Imagine you discover a website that catches your interest but as soon as you click on the link you’re overwhelmed with the information and the structure. What do you do? Typically, you would exit the webpage and look for another that has an organization with your interest in mind.
That’s exactly what you don’t want to happen when users discover your webpage. Users want information that’s quick, there, and easy to follow. Structure and the organization of content can mean everything when engaging with users. You want to keep them interested in your webpage rather than just going to a different one, right?
As stated by Jakob Nielsen, Principal of the Nielsen Norman Group:
“On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave.”Usability 101: Introduction to Usability
If you’re convinced about why you should understand user experience, let’s begin!
What is User Experience?
User experience (UX) focuses on understanding users interests, needs, and their abilities/limitations. Users determine the significance of your content almost immediately, so first impressions about how you’ve structured your webpage and all of its information are crucial.
For visual elaboration, here is a representation of the relationship between UX and content. This is known as the “User Experience Honeycomb” which was originally envisioned by Peter Morville in 2004.
Now, for the textual breakdown:
- Useful: you want your content to be original and fulfill a user’s need (crave for information).
- Usable: your website should be easy to use, you don’t want to confuse people by adding unwanted buttons or displaced menus.
- Desirable: your design choices, such as images or brands, should invoke some sort of emotion or appreciation, this will help maintain interest.
- Findable: users should be able to find your webpage even when it isn’t opened in their browser, try to incorporate terms that are relevant to what they would use to find information
- Accessible: taking into consideration certain disabilities, users will appreciate it if your content functions with their potential struggles in mind.
- Credible: for your webpage to be successful, you must make users trust and believe what you tell them, don’t falsify information just to add flare to what you’re presenting.
Whatever your discipline may be, UX will likely be involved in it. Understanding how to apply these concepts to your webpage will only make it stronger.
Now that you’ve been given the rundown about what UX is, it’s time to look at the finer details of structure and organization.
Why do we structure?
You, as a user of the internet, could understand why structure is important. Are you suddenly remembering a webpage that had poor design and organization choices? That’s why structure, also know as Information Architecture (IA), is so important. IA decides how parts of the information you provide should be arranged so that it’s understandable. This arrangement can be broken down into two parts: Taxonomy and Choreography.
Taxonomy, sounds like a super complex term, right? On the contrary, it’s actually just the practice of IA that focuses on organization. This is broken down into “schemes” of organization, which are segregated into two main categories:
This organization scheme is the simpler of the two. Exact schemes are mutually exclusive, meaning they can only happen in a certain order that doesn’t allow other factors to function at the same time. There are 3 examples of this that you see in your day-to-day life that you may not even be aware of:
These utilize our 26-letter alphabet to organize complex information so that it’s easily navigable; you tend to find this in dictionaries and encyclopedias.
This scheme utilizes the release date to organize information, you typically find them in formats such as history books and television guides.
You can find this mostly in news and weather platforms, they utilize locations to allow users to identify factors such as weather or economic issues happening in the local area.
This organization is a bit more complex. Subjective schemes divide information into categories that defy an exact definition, yet they are often more important and useful in comparison to exact schemes. The simple reason: we don’t always know what we’re looking for when we browse the web. It is for this reason that subjective schemes are organized based on relevance rather than exclusiveness. Here are 4 examples of how this information is broken up:
Organizing information by topic can be a little tricky, typically you see this method used in the yellow books or in nonfiction books.
Task-oriented schemes organize content and applications into collections based on needs, actions, and questions. You typically see this is in word processors or spreadsheets.
Audience is constantly fluctuating, so this scheme organization is either open or closed off when navigating between different audiences. This is a bit more complicated, as some webpages who use this make it evident who their target audience is for, and this may not apply to all audiences.
This sort of scheme helps users by relating content to familiar concepts; you can find this example in the “folders” or “trash” tabs of your email. These aren’t typically found on webpage’s primary organization schemes because they can be misunderstood and create unwanted complications.
By definition, Choreography is the art and practice of designing and arranging movements that guide dancers for a performance. You’re probably wondering, what does this have to do with writing?
Well, as stated by the Information Architecture Institute,
“The structures that IA creates foster specific types of movement and interaction, anticipating the ways users and information want to flow, and making affordance for change over time.”
Now that you understand the depths of structure, let’s address the importance of making sure the organization is properly navigable for your users.
What about navigation?
Webpage navigation will be your best friend if you know how to use it wisely. Navigation of your webpage goes back to that first impression we talked about; it determines how your content is served and will either make or break UX. There are many common types of navigation, and there are certain webpage navigation mistakes you may want to avoid.
Common types of navigation
Surprisingly, you see forms of navigation at least once in your day-to-day activities. Think of the menu you read when sitting down at a restaurant. The way the information of the food, beverage, dessert, and whatever else that restaurant has to offer is coordinated is a form of navigation. In webpage structure, the most common types of navigation are:
Think about when you’re scrolling through a webpage… There it is, scrolling. Scannable content is becoming more desirable by users, it’s even becoming a conditioned response to webpages. Some of the pros of scrolling include:
- Delivering content quickly
- Doesn’t require commitment by forcing users to click a button
- Allows visitors to digest information at their own rate
Forms that allow scanning are being seen in practice and application significantly more, so keeping up with the pace of your users is important for your success.
Be sure to be careful with these! While including clicks is necessary for interactivity of your webpage, you don’t want to lose your users’ interest by having too many navigation links. It’s important to establish who you are, what you offer, and which part of your webpage is your users next step first. Here are some ways to improve the clicking experience you can offer users:
- Use a clear, concise copy of all your call-to-action (CAT) buttons
- Minimize your number of clicks to complete certain actions
- Make your clickable content easy tap on (keep in mind mobile devices)
- Use clicks sparingly, don’t be afraid to utilize scrolling
- Avoid forcing your users to click in order to finish a reading or action
Clicking can be a great contributor to your webpage, but being conscious of it is necessary. You don’t want to overwhelm your users by having an overabundance of clicks.
This brings us back to the restaurant example; menus are a very common navigation guide amongst webpages. A few examples of these common menus include:
- Side-scrolling content
When placing these menus, make sure to keep in mind your audience, their needs, and their goals.
4. Icons, images, and buttons
Take a moment and think of your favorite webpage, what’s the first thing you remember about it? Likely something along the lines of a special icon, a certain image, or a button that just stood out to you. This navigation format is incredibly popular amongst webpages. They invoke a sort of emotion, catch users’ interest, and can even be friendly to mobile devices.
5. Linked text
Linked text is perfect if you wish to navigate your users to certain pages embedded within your webpage. For example, the “click here” text that follows certain content can entice your user to become interactively involved within your webpage.
Website navigation mistakes you may want to avoid
With every positive, there must be a negative. Navigation of your webpage structure can be successful, but knowing what you may want to avoid is also important when designing. Here is a list of some of the commonly seen mistakes in navigation that are undesirable to users:
- Unclear navigation location
No one likes an unexpected design or menu
- Too many menus
You don’t want to overwhelm your users with too many options
- An unclear objective
Cute may be nice when designing a webpage, but what users really crave is a clear understanding.
- Information overload
A cluttered menu will quickly lose the interest of your users.
There you have it, now you understand how the application of navigation and structure coincides with user experience. As a webpage creator, keeping in mind these nitty-gritty details is essential in order to obtain the success you wish to have for your platform!
Miller, Jessica. “How to Use Organization Schemes To Improve Website Usability.” Usability Lab, Usability, 8 Oct. 2014, https://usabilitylab.walkme.com/use-organization-schemes-improve-website-usability/. Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.
Morville, Peter. “User Experience Design.” Semantic Studios, Semantic Studios, 21 June 2004, http://semanticstudios.com/user_experience_design/. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.
Nielsen, Jakob. “Usability 101: Introduction to Usability.” Nielsen Norman Group, Nielsen Norman Group, 3 Jan. 2012, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-101-introduction-to-usability/. Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.
“Organization Schemes.” Improving the User Experience, https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/organization-schemes.html. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.
Sens, Robert. “Session 03: Information Architecture – Structuring & Organizing Content.” Sens, https://www.docdroid.com/5rbKmdU/session-03-information-architecture-structuring-organizing-content-pdf#page=91. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.
Soeggard, Mads. “Usability: A part of the User Experience.” UX Courses, Interaction Design Foundation, 2020, https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/usability-a-part-of-the-user-experience. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.
“What is Information Architecture?” What is IA?, The Information Architecture Institute, https://www.iainstitute.org/what-is-ia. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.