Structure the Content
Here are a few characteristics of online readers as well as our recommendations on ways to keep them in mind when writing and editing.
Information Architecture Basics
Information architecture focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks. To do this, you need to understand how the pieces fit together to create the larger picture, and how items relate to each other within the system.
The purpose of information architecture is to help users understand where they are, what they’ve found, what’s around, and what to expect. As a result, the word choices you use play an important role in the overall navigation experience for your audience.
What you need to know about information architecture
To be successful, you need an understanding of industry standards for creating, storing, accessing and presenting information. These include:
- Organization Schemes and Structures: How you categorize and structure information
- Labeling Systems: How you represent information
- Navigation Systems: How users browse or move through information
- Search Systems: How users look for information
Luckily, our WordPress theme has done a lot of the foundational work for you. Your goal is to figure out the best way to structure your content based on your user’s needs while using the best language for the job and letting the theme and SEO do the rest.
Another benefit of having great information architecture is its natural impact on SEO as well. Google wants to give people links to quality websites. So when we optimize our sites for our users, we don’t need to pay too much attention to SEO.
Important information first
Online, users tend to scan text until they find the information they need. No matter how carefully you craft your content, most people will only read 25 percent of it. This statistic isn’t meant to dishearten; rather, we believe it underscores the importance of getting content right.
Put the most important information in the first two paragraphs. That’s the section users are most likely to read. In journalism, this technique is called the “inverted pyramid.”
Break up text into chunks
Large chunks of text can overwhelm readers. Use subheads and bullet points; they provide a clear narrative structure for readers in a hurry. Put information-carrying words at the beginning of the phrase, and use the active voice.
Instead of: Looking into the regulation of campaign finances
Use: Campaign finance law explained
If you’re wrangling a lot of data, tables can help you organize that content. Long paragraphs cluttered with numbers or dates are more difficult to scan.
For more on using tables, see the Tables page on Webguide.
Do you really need that FAQ or “resource hub” page?
When you have a lot of information you want to cover but you don’t know the best way to structure it, commonly, the first thing people do is create an FAQ page or a page with “everything you need to know.” Unfortunately, they are not a good user experience and are often more trouble than they are worth.
We strongly discourage writing FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions.
- Are hard to read and search for
- Typically duplicate other content on your site
- Are usually not actual questions asked by the users
- Mean that content is not where people expect to find it—it needs to be in context
If you’re thinking about posting FAQs, review the related content on your site and look for ways to improve it. Take the necessary steps to give users the best possible experience.
- Is the content organized in a logical way?
- Can you group similar topics together?
- Is it easy to find the right answer?
- Is it clear and up-to-date?
- Does the same information exist elsewhere?
If any of the content in your FAQ is answered elsewhere, then the FAQ page becomes much more difficult to manage when information changes. How will a user know which page to trust if the FAQ says something different than another page? This will only lead to more confusion for users rather than help them find the answer, and they will likely email or call instead of trusting anything on your website at all.
If people are always asking similar questions, the existing content might not be meeting their needs. Either they aren’t finding it or they don’t understand it. Perhaps you need to rewrite your content or combine several pieces of content. Perhaps the structure of your site needs to be reviewed. Pay attention to what users are asking for and find the best way to guide them through the process.