Optimize your website IA for UX

Business Benefits

Create a structure and design that balances users’ desires with business needs.


Conduct in-person interviews and surveys to gather data about your site users.

The goal is to understand what your users want and why they want it. You need to know the answers to these questions:

  • What problems are we solving?
  • Who needs it?
  • What’s the site for?

Create fact-based customer personas to design your site for real people.

Connect your use cases with personas by mentioning for each use case, the goal and who will perform tasks to achieve that goal.

Focus on your most prominent user personas. Goals might be things like read a blog post, check an account balance, book an appointment, download software, take a test, and so on.

Determine what information people care about to identify the metadata that will help them find what they’re looking for.

Metadata is information about information. Knowing and planning for the parameters and variables to store in your system is crucial for excellent search results. For example, the metadata for a book could be its title, description, author, release date, ISBN, comments, or cover image.

Create user scenarios featuring your customer personas for insights into what content your site needs and how it should be organized.

Scenarios are stories about people, your customer personas, using your website to complete a specific task or goal, like booking a flight or buying yoga pants. They answer the questions:

  • What does the persona hope to accomplish on your website?
  • What can help them complete the task at hand?
  • What might cause friction?

Map user tasks to individual web pages to make it clear what happens on each page and how many pages your site should have.

Each page in your IA must do two things:

  • Help the user accomplish a specific task.
  • Make the next step easy to access.

Your site will have three types of pages optimized for different kinds of user tasks, which should be noted when you draw a sitemap or map user flows:

  • Navigation pages. These pages help users to determine where to find what they want and give them access to it. Typically a home page or search results page.
  • Consumption pages. The pages users will go to such as articles, videos, and pricing information.
  • Interaction pages. These pages let users enter and manipulate data. For example, search pages and sign-up forms.

Create user flows to map users’ progression through your site.

You need to know the four modes of searching information to map out the optimal user flows.

  • Known-item search: Users will often use search when they know exactly what they’re looking for and what it’s called. But some prefer navigation, so it has to work with a search to get people to where they know they want to go.
  • Exploratory seeking: Users may have a need but aren’t certain what will fulfill it. They might recognize an answer to their question but won’t know if they’ve actually found the right one.
  • Don’t know what I need to know: Users look for one thing but discover they really need to know about something else. For example, people looking for jewelry might discover that they need to figure out precious metals, treatments, gemstone clarity, and many other things.
  • Re-finding: Users may want to go back to things they discovered during a previous visit.

Create sitemaps and wireframes, and gather feedback on your website architecture.

Create sketches, diagrams, sitemaps, and wireframes you can use to communicate your findings with your teammates or other peers, gather feedback, iterate, and move on to planning your site structure.