[INFO200] Response to Information Architecture

  • According to Morville and Rosenfeld, what are the basic schemes one can use to organize information? As you describe each scheme, also describe what kind of information the scheme is best suited for.

According to Morville and Rosenfeld, there are two basic schemes one can use to organize information: one is exact organization schemes, and the other one is ambiguous organization schemes.

First, exact organization schemes require users to know the specific name of the resource they are searching for. This is also called known-item searching. There is no ambiguity involved in this kind of searching because it is obvious where to find the information if know what you are looking for. Following are some frequently used exact organization schemes.

  1. Alphabetical schemes. Alphabetical schemes make use of 26-letter alphabet for organizing the contents (sort from a to z). This is often used as an umbrella for other organization schemes and is the primary organization scheme for encyclopedias and dictionaries.
  2. Chronological schemes. Chronological schemes organize information by the date of release. This is used most common in time-related information, as you can tell from the name, such as an archive of press news.
  3. Geographical schemes. Geographical schemes are useful when users need to interact information based on location. Craigslist, an exampled discussed in the article, allows users to select their nearest local directory and navigates the users directly to it.

If you are not sure what you are looking for, you will find ambiguous organization schemes useful. As mentioned in the article, ambiguous organization schemes do not have an exact standard in organizing information. Designers need to make an intellectual decision to categorize information for users in advance. Although it is hard to implement such kind of schemes, it has been proved to be the most useful schemes for users, especially when users do not know what information they are looking for. Here listed a few of the most common and valuable ambiguous organization schemes that have been discussed in the article.

  1. Topical organization schemes. Topical organization schemes are the most challenging and most useful ways to organize information because topical groupings are not fixed and can vary over time. Topical organization schemes can be used in organizing newspapers, academic courses, nonfictions books, and so on.
  2. Task-oriented schemes. Task-oriented schemes are useful when users know what tasks they want to perform. This type of scheme is common in desktop and mobile apps, especially those that support the creation and management of content, as mentioned in the article.
  3. Audience-specific schemes. Audience-specific schemes is value in customizing the content for each audience. This type of scheme works well then there are multiple audience. CERN, for example, brings different knowledge based on its audience segments. However, there is also a risk of ambiguity because sometimes audience can possess multiple identities, for example, being a scientist and a student at the same time. In this case, audiences could be blocked because this type of information organizing scheme.
  4. Metaphor-driven schemes. Metaphor-driven schemes are commonly used to help users understand new content and function intuitively. As the example given in the article, “users need not look further than their desktop computer with its folders, files, and trash can or recycle bin for an example, metaphor are used to help them understand the new by relating it to the familiar.”
  5. Hybrid schemes. Since a pure organization scheme is rarely enough, hybrid schemes were born when we started blending elements of multiple schemes. Hybrid schemes are very useful when people use different ways to organize information. However, this will easily cause confusion, and solutions are rarely scalable. As an example mentioned in the article, “because the schemes are all mixed together, we can’t form a mental model, we need to skim through each menu item to find the option we’re looking for.”

  • Why did Netflix develop their microgenre feature, and how did they categorize their movies? Why didn’t they just let end-users tag movies like Flickr or YouTube allow?

Netflix developed their microgenre feature so that they can decompose the a movie into many elements. As mentioned in the article, “Netflix paid people to watch films and tag them with all kinds of metadata. This process is so sophisticated and precise that taggers receive a detailed training document that teaches them how to rate movies on their sexually suggestive content, goriness, romance levels, and even narrative elements like plot conclusiveness.” In order to systematically dismember thousands of movies using a group of different people who all need to have the same understanding of what a given microtage means, Netflix developed a document called “Netflix Quantum Theory.” This theory require engineers to give a numeric rating scale from 1 to 5 for each label. As discussed in the article, “every movie gets a romance rating, not just the ones labeled “romantic” in the personalized genres.” Netflix’s engineers then took the microtags and created a syntax for the genres and recommend to the audience. This service created a huge database that has 76.897 micro-genres or more. This whole database used ambiguous organization schemes, or hybrid schemes to be more specific. The designers of this system made an intellectual decision for users to categorize different movies based on genres, content, audience, time regions, etc.

In comparison to the casual tag system that allows end users to tag whatever they want as they can do on YouTube and Flickr, Netflix’s systematic scheme of tagging movies provides users with a valuable, organized, and defined vocabulary database. On YouTube or Flickr, the different vocabularies with same meaning can appear over and over. However, Netflix had a defined vocabulary. Based on this system, Netflix can therefore give customized commendation for its audiences based on their watching history. This organization scheme enables Netflix to conclude patterns, give customized recommendation, and even predict what kind of movie will become really popular.


Morvill, P., and Rosenfeld, L. (2007). Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.

Madrigal, A.C. (2014, Jan 2). How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood.

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