Information Architecture Study
Your Actionable Research Question may require investigation below the surface layer of interaction. Rather than testing task flows or touchpoints, we need to understand how well users understand the way things in a system—categories, data, content—are grouped, arranged, ordered, and structured.
The conceptual organization of our systems is easily overlooked. Beneath the skeleton of a service, the structure constrains capabilities of what users can do or can't do. Or obscures those possibilities when it is not aligned with your user's conception of the information space.
Consider whether the underlying structure of how your information is organized is complex or mis-aligned with how it’s navigated. Finding the mismatch between underlying structure and user expectations, or identifying concepts important to users that aren't expressed in the system, can lead to high impact design interventions.
Therefore, test complex information architectures and hierarchies with participants. Ensure the validity of your information environment with closed card sorts or tree tests, testing navigation, grouping, and information retrieval pathways. Find unexpected categories and concepts with open card sorts of data from the bottom up.
Pulling out the right level of information to be tested first forces your own clarity, and then allows you to draw insight from a useful abstraction of the system.
You will find conceptual-level insights that can be used as input for structured models—Personas, Journey Map, Service Blueprint, Jobs to be Done—or continue the investigation with Exploratory Research. For changes that are directly transferable to the interface level (ex. navigation) build them into Concept Test and Usability Test, or set up A/B Test.