Before you start any information architecture (IA) work, be sure to review the analytics of any current content. It’s also helpful to research related websites, engage with users and talk with other people who have an interest in your content.
Review your analytics
Use website analytics to measure the success of your content and how it has been performing. Good IA relies on understanding the needs of your users and their behaviour on your site.
Start with popular content
Popular landing pages can tell you what users are looking for on your site and how your IA is performing. Each page on your website can act as a landing page. Not all users will land on your homepage first.
Use analytics to understand how users interact with your more popular pages. This can help to create an even better user experience.
There is always room for improvement. For example, you may have a single page that’s very popular, with lots of content on it. One option may be to expand it into a larger section or multiple pages. Or review the content to decide if less content would improve the user experience.
Move onto least popular content
Use analytics to discover more about your least popular pages and how your IA is affecting them. These are the pages that don’t usually receive much traffic or have high bounce rates. You may need to remove, rename or improve these pages. This may include making changes to your IA.
Improvements to least popular pages may involve adding more useful content and/or relocating content to other pages in the navigation.
User behaviour flow
Look at your analytics to better understand user behaviour flow. This will show you how users are navigating and moving around your site. Use this information to find out about their behaviour patterns.
Behaviour flow can also reveal where users are coming into your website from and where they are exiting. Use Google Analytics 360 for a comprehensive view of your users' experience.
Review keywords people are using to arrive at your site. Think about whether any of these words could be page headings for your IA. This will also improve your search engine optimisation. For example, if a popular keyword is ‘passport’, use this in some of your main page headings.
Bounce rates and exit pages
A bounce rate shows when your users land on a page and leave immediately. This data can help to understand why users are leaving your site early. Look at these pages and decide whether to remove or improve them. It may also be the case that users are exiting your website because they have completed their task.
Consider doing a content audit before working on your IA. This will help you understand what content you have, and what you need to remove or improve.
If you're building a new website, you’ll be starting your IA from scratch.
Some questions you will need to answer include:
- What are the needs of your users?
- How do you want to guide and direct users around your site?
- What types of content do you have?
- How do you want to structure your menu?
- What are the top level menu items, followed by sub-level items?
- What should the menu labels be called?
Also consider looking at previous or current site analytics, to help work out what your IA should be for a new site.
Research other website IAs
Research can include other Australian government websites, relevant industry sites or international government websites.
- if other Australian Government agencies or industry bodies are already filling content gaps with useful content
- whether these are pages you can link to instead of including in your own structure
- how they have structured their content
- how easy or difficult it is to find information?
- what can you learn about their flow of content.
Research may also help if you have difficulty deciding or agreeing on specific labels for the IA. In these cases, external research or an objective opinion may be able to help resolve these issues.
Look for ways to reduce duplicate content across Australian Government websites. In some cases, it may be better to link to other government sites to avoid duplication of content.
When developing a large government website, consider brief information about any related sites on your main website. Then direct traffic across to those sites. This will become part of your link strategy. Where there is a government agency which has similar content, try and meet with them or call them to discuss your project. Aim to agree on how the websites will both relate to each other and avoid duplication.
Develop a website working group within your larger department where you share user research, analytics information, knowledge and strategies.
When you are planning to develop your IA, try to consult with the relevant internal and external people early in the process. Making changes later may be much more difficult.
Engage users and stakeholders
The better you understand your users through user research, the more likely you are to create services that meet their needs.
Talk to the people who use your website to find out:
- what tasks they need to complete on the website
- their experience of using the website
- any issues or pain points while using the website
Some ways you might engage with users include:
- face-to-face interviews
- phone interviews
- speaking with your customer service staff
- workshops with users of your site
Collaborate with other agencies
Some things you can do to create better content on Australian government websites include:
- Talk with other government agencies about their content. Agree on how you can work together to avoid duplication.
- Research similar non-government websites
- Develop a website content working group. Share your research, analytics, knowledge and strategies.
- Talk to your IT department or developer about using tools which can detect duplicate website content.
Consult and collaborate across your agency
Talk with others in your agency about your project. This will help to bring everyone on board. For larger websites, consider creating a presentation of the IA project. Consult with leaders and other relevant people.
There may be other staff across your agency who contribute content to the website. Identify the relevant content owner and consult with them about upcoming IA changes. Develop a list of content owners and subject experts for new content.
Talk to other relevant groups during the early stages, such as staff in a call centre or customer service centre. They often know the problems callers have with your website. They can also tell you what people ask about the most.
Consult your legal team to learn about any mandatory requirements they have for your IA. These could include the visibility of content such as annual reports and freedom of information, or privacy, accessibility and copyright.