What is Information architecture?

Everybody wants it, everybody says they do it, but what is Information architecture?

Information architecture, or IA, is concerned with the naming and sorting of information into intuitive, logical groups. Libraries and other information-rich places traditionally use it to come up with their categories and category names or nomenclature. Online it’s concerned with the same basic principle; namely, the grouping and labelling of information into a structure or site map.

The name Information architecture or IA has been wrongly used for a long time now to encompass all aspects of usability (the ease of use of a website) or the entire user experience online. In its truest form, it is only concerned with the site structure and labelling and not the individual page layouts.

Website design can be split into 3 key stages; information design, interaction design and visual design. Information design is undertaken by an IA or information architect, with interaction design being undertaken by a usability expert, usability designer, user experience analyst or consultant. The interaction designs are then interpreted by a graphic designer and brought to life.

Traditionally (from my experience), when you start out in this field, you start out designing page layouts and when you get enough experience, you move on to designing entire sites. This has given way to the idea that an IA or Information architect is more senior to a usability designer or user experience analyst or consultant. As a result it has been used as a natural progression through the ranks for anyone working in usability; when in fact, they are quite different skills!

I know very good information architects, who know very little about page layout and general ease of use on a page level, but are very goods IAs.

So basically information architecture is concerned with the grouping and labelling of content on a website and what happens on each of those individual areas at a page level is really another skill altogether. The industry is slowly changing its ways and more and more you see positions advertised for User experience analyst, User experience consultant and User experience architects.

It’s clear to see that information architecture is changing the world of web design – one site at a time. What remains to be seen is the effect that IA has on a growing Web 2 online environment!

If your website isn’t going where you wanted it to, for your business – maybe it’s time for a health check. An updated organisation of information and structure could be the kick you need to take your brand further online.

Contact wiliam (http://www.wiliam.com.au) for more information, or for a free consultation with our sales team!