Adrian Lee | May 17, 2012
Information architecture as a discipline has gone backstage since the early days of the Internet; the days when names like Organic were still around and Google was but an idea at Stanford. Nowadays, the latest developments of social media and mobile have overshadowed this important consideration. In addition to this, information architecture (IA) has traditionally been the concern of big website projects, and often gets overlooked for digital campaign properties and landing pages in many agencies.
However, I want to argue that it is still an important consideration for digital campaigns, and here I propose a simplistic approach toward thinking about IA and usability and how it can be applied to a marketing campaign approach digitally. A caveat here is that I am not an expert in the field of IA and usability, but I found this approach as a useful starting point to embark to shape my thinking around what areas of IA and usability should be taken into account and focused on, especially with the time and budget constraints that are usually associated with short-term digital campaigns.
In my mind, there are three approaches that you can take when shaping your strategies around digital campaigns – and these stem from the three main types of landing pages/sites that digital campaign end-points can take (and this includes both the mobile and desktop based end-points):
To be clear, these are not three discrete types that campaigns will fall into. Instead, most campaigns will encompass all three areas. The difference is in prioritizing which approach you are going to take. To help you make a decision, you have to fall back on the business and marketing objectives of the campaign in the very first place – is it to increase awareness (branding), to help people make a decision when they are researching your brand or product (informational), or as direct marketing tool where you are expecting an ROI from your marketing investments (conversion)?
This is probably the best known of the approaches, as branding-focused campaigns are the ones that garner the most exposure, especially when awards season is around the corner. As agencies battle each other to build the most effective and innovative campaigns and the digital marketing press falls over themselves to cover the latest and greatest. The approach here, in terms of the brand, is to create a hit – pretty much like creating a hit song on the Billboard top 100 charts. And hopefully the approach that is taken resonates emotively with consumers and builds the brand’s equity in terms of awareness and positioning. A very good example of this is the Uniqlock campaign by Uniqlo. Here, the key is that the visuals and mechanics are the information to be architected. And I would argue that this extends beyond traditional content, and in fact eschews content in favor of the image as the information.
Google talks about the Zero Moment of Truth, where simplistically speaking the consumer decides to purchase a brand’s product while researching information on the web – be it through mobile or the desktop. This is where the informational approach is most effective, when you are trying to target consumers at this critical stage of their purchase journey. And for this, the more traditional aspects of the IA discipline comes to the forefront, as one decides how to structure as much information as possible about the product into a microsite or a mobile friendly site format. The focus here would be how to structure content most effectively such that the consumer gets the “light bulb”-moment about the brand in as easily accessible manner as possible.
And so we dive into the realm ruled by SEO and SEM agencies – sites and landing pages where the focus is on converting as many people as possible who visit your site. IA-wise, obviously the approach will be completely different as a lean approach to content is taken, and every element and piece of content on the site is geared toward streamlining the conversion funnel. There are specific landing page approaches to be taken here, for which there are already many articles throughout the interwebs that will do much more justice to this approach.
In the end, the digital campaign will incorporate these three approaches to a certain extent, but the important point in my opinion is that you have to select which approach is the priority and the main objective. For instance, a direct conversion campaign can incorporate informational elements (in fact, must), but one will rarely achieve a perfect mish mash of all three approaches. Of course, each approach will have its own set of analytics to back them up, which will be explored further in the future.