Information Architecture


Customer Focus and UX: Introduction and Project (Online)
Introduction to UX
User Psychology

Information Architecture

Is Information architecture the same as UX?

No. There is a strong connection between the two, but while UX involves a great deal of Information architecture the two aren’t exactly the same thing.

UX is much broader and includes several aspects of the user’s experience that IA never touches – such as making sure the interface is pleasant and responds to certain psychological needs of the user. In contrast, information architecture is much more focused on the user’s goals and cognitive effort usage.

Graphic showing differences between UX and information architecture. Under UX are the following statements: pleasant interface, realistic idea of the final product, collaboration. Under IA are the following statements: focused on the user's goals, cognitive effort usage, structure.

As with most good aspects of design, IA has several components that can help you apply this structuring to your product. 

Organisation systems

The organisational structure is the act of making sense of your content. This is when you mark the connection between different pieces of information and try to come up with a framework that helps the user understand all those connections among all the information your product has.

Hierarchical structures

Also known as tree structures, this would mean using a trickle-down effect, in which you use broad categories at the top, and more specific and smaller subcategories the user can navigate through.

Sequential structures

This form of information architecture organizes your content to create a certain path for your user. This means the user will have to follow certain steps and take in only the information that is presented to them at that moment.

Labelling systems

A way to convey a lot of information with a single word. i.e., the word contacts on a website, that is where you could find either email/ chat/ phone number of the company

Navigation systems

This is less about having a great interface and more about how the user can move through pieces of content or information.

Search systems

A search system is a standard on most websites, especially content-heavy websites where you can search on keywords.

Eight principles of information architecture

These eight basic principles can serve as a guide to any UX designer trying to make sense of their product. Originally conceived by EightShape’s founder Dan Brown, these principles say that information architecture in itself is the practice of designing structures.

The Principle of Objects

Decorative image: an example of the principle of objects. Version 2018 shows an image of a shirt, and basic information about the product. Version 2019 shows the same image and information, with an additional section showing related products below the original content.

This principle regards how you see your content. Brown says that instead of looking at your content as something stiff and inanimate, like an object, you try and see it as a living thing – with its own lifecycle, behaviours, and characteristics.

The reason why this is a relevant principle in IA is that it allows you to treat your content with the flexibility it requires.

If you see your content as its own being, it becomes easier for you to see possible relationships that content has with other data, to see different ways in which you can present this content to the user.

The Principle of Choices

A graphic showing an example of a non-categorised list, versus a categorised list where the options are presented in drop-down lists.

Brown refers to the epic work of psychology “The paradox of choices” by B. Schwartz – in which we learn that people have the illusion that they want to have as many choices as possible.

Most UX designers will know that not to be true – and Schwartz and Brown agree.

Here’s the thing about giving your users lots of choices: the more choices we can make, the more cognitive power it takes for us to actually make that call. It can even cause anxiety.

The Principle of Disclosure

An example of the principle of disclosure, showing first the word 'cheesecake' in a list of desserts, then a screenshot showing limited information about the product, then a third screenshot showing an expanded version with more information

This principle deals with the fact that people can only process new information in a certain way. What we mean by this is that people don’t deal well with unexpected, or unwanted information – this is a concept called progressive disclosure.

It means that in your information architecture, you need to organize your data so that people can not only absorb it at a normal rate but so that they can anticipate further information before it’s presented.

In your UX design, this means thinking about the brief bits of information you give away in any type of list or grid that acts as a gateway to the detailed content.

The Principle of Exemplars

An example of the principle of exemplars, showing the groupings of a drop down list on the homepage of a clothing website.

This principle refers to the psychology of how humans categorize things. Ultimately, we can categorize concepts by creating a list of examples that help us group different concepts together, no matter the criteria behind this grouping.

The Principle of Front Doors

Two screenshots of websites: one from and one from the New York Times

Brown says it’s wise for any designer to assume that people will reach your website via another page that isn’t your homepage.

So, make sure your branding is on point and recognisable on every page.

The Principle of Multiple Classification

This comes from the fact that even among a small group of similar people, you’ll still find that people have different ways of looking for information. Some people will type the general topic of the data they are looking for (such as beachwear, for example) while others will naturally go for the type of data they want (like bikinis).

This is important to your design and IA, because you need to account for this in your search system. This is a fine line to walk because it comes with a catch: the more ways to find information you give users, the more likely it is that they become overwhelmed or distracted.

The Principle of Focused Navigation

Decorative image: A screenshot of the Facebook homepage.

Brown states that your navigation shouldn’t simply include all the content in your website. Many design teams get carried away with adding of navigational menus everywhere on the website – making the menu itself seem lacking in logic. And information architecture is all about logic in user experience.

The Principle of Growth

An example of the principle of growth, showing first a short drop down list on a website, and then a second example of multiple drop-down lists on a website

This is a rule that anyone working with content should bear in mind: the amount of content in your product is likely to grow over time.


Information architecture is vital if you want users to understand your product enough to enjoy it. You want to create a structure that your users can not just understand but also predict – so people don’t need to go in circles looking for information and can learn their way around your product easily.

Remember - good information architecture and good UX design go hand in hand – be it in delivering a blog post to a reader, or helping a new player get settled in your open-world video game.

Rule of thumb: Pay attention to detail, and don’t bombard your users with more information or more decisions than they can handle.


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In this Course, you'll explore UX (user experience) Design Principles, including user psychology, customer personas, and information architecture.
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