX) design, IA focuses on organizing and structuring content effectively to help the user find information and complete a task. IA also informs the content strategy.
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