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Information architecture (IA) is the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems. Among these activities are library systems, Content Management Systems, web development, user interactions, database development, programming, technical writing, enterprise architecture, and critical system software design. Information architecture has somewhat different meanings in these different branches of IS or IT architecture. Most definitions have common qualities: a structural design of shared environments, methods of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, 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. 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[edit | edit source]
The term information architecture describes a specialized skill set which relates to the interpretation of information and expression of distinctions between signs and systems of signs. It has some degree of origin in the library sciences. 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.
R.I.P.O.S.E. definition[edit | edit source]
- The conceptual structure and logical organization of the intelligence of a person or group of people (organizations).
Note: In this case the term intelligence is used to the effect of "knowledge used to inform".
IAI definition[edit | edit source]
Information architecture is defined by the Information Architecture Institute as:
- The structural design of shared information environments.
- The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities, and software to support findability and usability.
- An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
History[edit | edit source]
Information Architecture was originally a term with a meaning more akin to what is called today Information Design."
Critiques[edit | edit source]
- The term Information Architecture has been criticized, as the term "architecture" is primarily used for habitable physical structures[How to reference and link to summary or text] and imply that information systems are static like habitable physical structures or buildings. Information systems are "living systems", which frequently get updated, altered, and morphed, both by author and users. In some cases, information systems dynamically adapt to specific actions and context of users. Since the discipline of architecture ("habitable physical structures") increasingly uses materials and solutions that are less static, this criticism may be unjustified.
- User-Centered Information Designers analyze cognitive, behavioral, and emotional processes of users and define User-Centered Information Systems and taxonomies. Furthermore, some activities involved in the creation of information systems can be similar to activities involved in the creation of taxonomies. Some have suggested that the term information architecture is analogous with taxonomy.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Others contend that the activities involved in the creation of a taxonomy are a subset of the activities involved in developing an information architecture, since this typically also involves articulating the objectives of the information, and understanding the intended audience. Some practicing information architects specialize in developing taxonomies, as part of their IA "toolkit," along with deliverables like site maps, flow diagrams, and screen-level design prototypes to represent the structure of a Web site or interactive application.
- Because information architecture practices and techniques became popularized with the advent of the World Wide Web, some information architects may lack experience designing systems that are not web-based where browsing is less relevant.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Users of enterprise systems and business systems typically have different goals from users of web-based systems. Business systems within the enterprise, for example, provide users with tools to expedite required business tasks. In contrast, commerce sites, social sites, and news sites invite users to explore and browse information in many cases to support their business model. It is important for Information Architects to understand the specific business and user requirements rather than apply the same techniques to shape every system's information.
- With the ever increasing integration of applications within the enterprise, neither websites nor corporate data models and master data systems can any longer be considered in isolation. Information Architecture will be challenged to evolve to include the entire spectrum of both structured and unstructured data, ranging from transactional systems to ad hoc usage.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Card sorting
- Classification (cognitive process)
- Controlled vocabulary
- Data architecture
- Data management
- Human factors
- Information design
- Information system
- Interaction design
- Knowledge organization
- Knowledge structure
- Knowledge visualization
- Process architecture
- Tree testing
- Faceted classification
- User experience design
- Web indexing
- Website architecture
References[edit | edit source]
- R.S. Wurman: "Information Architects"
- Schools Teaching IA http://www.iainstitute.org/en/learn/education/schools_teaching_ia.php
- http://ripose.com/ripose.org/KantAndRipose.pdf - see map
- http://www.ripose.com/BreakingTheSystemsBarrierIntro.pdf - see precise
- ‘What is IA?’ Information Architecture Institute. http://www.iainstitute.org/documents/learn/What_is_IA.pdf
- ‘Information architecture for the World Wide Web’ by Peter Morville & Louis Rosenfeld. O’Reilly, 2006.
- “Understanding information taxonomy helps build better apps” http://web.archive.org/20080506100010/articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5055268.html
[edit | edit source]
- Information Architecture at Digital Web Magazine – A major reference site (over 270 articles) with articles dedicated to web design, web development, and information architecture.
- Encyclopedia entry on the history and key concepts of Information Architecture
- Boxes and Arrows Magazine – a peer-written journal with over 375 articles devoted to the practice, innovation, and discussion of design; including graphic design, interaction design, information architecture and the design of business.
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