Brief Introduction to Information Architecture

Information Architecture

Information architecture can be defined as the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable (IA Institute). It is also considered the structural design of information and content. (designlab). IA exists all around us, it is in nearly everything humans interact with from technology to physical buildings.

IA and UX

IA can be considered an important component of UX. IA is the intersection of the user, the content, and the context to help the users: understand where they are, what is around them, and what to expect when interacting with a product or service.

History and Origins

Like any good idea, the true beginnings of IA can be argued widely. Most consider Richard Saul Wurman, an architect by trade, who became a graphic designer. In 1970, Wurman is credited with coining the phrase “information architecture” at the American Institute of Architects. He attempted to bridge practices of physical building (architecture) with the non-physical realm of information.

However, many believe that the term was actually first used in an IBM paper called: “Architecture of the IBM system/360” (Amdahl). This paper is known for describing the “architecture” in a technological context as: “ the conceptual structure and functional behavior, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation.” (Amdahl).

A few years after Wurman’s speech, a group of scientists at Xerox made significant advances in the field of Information Architecture, and most importantly, Human-Computer Interaction. They are credited with creating the modern “architecture of information” (Pake 1985). They also created the first computer with a graphical user interface.

By the 1980s, the field of Information Architecture in the design sense, seemed to take a backseat to the field of Information Systems Design. According to Morrogh (2003), information architecture was seen as a tool for the design and creation of computer infrastructures and data layers, with a larger emphasis on the organizational and business aspects of the information networks.

Oddly enough, the backseat that IA took in the 1980s lead to many of the design deliverables that are widely popular to this day, such as: blueprints, information categories, etc.. (Brancheau & Wetherbe 1986). And by 1998, Louis Rosenfield and Peter Moreville’s “ Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” really sparked the field of IA as an important concept in design.

The Future of IA

IA will continue to grow as technology continues to grow. As cen be seen from its history, as technology becomes more advanced, so does the need for advancement in IA. The way humans interact with technology will continue to change as well as the amount of information available. This means that designers will continually need to include IA in their designs.