Defining the damn thing

I’ve decided to start collecting definations of IA. Feel free to add any you come across or heck, make one up!

From Addwise

“Information Architecture (IA) is the process of organizing and presenting data to the user in a meaningful, clear and intuitive manner. IA is the foundation of all great websites. All other design aspects – form, function, metaphor, navigation, interface, interaction, visual, and information systems – build upon the groundwork of information architecture. Initiating the IA process is the first thing you should do when designing a website.”

webworld’s interview with lou

“Information architecture involves the design of organization and navigation systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.” “

Lou again, on O’reilly

Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.

Organization systems are the ways content can be grouped. Labeling systems are essentially what you call those content groups. Navigation systems, like navigation bars and site maps, help you move around and browse through the content. Searching systems help you formulate queries that can be matched with relevant documents.

Jesse James Garrett in his “Elements of user Experience” says

Information Architecture: Stuctural design of the informaiton space to facilitate intuive access to content.

Stephen Downes gives a philosophical definition

Well – what is an information architect?

From my own experience, I would say that the practitioners are professionals, versed in every aspect of web design, adept communicators, and gifted visualizers – they are people who eat, sleep and dream web design and structure. But you can’t put that on the job description.

Or – as I Sing the Body Electronic author Fred Moody observes: information architects are the sort of people who understand that the instructions on the shampoo bottle are just wrong: “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.”

Squishy says

Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together.

Shel Kimen says

“What is information architecture?

At its most basic, information architecture is the construction of a structure or the organization of information. In a library, for example, information architecture is a combination of the catalog system and the physical design of the building that holds the books. On the Web, information architecture is a combination of organizing a site’s content into categories and creating an interface to support those categories. It stems from traditional architecture, which is made up of architectural programming and architectural planning. “

Somebody explained what an IA does to her mom like this

“You know when you’re on a website and you see a bunch of navigation choices to click on? I’m the one who decided what the choices are, what they are called and where they take you when you click”

thank god she added

Much like our real world namesakes, we design spaces for human beings to live work and play in. The big difference is the materials we work with: cement is replaced with thesauri, timber with hierarchies and steel with interaction flows.

information architecture – a whatis definition is based on technical writing….

“information architecture is the set of ideas about how all information in a given context should be treated philosophically and, in a general way, how it should be organized.”

and finally (because I have got to get some work done today)

Mattie Langenberg

Information architecture, as the name implies, is basically about taking content and a structure to present that content to an audience. Whether the content is intended for a private audience on an intranet or for the public, it is the information architect’s job to ensure that information is well-organized and presented in an easily accessible interface.

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Ricardo Martins Sangion sent me a file of definitions he’s been collecting. Sorry, he had very few attributes (he was collecting them for personal use), but if you know the source, I’ll add it…

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Information architecture is a combination of organizing a site’s content into categories and creating an interface to support those categories.

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The information architect maps the entire structure of the site and organizes the positioning of pages within sections, developing a functional and intuitive plan to get the user from point A to point B on the path of least resistance.

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Information architecture, as the name implies, is basically about taking content and creating a structure to present that content to an audience.

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Design and communication skills are essential. The ability to create the structure of a Web site and the ability to explain and illustrate that structure are key. The IA must be able to ensure ease of navigation, simplicity of design and communicate the site design to the client as well as to the development team.

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In an organizational chart of a given Web project, the IA is generally found somewhere between the administrative team (producers, project managers and editorial staff) and the development team (designers and programmers). The IA is the major communications vehicle between the two teams. [He or she] participates in the thinking and strategy before a project and the creation of the finished product. Information architects generally wear more than one hat on a given project, so versatility is important. You may be required to be a project manager, a designer or both. If you’re just getting started in the industry, it’s probably a good idea to take on one of those positions, and then work your way into information architecture.

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“[information architecture is]”…

creating consistent and functional systems for navigation, graphics, page layout and title languages so that the user knows where to go, what to do, and encourages them to return.”

— Web Review, Peter Monville

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Information architecture is the process of organizing, labeling, designing navigation and searching systems that helps people find and manage information more successfully

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Information architecture involves the design of organization and navigation systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.

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the blueprint of the site upon which all other aspects are built – form, function, metaphor, navigation and interface, interaction, and visual design.

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information architecture is a combination of organizing a site’s content into categories and creating an interface to support those categories. Gwen Leapaldt Resume p.s. she’s got deliverables on her site

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One who designs and supervises the construction of knowledge derived from study, experience, or instruction, or knowledge of a specific event or situation, or a collection of facts or data.

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Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully

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At its most basic, information architecture is the construction of a structure or the organization of information. One the web, information architecture is a combination of organizing a site’s content into categories and creating an interface to support those categories. It stems from traditional architecture, which is made up of architectural programming and architectural planning. chaoskitty

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Information Architecture is a multidisciplinary approach to the structuring of information.

Richard Saul Wurman defined the Information Architect in the following way:

“The individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear; a

person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their

personal paths to knowledge; the emerging 21st century professional occupation addressing

the needs of the age focused upon clarity, human understanding and the science of the

organization of information.”

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At the North American Web Developers’ Conference earlier this month, Bebo White – the designer who built the first web server in North America – talked about the changing role of the webmaster.

Surprisingly, page design and HTML make up a small part of today’s webmaster duties. And technicians often maintain the actual computer equipment. The webmaster today spends much time describing what a web site ought to look like, and explaining how it ought to integrate into an overall management or marketing strategy.

So much has the job as webmaster changed, said White, that the term ‘webmaster’ ought to change as well. Thus, he proposed, a more descriptive term – like ‘information architect’ – might be appropriate.

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Information designers combine the architect’s ability to plan, the writer’s ability to simplify and the designer’s ability to highlight key areas (give selective emphasis). Most information architecture gurus agree on the main functions of an information architect or user interface designer: he/she brings order out of chaos and makes the complex clear. IA specialists, as opposed to graphic designers, are involved in the meaning and context of content, not just the text they are illustrating.

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Information architects map the structure of sites and organizes the location of pages within sections, developing a functional and intuitive navigational plan to get the user to specific information using the optimal path. graphicbiz

visit Definitions of IA for a few more

For more commentary on the nature of the beast, check out this old posting of a letter from non-user centered IA travis ; then go to peter’s april archive, and scroll down to april 15th….

Also look at Peter Morville’s column Defining Information Architecture where he doesn’t, and Andrew Dillon’s IAs in search of an identity? and his I Think Therefore IA?

Also, the August / September 2000 issue of the ACIA bulletin was centered around the practice of IA, and the interviews shed light on what IA really encompasses, as opposed to what we’d like it to.

Do we have a pattern? Can we come up with a consistant defination? Find any others?