Information Architecture: Past, Present & Future

Let’s just say it…Information Architecture is somewhat poorly-defined. Wikipedia’s definition is at best a run-on sentence, and it acknowledges the debate in establishing a common definition of the the subject.

I believe the main contributor to this problem is that there is overlap, in regards to categorizing IA Heuristics. Simply clicking a button, can easily fall into the categories of “Clear”, “Useable, “Controllable” and even “Delightful”. Perhaps the gap has widened between the relationship of today’s digital devices and “physical” products.

The godfather of IA, Richard Saul Wurman, wrote his “Information Architects” in 1997. For those who were around to surf the “World Wide Web” in 1996, can all agree that the flow of the web was just as much stable, as it was somewhat of a glitchy experience. Ten years later, still many web services did not work on the Apple platform. Whew…I’m done venting about the past.

Wurman found the challenge of communicating the rising amounts of information, and presented a large selection of design solutions to the problem. It was a designer’s book: from a designer, for designers.

Wurman’s maintained that as much as architects are expected to create structure and order in the world through planning and building, information architects were expected to draw lines and derive some kind of order in dataspace, their primary task being to make this information simpler, more direct, and ultimately more comprehensible. 1.

The future of Information Architecture…anyone’s guess, right? Well. maybe, but we can also listen to another IA pioneer, Peter Morville, when asked about the future role of Information Architecture. “I’m not sure I’d agree we’re in the “era of Mobile Apps.” Clearly, mobile is an exciting, powerful force for change, and apps are a vital part of the picture. But it’s a mistake to focus on the parts without understanding the whole. We’re in an era of service ecosystems. This means we must wrangle with the challenges of digital strategy and cross-channel user experience. In this context, information architecture has never been more relevant”. 2.

Standards change, fueled by changes in technology and processes. As we look back to the mid-90’s as “The Dark Ages” of the internet, time itself will dictate what our current state (I write this in 2016) and judge it’s relevancy, in contribution to the advancement of IA.

Links/Sources

  1. Andrea Resmini — A Brief History of Information Architecture

2. Timothy Jaeger — The Present and Future of Information Architecture