HISTORY OF INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

Information architecture (IA) is the professional practice and field of studies focused on solving the basic problems of accessing, and using, the huge amounts of information available today.

To trace the history of information architecture, in 1964, an IBM research paper defined architecture as “The conceptual structure and functional behavior, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation”. And in the mid-1970s Richard Saul Wurman addressed the American Institute of architecture using the term “information” together with the term “architecture”.

Xerox is identified as one of the first corporations to address this concept of information structure and what is understood in modern day as human-computer interaction. In 1970, at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a congregation of people who specialized in information science was assembled and they were given the permission to develop technology that could support information architecture. This group of people is responsible for numerous contributions in the field known today as human-computer interaction. Their contributions include the very first personal computer with laser printing, the GUI (graphical user interface), the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editor, the laser printer, the desktop computer (named the Alto), Ethernet (the dominant type of local area network), Smalltalk (the pioneering object-oriented programming language) and Interpress (a graphical page description language that was the precursor to PostScript). Although the mouse was not invented there, PARC was a pioneer in its application.

The early view on information architecture that was developed from PARC, the IBM papers, and Wurman’s initial vision was still forming when The World Wide Web emerged and provided a chance for pioneer professionals to operate with the large amounts of data through new media that did not have pre-existing corporate hierarchies. In 1998, Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville published a book titled Information Architecture for the World Wide Web about information architecture and the World Wide Web, and the world was exposed to information architecture. This book addressed the process behind architecting a large, complex site and website hierarchy design and organization.

Nowadays, designers realize that the principles of information architecture science are a foundation of efficient design. IA forms a skeleton of any design project. Visual elements, functionality, interaction, and navigation are built according to the information architecture principles. Compelling content elements and powerful UI design can fail without appropriate IA. A well architected system will help you determine a) what is here (ontology), b) where you are (taxonomy), and c) where else can you go (choreography). Unorganized content makes navigation challenging and frustrating for users. From all of this, we can see the great importance of IA as a foundation of UI design.

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