Information Architecture

Information Architecture (IA)

"The structural design of shared information environments"

A combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within web sites & apps

Almost all from "Information Architecture: for the Web and Beyond"

Why Does IA Matter to Designers?

Underpins the reasons behind a specific interface design

Helps provide conceptual model for "how it works under the hood" to users

The Core Question of IA

What is the right information model to describe the user's intent?

Can't just black-box the research process and user's query

What Is The Desired Result of a Query?

The Perfect Catch: I need the single right answer

Lobster Trapping: I need the best of a group of possible answers

Indiscriminate Driftnetting: I need all of the possible answers

Moby Dick: I need to find something I've found before

Are Queries Monoliths?

Challenge with this model is that complex queries and modern web use do not have a single desired result

Marcia Bates (1989): Instead of a monolithic query type, it's a process


A map of a berry-picking query structure, showing a repeating series of documents found, refinements of queries, research thoughts had, and further queries, documents, and thoughts leading to an exit.
The berry-picking model is based on continuous refinement of queries based on thoughts generated from documents found

6 Different Types of Multi-Step Queries

Core Deliverables of IA

The four deliverables of Information Architecture: Wireframes, Blueprints, Controlled Vocabularies, and Metadata Schema
Four of the main deliverables from Information Architecture Research

How Do We Organize
Multiple Content Pieces?

"Five Hat Racks" - Richard Saul Wurman in Information Anxiety (1989)

How Do We Decide How To Categorize or Rank?

Card-sorting: provide categories and see how people organize

Free-listing: don't provide categories and see wording of people's organizations

Search log analysis: read directly from customer searches

Structure and Organizing for Blueprints

Flat structure - typical small business sites, simple ecommerce sites

Narrow & deep - Longform content, books, deep categories, complicated ecommerce

How Do We Design a Single Page?

Core elements of any page:

Core Layout of Web Page

Diagrams of 3 different ways to separate a common webpage layout of Global Navigation at the top, Local Navigation in a left sidebar, and Contextual Navigation in the content area. The Global Navigation provides answers to 'Where am I?' and 'Where can I go?' The local navigation answers 'What is related to this content?' And the contextual navigation answers 'What is here?'
Every page should answer: Where are we? How did we get here? What's the content? What's related to this content?

Success & Failure States in IA

The goal is to try to have users navigate using the "natural" navigation

HTML Site Maps are ultimate failure state, full list of all pages

Site search is usually a failure state, because users can't find using "natural" navigation