Why We Need Information Architecture

Richard Saul Wurman, American architect and TED Conference Founder, famously coined the expression “Information Architect” in 1975. However, it’s been around for a bit longer and in various settings. In 1964, an IBM research paper, titled “Architecture of the IBM System/360” (Amdahl et al 1964), defined architecture as

“the conceptual structure and functional behavior, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation.”

What is Information Architecture?

IA is a field of study and professional practice that focuses on finding solutions that help assess and organize the massive amount of information online that we have at our disposal. This expression is commonly spoken about in connection with web design, wireframes, labels, and taxonomies.

IA helps users understand where they are, what they’ve found, what to expect, and what’s in the area. Just like when you visit the zoo, and signs tell you what animal you’re looking at, where you are and where to go.

Just like scientific discoveries, it can happen by accident or by design. However, solid content architecture that is well-thought out and well organized can make your website, product, or service infinitely more usable for the end user.

The Principles of Information Architecture

Dan Brown, an expert with more than twenty years in the field, has laid out eight principles of IA that provides a theoretical framework into what it takes to build an effective IA for any project.

Brown’s Eight Principles of Information Architecture (PDF) makes the following assumptions:

  • the IA’s main focus is on the structure of information first, and the design of the actual user interface second (if at all);
  • the IA understands how people actually use content and how the structure should function to support that;
  • the IA grasps the range of content and functionality on a project and how that needs to be structured.

What Does an Information Architect Do?

Wurman gave precise definition of the responsibilities of an information architect:

  • “the individual who organizes the patterns and parents and data, making the complex clear.”
  • “ a person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their personal paths to knowledge.”
  • “the emerging 21st-century professional occupation addressing the needs of the age focused upon clarity, human understanding, and the science of the organization of information.”

Information architects establish a particular meaning to information that identifies and separates it from the rest in order to accomplish specific goals and shows how the meaning and structure fit together and interact with each other.

WHY IS IA IMPORTANT?

Information Architecture makes the complex clear. It allows business makers to research and learn what information is important to the success of their product and be able to address the needs of the user by providing them access to only important information.

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