2023 State of Information Architecture

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It’s been two years since the last State of IA Survey was conducted, back in 2021. It was by this time when the world had shut down and all in person activities had converted into online meeting sessions. This year, many, if not, most of those activities went back to in-person, including IA community events.

For the last couple of years, the World Information Architecture Association has researched the prevalence of information architecture as part of World IA Association’s (WIAA) initiative to build and connect a global community of IA advocates and practitioners.

Thanks to Optimal Workshop, one of our longest-standing supporters, this year we continued with our goal and ran a survey across IA community events, worldwide.

BACKGROUND

We ran a longitudinal survey to identify trends in the attitudes and practices used in information architecture work by engaged practitioners. The survey ran from March to July 2023 and was distributed online at the WIAD Conference, IA Conference, UX New Zealand, and via social media (Linkedin and Slack groups).

Goals

  • Grow the practice of IA through direct intervention (education, advocacy, thought leadership and community engagement)

Objectives

  • Identify who’s conducting IA or is interested in conducting IA
  • How are practitioners developing their IA skills?
  • What’s happening in IA practice?
  • What’s the perceived value of IA?
  • What can communities do?

RESULTS

So who’s conducting IA or is interested in conducting IA?

The study surveyed IA practitioners, UX researchers, UX designers, learners, and other engaged practitioners around the world. The survey was translated into several languages to increase the external validity, including:

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • Persian
  • Italian
  • Spanish (Latin America)

Out of the 913 survey respondents, most of them have a Bachelor’s or higher education. One-third of the respondents are located in the United States. 72% of the respondents are full-time employed. 10% are students.

Age distribution
Respondents’ highest education
Distribution of respondents by work status
Survey geographic distribution
Respondents’ job title

What’s the value of IA?

Most people think that their current or last organization is aware of IA and consider it important. They believe that companies discontinue IA practices due to a lack of understanding of IA as a discipline, a lack of awareness of problems within their IA, and a misalignment of stakeholders.

How do practitioners develop their IA skills?

Around 30% of respondents have less than three years of IA experience and 35% of the respondents have more than 10 years of IA experience. In terms of methodology, people often use interviews, competitor analysis, and card sorting to conduct research for information architecture. Focus groups and Diary studies are rarely used.

Also, the most frequently produced deliverables are navigation structures, site/app structures, and wireframes. Metadata and modeling are less frequently delivered.

Most of the respondents consider IA in their career plans and are planning to develop the skills around it by using online resources and training to build the strategy, testing, system design, and other IA skills.

What can communities do?

A quarter of the respondents are currently in one or more IA-related communities, with IxDA, UXPA, WIAD/WIAA and IAC being mentioned the most. They consider communities important for developing the practice.

The majority of our respondents expressed concerns about the lack of awareness and understanding of the Information Architecture (IA) practice, which results in the IA practice being undervalued. They agree that communities can help alleviate this by sharing knowledge to educate and empower current and new IA practitioners, as well as socializing information architecture to those outside the field.

“Communities should facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practices related to information architecture. This could take the form of online forums, webinars, conferences, or other events where information architects can learn from each other and share their experiences.”

Overall, how do people feel about the state of information architecture as a practice?

In general, respondents think IA is growing and heading to a better state. However, some of them are concerned that the lack of awareness and understanding of IA and new technology might be a drawback.

The majority of respondents think that IA is in a better state than it was 5 yrs ago and that it will continue to do so 5 years from now.

“There is more awareness of the importance of information architecture, there are more resources available, and there are more tools available. I think that the practice of information architecture also benefits from the increasing importance of user experience (UX) design.”

“I believe that this is something people recognize as being an important part of the user experience and it isn’t going anywhere. We all know how awful it is to experience poor information architecture, not just UX designers or IAs, but all users, and we want to continue to improve.”

However, some of the respondents don’t think the state of IA is in a better state than 5 years ago and that it will not be so in 5 years from now.

“A few years ago, IA was still one of the crucial parts of the design. Nowadays, most of the stakeholders don’t care about crafting information architecture. They don’t have time for tree-testing and card sorting, not to mention working on taxonomy or object modeling. Fast results and outcomes are the only ones that matter now.”

“I don’t see any trends helping IA practice transit into a better state anytime soon. UX design turned into ugly UX/UI design, always starting from a mockup, becoming a golden standard for any design work. Quantitative UX research is like alchemy for big organizations. And Information Architecture became a buzzword of old designers who read the polar bear book in ancient times. But nobody knows what IA means in 2023, with tiny exceptions spread across mature enough companies or UX agencies.”

INSIGHTS

  1. A variety of tools and methods have been developed. Technological advancements have pushed Information Architecture forward, opening up more opportunities.
  2. Senior practitioners or those at higher levels in the field tend to dedicate more time to Information Architecture.
  3. There is a need for ongoing IA awareness and education amongst those within and outside the field. However, is there consensus or divergence among practitioners on whether it’s their responsibility to champion IA’s value? For those advocating, what challenges arise in conveying the significance of IA? How can communities contribute to this journey for practitioners advocating for IA in the design process?
  4. While the majority expresses optimism about the future of IA, there’s a segment of respondents who hold a contrasting view. This divergence in opinions indicates the presence of varied perspectives within the IA community, highlighting the need for ongoing discussions and efforts to address concerns and challenges within the field.

What about you? Did you participate in our research? What do you think about the results?

Download the report

Let us know by commenting below or writing to us at info@worldiaday.org

Authored by Chun-Ling “Vanya” Hsu and Miguel Castillo
Reviewed by Martin Bulmer and Grace Lau

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Grace G Lau
World Information Architecture Association

Information architect / taxonomist / UX researcher-designer based in Greater Los Angeles, California