Mobile UX Design Information Architecture
by Terrance Kirkwood

A couple weeks ago, while sitting in a coffee shop waiting to meet a colleague, I overheard two women taking issue with the differences between features available on the web and on mobile app versions of a popular social media network. They were frustrated because they wanted to perform certain administrative tasks on their groups page, but these tasks were available on the desktop web version only. Neither of them had a laptop with them. I remembered this event as I was researching articles in preparation for this series on mobile UX design. Each week this month, I’ll cover mobile UX design topics including including design best practices, common usability issues, and in-app feedback. This first post in the series is about how user feedback can impact the information architecture (IA) of mobile UX designs. For reference, the folks at The Interaction Design Foundation have a post on IA design for mobile experiences.

“It’s important to research what’s useful on the mobile platform to your users and to try to keep things as simple and manageable as possible. This is true for both the IA and the navigation which directs the user through the IA.”

source: The Interaction Design Foundation

There are many considerations that go into mobile UX design, but the most important thing you can do as a designer is spend time with your users to understand the context in which they will use your app.

Be very selective with the content you offer
When you talk to users, you will get important information about the features and functionality that are important to them in the context of a mobile environment. These needs likely won’t be the same for a desktop experience. You can use this to determine which features are safe to include and exclude in your mobile IA. One thing to keep in mind: if you don’t offer a certain feature in your mobile app, consider giving users an easy way (if feasible) to get to the desktop version from their mobile device.

Organize your information based on feature popularity
After you determine which features and functionality to include in your mobile experience, the next step is to determine the popularity of each included item. You want to structure your IA hierarchy so that the most popular features and functionality can be accessed with the minimum number of clicks. All other features shouldn’t be too far away.

Make navigation clear and intuitive
To achieve an IA that allows easy access to the most popular features, limit the number of top level menu options and focus on what’s important to the user. For other features that don’t need to be front and center, consider exposing them through other methods, such as micro-interactions.

Summary
While the process of designing the IA for mobile UX doesn’t differ too much from that of desktop UX, the features, functionality, and content that you might include in a mobile UX could be very different. Therefore, it’s essential to check in with your users before you decide which content to include and to feature prominently in your mobile IA.

In my next post, I’ll share some mobile UX best practices.