History & Origins of Information Architecture

It’s modern use, strictly related to the design of information, goes back no farther than the mid-1970s.

Information Architecture is the structural design of an interface that allows a user to access the right content at the optimal time so that he or she can navigate the product most effectively. IA requires identifying all types of content within a product, sorting them, and then mapping them out in a way that feels familiar to the user. Put simply,

Information architecture is the structural design of information or content — including text, photos and videos — within a digital product.

IA focuses on organizing and labeling websites so that users can best find what they’re looking for. This comes in the form of Taxonomies, Content Inventories, and Sitemaps.

Real-world Examples

Information architecture exists in the real world. Consider the case of signage at the airport, or printed maps used to help people navigate subway systems.

In both cases, they help people understand where they are, what’s around, and what to expect. That is the role of an information architect.

Effective IA depends on the interplay between the meaning of the product’s elements (ontology), the arrangement of its parts (taxonomy), and the interaction among its parts (choreography).

Meaning. Arrangement. Interaction.


1. Ontology

Ontology is concerned with the specific meaning of the content.

  • Labels are easily understood names given to individual categories. (Produce)
  • Tags are data about content that help organize content at a deeper level. (#noodles)

2. Taxonomy

  • The process of Classification is used to put like elements together.
  • Hierarchy is used to rank information. Information can be ranked in lots of different ways: by importance or frequency of use, by recency, alphabetically, numerically, and so on.
  • A product’s navigation is an easily-accessible hierarchy of labeled categories that a user can click into and browse to find content.

When a website or product has so much information that browsing or way finding for content is too time consuming, designers will add the ability to Search content.

3. Choreography

Choreography is the way someone would move from one element to another.

A user flow is a path through a product that a user cantata to accomplish a task


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