Information Architecture (IA)

Saturday 22nd of September 2012 10:19:50 AM

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Information Architecture (IA) Concepts

A definition of Information Architecture

  • The structural design of shared information environments
  • The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within (web-based) document systems

Basic concepts

  • Information as opposed to data (facts and figures) and knowledge (what's in people's heads): data - information - knowledge
    • Metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects
  • Structuring, organizing, and labeling
    • Determining the appropriate levels of granularity for the information "atoms" within your information repository and deciding how to relate them together
  • Finding (browsing, searching, etcetera) and managing

Cost and value propositions

  • The cost of finding information
  • The cost of not finding information
  • The value of education (of both internal and external customers)
  • The cost of construction
  • The cost of maintenance
  • The cost of training

Additional concepts

  • Complex system interactions and "Information ecology":
    • Context
    • Content
    • Users
  • Front-end design (UI / UX) and back-end architecture
  • Knowledge networks (both electronic, non-electronic, and agents)
  • Information seeking behaviour
    • Searching
      1. User query
      2. Search interface (query language and / or builders)
      3. Search engine
      4. Content (metadata, controlled vocabulary)
      5. Results (ranking and clustering algorithms)
    • Browsing (navigation)
    • Asking
  • Systems
    • Searching systems
    • Navigation systems
    • Semantic networks
      1. Categorization: broader <-> narrower
      2. Synonym or acronym
      3. Related

Information (seeking) needs and behaviours

  • Exhaustive search
  • Exploratory seeking
  • Known-item seeking
  • Re-finding

Information Architecture overview

  • Organization systems: how we categorize information (e.g., by subject or chronology)
    • Organization systems are composed of organization schemes (the shared characteristics of content items and influences the logical groupings of those items) and organization structures (which defines the types of relationships between content items and groups)
      • Organization schemes
        • Exact organization schemes
          • Alphabetical
          • Chronological
          • Geographical
        • Ambiguous organization schemes
          • Topic
          • Task
          • Audience
          • Metaphors
          • Hybrids
      • Organization structures
        • The hierarchy (top-down)
          • Designing taxonomies (exclusivity vs. inclusivity)
          • Balancing depth and width
        • Database model (bottom-up)
        • Hypertext
        • Social classification (e.g., tagging)
  • Navigation systems: How we browse or move through information (e.g., hierarchical)
  • Search systems (e.g., executing a search query against an index)
  • Labeling systems: how we represent information (hint: you organize content into groups, and then label those groups).
    • Contextual links
    • Headings
    • Representation of navigation options
    • Index terms


  • With labeling narrow scope whenever possible and be consistent
  • "Bottom-up" vs. "Top-down" information architecture


Navigation systems

  • Embedded
    • Global ("where am I?")
    • Local ("what's nearby?")
    • Contextual ("what's related to what's here?")
  • Supplemental
    • Sitemap
    • Index
    • Guide
    • -----
    • Personalization and customization
    • Visualization
    • Social navigation
      • "Most popular"
      • "Highest rated"
      • Tag clouds



  • Choosing what to search
  • Determining search zones
  • Navigations (branch) vs. destination (leaf)
  • Indexing for specific audiences
  • Indexing by topic
  • Indexing chronologically (recent content)

Additional considerations

  • Which components get indexed
  • Search algorithms (and pattern-matching algorithms)
  • Query builders
  • Which components get displayed and listing results
    • Sorting by alphabet
    • Sorting by chronology
    • Ranking by relevance
    • Ranking by popularity
    • Ranking by users' or experts' rating

Thesauri, controlled vocabularies, and metadata



Based on the book "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web"@12-09-22 10:37:02 by Brett Kromkamp

The above content is the beginnings of a summary of the book "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web".