Every year, new trends emerge in technology, and information architecture is no different. In fact, over the past few years, interfaces have evolved to keep pace with innovation. As technology continues to provide new ways for people to consume content, information architects and website information planning tools must continue to create optimal ways to do so.
Below are four IA trends that we expect to thrive in 2020 and beyond.
Optimized Discovery Patterns
If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that users like content that is easy to understand and somewhat predictable. For information architecture, creating this type of content will be key. The use of A/B testing to optimize how users discover new content is, therefore, what’s next for information architecture.
Thankfully, the process is not impossible. Using big data to statistically analyze user flow and content discovery paths, you can make predictive decisions around how users find and consume information. Specific actions such as these below will make websites of the future dramatically easier to navigate than ever before.
- Optimizing autocomplete for better accuracy and predictive intent
- Removing clutter and using behavioral data to A/B test navigational and filtering options
- Providing more relevant options to choose from to narrow search especially when the user is in browsing mode vs looking for a singular thing.
Why type when you can talk? Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, have primed the world for a non-visual interface, and information architecture will be expected to respond. Unfortunately, creating auditory navigational structures present new challenges to organizing information architecture. This type of design relies on natural language semantics instead of brief keyword searches or point and click navigation.
Despite the obvious challenges involved with designing for a voice command future, it is an eventuality that information architects must face. Navigating via voice command online is becoming reality (consider the emerging website support chatbots). As these systems become more common, users will need ways to cut short any wrong paths, vocal mistakes, or misunderstandings.
Online, expect to see a need for this type of architecture on websites and apps involved with:
- Data search
- Music discovery
- Directional help
- Use in a vehicle
Websites and applications aren’t the only interfaces facing a voice command overhaul however. There will also be a push toward voice command in post platform information architecture design. This means more voice command for the growing internet of things market. Get ready to design for everyday items such as refrigerators, home security devices, automobiles, smart devices, and wearable tech. Perhaps this is a great primer for the voice command requirements of the near future found in self-driving vehicles and voice-activated robotic systems.
Designs for an Augmented Reality
Nowadays, the information we consume is no longer limited to the screens in front of us. With augmented reality, what is around us can now be factored into the content served to us. This technology is no longer novel as augmented reality is becoming more prevalent throughout the web. This means information architects must plan for a future that includes both 2d and 3D environments.
Users are drawn to augmented reality because it makes navigating to relevant locational information easily. For example, using this technology, anyone with a smartphone can discover content that is relevant to them. Whether it is a local restaurant, a nearby shared ride or even a bathroom, designers should be prepared to use data to predict intent as well as provide easy drill downs.
Designing for augmented reality involves spatial thinking and the prioritization of location-based data. Designers must also be prepared use movement to better understand the user experience.
While the need to design around this technology is to be expected, information architects should also focus on ensuring compatibility with current 2D architecture. The ability to create sites that are suitable for both 2D and 3D environments is vital. Thinking about them separately just won’t work. Many of us remember what happened when .mobi sites were created as a quick solution for the growing need for mobile-friendly websites. However, needing to create two separate designs – one for desktops and another for mobile sites — was not only confusing, but it was also expensive (and doomed to fail).
Increased User Entrapping
Today’s internet is very competitive. Ad revenue is falling, Google’s search algorithm is growing more complex, all while more people turn to the internet for their news and entertainment. There is a lot of content and a lot of people looking for it. Unfortunately, this environment has encouraged the development of a new type of information architecture – one specifically designed to entrap the user.
User entrapping, or techniques designed at keeping visitors on the site longer than they intended, is sadly, a growing trend. While the practice may not positively impact user experience, these longer visits generate more advertising impressions and may help sites rank higher on Google.
Some methods for user entrapping include:
- Making the location of the desired content less than obvious
- Extending or using nonlinear paths toward intended content
- Showing content piece by piece using next buttons (not new but still a popular method)
While user entrapping is not ideal for many reasons, (for example, it can significantly decrease user satisfaction), it is not likely to decline. Information architects should be prepared to see much more of this behavior in the future.