close-up wind chimesIn IA, the design of a site has as much to do with science as it does with aesthetic appeal. A good information architect realizes that a beautifully designed site with poorly indexed content, clunky navigation, and long load times is essentially useless. Any self-respecting visitor to such a site won't make the mistake of coming back. Regardless of how exciting the content may be, if it isn’t well-organized, it will probably never be seen.

Information architects can employ either a top-down or bottom-up approach to design. In a top-down approach, pages higher up in the site’s hierarchy (like the main portal) are developed first, followed by secondary pages, then subsidiary pages, and onto specific content objects.  

A bottom-up approach to IA emphasizes smaller components of a site. This often entails designing and evaluating lower level content pages (those with finer granularity), in order to develop a broader picture of the site as a whole.

In order to better understand these two approaches one can think of them as opposite poles of a design spectrum. However, a good information architect designs with both of these perspectives simultaneously (Farnum. 2002).    

Navigation

The way a user will navigate through a site plays a huge part in developing its architecture. Intuitive navigation lends itself to a satisfying user experience and future visits. With this in mind, information architects tend to place a lot of emphasis on the schema (prior knowledge) of visitors developed through navigating previous websites.

Oftentimes a visitor to a site has been directed to a specific content page by searching for a related content topic. When this is the case, the user should not need to work hard to find other useful content contained within the site. If the navigation is clearly distinguished, easily interpretable, and consistent with other stored memories of navigating similar sites, browsing additional content within the site should be easy.