On Information Architecture

image borrowed from: https://dynomapper.com/blog/19-ux/187-history-of-information-architecture

As I am writing this article the common understanding of information architecture is framed in terms of the internet and web design. In a broader sense we mean to say it is the way in which information is structured so that it is able to communicate meaning most effectively.

In 1964 IBM put forth research that defined architecture as “The conceptual structure and functional behavior, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation”. At the time they meant to convey the rationale behind the organizational structures of computer systems.

Richard Wurman introduced an iteration on the idea in 1976 which he called the architecture of information. In 1996 he went on to publish a book called Information Architects which collected the work of several designers that exhibited the definition of this new terminology. His definition is, “1. the individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear 2. a person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their personal paths to knowledge. 3. 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.”

2 years later the ideas put forth in Wurman’s book were revisited by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville who put the term to work directly for the internet. They published Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, an instant best seller. In their book they presented templates for organizing information in websites. They also set forth the main components of information architecture:

  • Organization Schemes and Structures: How you categorize and structure information
  • Labeling Systems: How you represent information
  • Navigation Systems: How users browse or move through information
  • Search Systems: How users look for information

The decade following this contribution saw the terms information architecture and web site design used interchangeably.

By around 2005 the internet was moving towards a mobile platform and the definition for information architecture has grown to meet the needs of the day. The organizational systems we recognize from websites are now being applied to apps, software design and operating systems.

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