Arguably, your website is your most important communications tool. The folks at mStoner know this and base their approach to information architecture (IA) on six main principles, as outlined in their free e-book. What do you need to know when crafting your IA? How can you build out your site content so that your user experience is effortless and intuitive? What are visitors looking for and how will they navigate your site?
As a preview to the e-book, here are three things you need to consider as you build your IA for higher ed.
Most prospective students visit a college website to find answers.
According to research, the three most common questions prospective students have at the beginning of their college search are:
- Does this institution have my major?
- Can I get in?
- Can I afford it?
A strong IA is visitor-centric. The structure of your site needs to anticipate what visitors are looking for and the language they use to seek it. Prospective students want your website - not the administration office - to be their resource for the information they need. Your homepage should have a clean design, calls to action, and a focus on steps in the admissions process. Aim to build your IA based on the most common questions asked by visitors.
The more visitors have to think about how to use your site, the less patience they'll have with it.
Visitors know what they are looking for, but what matters is how easily they can find it. Expectations are already established when a visitor comes to the site and your IA should rely on that. These expectations are developed from prospective students' interactions with other sites, and it will influence how they interact with yours. Don't let your site frustrate or bore the visitor. Good IA provides familiarity for your visitors, freeing up their mental bandwidth to focus on student opportunities and other featured content.
Not all visitors enter your site through the homepage.
Many visitors will use search engines and end up somewhere deep in your site. For this reason, navigation is more important than ever. You should be able to move easily through your site with the use of dropdown menus, breadcrumbs, and other browsing capabilities that give visitors a sense of place within your site. Relatedly, SEO is critical in ensuring that search engines pick up your pages. Good IA enhances SEO and allows visitors to get their answers quickly and efficiently, whether through your site or from a search engine.
For more IA principles from mStoner as well as bonus content, download their e-book today.