Information Architecture

Information Architecture

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Information Architecture'
Start a new discussion about 'Information Architecture'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Information architecture (IA) is the art of expressing a model
Scientific modelling
Scientific modelling is the process of generating abstract, conceptual, graphical and/or mathematical models. Science offers a growing collection of methods, techniques and theory about all kinds of specialized scientific modelling...

 or concept
Concept
The word concept is used in ordinary language as well as in almost all academic disciplines. Particularly in philosophy, psychology and cognitive sciences the term is much used and much discussed. WordNet defines concept: "conception, construct ". However, the meaning of the term concept is much...

 of information
Information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

 used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems. Among these activities are library
Library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 systems, Content Management Systems, web development
Web development
Web development is a broad term for the work involved in developing a web site for the Internet or an intranet . This can include web design, web content development, client liaison, client-side/server-side scripting, web server and network security configuration, and e-commerce development...

, user interactions, database
Database
A database is an organized collection of data for one or more purposes, usually in digital form. The data are typically organized to model relevant aspects of reality , in a way that supports processes requiring this information...

 development, programming, technical writing
Technical writing
Technical writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of writing used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, engineering, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology....

, enterprise architecture
Enterprise architecture
An enterprise architecture is a rigorous description of the structure of an enterprise, which comprises enterprise components , the externally visible properties of those components, and the relationships between them...

, and critical system software design
Software design
Software design is a process of problem solving and planning for a software solution. After the purpose and specifications of software are determined, software developers will design or employ designers to develop a plan for a solution...

. Information architecture has somewhat different meanings in these different branches of IS
Information system
An information system - or application landscape - is any combination of information technology and people's activities that support operations, management, and decision making. In a very broad sense, the term information system is frequently used to refer to the interaction between people,...

 or IT
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 architecture. Most definitions have common qualities: a structural design of shared environments, methods of organizing and labeling website
Website
A website, also written as Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet...

s, intranet
Intranet
An intranet is a computer network that uses Internet Protocol technology to securely share any part of an organization's information or network operating system within that organization. The term is used in contrast to internet, a network between organizations, and instead refers to a network...

s, and online communities, and ways of bringing the principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

Historically the term "information architect" is attributed to Richard Saul Wurman
Richard Saul Wurman
Richard Saul Wurman is an architect and graphic designer who is considered to be a pioneer in the practice of making information easily understandable. Wurman has written and designed over 80 books, and created the TED conferences, but remains associated only with TEDMED.-Early life and...

. Wurman sees architecture as "used in the words architect of foreign policy. I mean architect as in the creating of systemic, structural, and orderly principles to make something work--the thoughtful making of either artifact, or idea, or policy that informs because it is clear."

Definitions


Information architecture is a specialized skill set that interprets information and expresses distinctions between signs and systems of signs. More concretely, it involves the categorization of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that the intended audience can understand quickly, if not inherently, and then easily retrieve the information for which they are searching. The organization structure is usually hierarchical, but can have other structures, such as concentric or even chaotic. Information architecture originates, to some degree, in the library sciences
Library and information science
Library and information science is a merging of the two fields library science and information science...

. Many schools with library and information science departments teach information architecture.

In the context of information systems design, information architecture refers to the analysis and design of the data stored by information systems, concentrating on entities, their attributes, and their interrelationships. It refers to the modeling of data for an individual database and to the corporate data models an enterprise uses to coordinate the definition of data in several (perhaps scores or hundreds) of distinct databases. The "canonical data model" is applied to integration technologies as a definition for specific data passed between the systems of an enterprise. At a higher level of abstraction it may also refer to the definition of data stores.

Debate


The difficulty in establishing a common definition for "information architecture" arises partly from the term's existence in multiple fields. In the field of systems design
Systems design
Systems design is the process of defining the architecture, components, modules, interfaces, and data for a system to satisfy specified requirements. One could see it as the application of systems theory to product development...

, for example, information architecture is a component of enterprise architecture
Enterprise architecture
An enterprise architecture is a rigorous description of the structure of an enterprise, which comprises enterprise components , the externally visible properties of those components, and the relationships between them...

 that deals with the information component when describing the structure of an enterprise.

While the definition of information architecture is relatively well-established in the field of systems design, it is much more debatable within the context of online information systems (i.e., websites). Andrew Dillon refers to the latter as the "big IA-little IA debate". In the little IA view, information architecture is essentially the application of information science to webdesign, which considers, for example, issues of classification and information retrieval. In the big IA view, information architecture involves more than just the organization of a website; it also factors in user experience
User experience
User experience is the way a person feels about using a product, system or service. User experience highlights the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership, but it also includes a person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such...

, thereby considering usability
Usability
Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object. The object of use can be a software application, website, book, tool, machine, process, or anything a human interacts with. A usability study may be conducted as a primary job function by a usability analyst or as a secondary job...

 issues of information design
Information design
Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where the data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning more clearly to the viewer....

.

I.A.I. definition


Information architecture is defined by the Information Architecture Institute
Information Architecture Institute
The Information Architecture Institute is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to advancing and promoting information architecture. Founded in 2002 , the Institute has grown to become one of the world's largest professional groups for web specialists, with over 1200 members in 60...

 as:
  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities, and software to support findability
    Findability
    Findability is a term for the ease with which information contained on a website can be found, both from outside the website and by users already on the website. Although findability has relevance outside the World Wide Web, it is usually used in the context of the web...

     and usability
    Usability
    Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object. The object of use can be a software application, website, book, tool, machine, process, or anything a human interacts with. A usability study may be conducted as a primary job function by a usability analyst or as a secondary job...

    .
  3. An emerging community of practice
    Community of practice
    A community of practice is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created...

     focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

See also

  • Application Architecture
    Application Architecture
    Applications architecture is one of several architecture domains that form the pillars of an enterprise architecture or solution architecture. Note that the term "application architecture" is commonly used for the internal structure of an application, for its software modularisation.Applications...

  • Business analyst
    Business analyst
    A Business Analyst analyzes the organization and design of businesses, government departments, and non-profit organizations; BAs also assess business models and their integration with technology.-Levels:...

  • Card sorting
    Card sorting
    Card sorting is a simple technique in user experience design where a group of subject experts or "users", however inexperienced with design, are guided to generate a category tree or folksonomy. It is a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure, or web site...

  • Controlled vocabulary
    Controlled vocabulary
    Controlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They are used in subject indexing schemes, subject headings, thesauri, taxonomies and other form of knowledge organization systems...

  • Data architecture
    Data architecture
    Data Architecture in enterprise architecture is the design of data for use in defining the target state and the subsequent planning needed to achieve the target state...

  • Data management
    Data management
    Data management comprises all the disciplines related to managing data as a valuable resource.- Overview :The official definition provided by DAMA International, the professional organization for those in the data management profession, is: "Data Resource Management is the development and execution...

  • Data Presentation Architecture
    Data Presentation Architecture
    Data presentation architecture is a skill-set that seeks to identify, locate, manipulate, format and present data in such a way as to optimally communicate meaning and proffer knowledge.-Origin and context:...

  • Enterprise architecture
    Enterprise architecture
    An enterprise architecture is a rigorous description of the structure of an enterprise, which comprises enterprise components , the externally visible properties of those components, and the relationships between them...

  • Enterprise information security architecture
    Enterprise Information Security Architecture
    Enterprise information security architecture is a part of enterprise architecture focusing on information security throughout the enterprise.- Overview :...

  • Faceted classification
    Faceted classification
    A faceted classification system allows the assignment of multiple classifications to an object, enabling the classifications to be ordered in multiple ways, rather than in a single, predetermined, taxonomic order. A facet comprises "clearly defined, mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive...

  • Human factors
    Human factors
    Human factors science or human factors technologies is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, industrial design, statistics, operations research and anthropometry...

  • Information design
    Information design
    Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where the data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning more clearly to the viewer....

  • Information system
    Information system
    An information system - or application landscape - is any combination of information technology and people's activities that support operations, management, and decision making. In a very broad sense, the term information system is frequently used to refer to the interaction between people,...

  • Interaction design
    Interaction design
    In design, human–computer interaction, and software development, interaction design, often abbreviated IxD, is "the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services." Like many other design fields interaction design also has an interest in form but its main...

  • Knowledge organization
    Knowledge organization
    The term knowledge organization designates a field of study related to Library and Information Science . In this meaning, KO is about activities such as document description, indexing and classification performed in libraries, databases, archives etc...

  • Knowledge visualization
  • Ontology
  • Process architecture
    Process architecture
    Dualistic Petri nets are a process-class variant of Petri nets.Like Petri nets in general and many related formalisms and notations, they are used to describe and analyze process architecture.-Process Modeling with dPNs :...

  • Taxonomy
    Taxonomy
    Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

  • Social Information Architecture
    Social Information Architecture
    Social information architecture is a sub-domain of information architecture which deals with the social aspects of conceptualizing, modeling and organizing information...

  • Tree testing
    Tree testing
    Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It is also known as reverse card sorting or card-based classification....

  • User experience design
    User experience design
    User experience design is a subset of the field of experience design that pertains to the creation of the architecture and interaction models that affect user experience of a device or system...

  • Web indexing
    Web indexing
    Web indexing includes back-of-book-style indexes to individual websites or an intranet, and the creation of keyword metadata to provide a more useful vocabulary for Internet or onsite search engines...

  • Website architecture
    Website architecture
    Website architecture is an approach to the design and planning of websites which, like architecture itself, involves technical, aesthetic and functional criteria. As in traditional architecture, the focus is properly on the user and on user requirements...

  • Semantic Web
    Semantic Web
    The Semantic Web is a collaborative movement led by the World Wide Web Consortium that promotes common formats for data on the World Wide Web. By encouraging the inclusion of semantic content in web pages, the Semantic Web aims at converting the current web of unstructured documents into a "web of...


Further reading

  • Peter Morville
    Peter Morville
    Peter Morville is president of Semantic Studios, an information architecture and findability consultancey. For over a decade, he has advised such clients as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, Intenet2, Procter & Gamble, Vanguard, and Yahoo!...

     and Louis Rosenfeld
    Lou Rosenfeld
    Louis Rosenfeld is a co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and principal of , an information architecture consultancy...

    , Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (2006), ISBN 0596527349