The impact of information architecture on academic web site usability


Recent studies of web‐site use indicate that people do not come to the web for an “experience”, they come for information. Yet, to date, web‐site design has been synonymous with the “look and feel” of a site overlooking the significance of a site’s information architecture. In this study, we assessed the effect of the information architecture of an academic web site: how information is categorised, labelled and presented, and how navigation and access are facilitated. Twenty‐four participants from six faculties attempted to answer typical questions often asked within an academic milieu. They were able to find the answers to just over half the questions successfully and, in subjective assessments, gave the site a failing grade. We address how the information architecture affected their ability to negotiate the site and, additionally, make recommendations for the key ingredients: information design, access tools, and navigational aids.