Chapter 2

Defining information architecture
"But isn't information architecture about making sitemaps, wireframes, and website navigation menus?"
Well, yes -- but there is much more to this story!
Definitions

1

The structural design of shared information environments

2

The synthesis of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within digital, physical, and cross-channel ecosystems

3

The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability, findability, and understanding

4

An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape

Information

We’re concerned with information of all shapes and sizes: websites, documents, software applications, images, and more. We’re also concerned with metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, processes, and organizations.

structuring, organizing, & labeling

Structuring involves determining the appropriate levels of granularity for information, and how to relate them to one another. Organizing involves grouping those components into meaningful and distinctive categories, creating the right contexts for users to understand the environment they are in and what they’re looking at. Labeling means figuring out what to call those categories and the navigation structure elements that lead to them.

finding & managing

If users can’t find what they need through some combination of browsing, searching, and asking, then the system fails. An information architecture must balance the needs of users with the goals of the business.

art & science

We’re increasingly able to study patterns of usage and subsequently make improvements to our websites. Information architects must rely on experience, intuition, and creativity.

"Information ecology"
The concept of an “information ecology” is composed of users, content, and context to address the complex dependencies that exist in these information environments. The three circles illustrate the interdependent nature of users, content, and context within a complex, adaptive information ecology.
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users
The most important thing to know about users is that when we are talking about “users” we are talking about people. These are human beings with desires, needs, concerns, and foibles—just like you and us. We use the word “users” as shorthand to mean “the people who will use your information environment.”
Do you know who's using your system?
Do you know how they're using it?
Do you know what information they want from your systems?