Information Architecture English (en) français (fr)

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Foreword

Information Architecture (IA) is the practice of structuring information (knowledge or data) for a purpose.

These are often structured according to their context in user interactions or larger databases.

The term IA is most commonly applied to web development, but also applies to disciplines outside of a strict Web context, such as programming and technical writing.

The IA is considered an element of user experience design.

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Information Architecture Definition

In the context of web design (or design for related media) IA is defined by the Information Architecture Institute as:

  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The art and science of organising and labelling web sites, intra-nets, on-line communities and software to support usability and findability.
  3. An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

The term IA describes a specialized skill set which relates to the management of information and employment of informational tool.

It has a significant degree of association with the library sciences. Many library schools now teach Information Architecture.

An alternate definition of IA exists within the context of information system design, in which IA refers to data modelling and the analysis and design of the information in the system, concentrating on entities and their interdependencies.

Data modelling depends on abstraction; the relationships between the pieces of data is of more interest than the particulars of individual records, though cataloguing possible values is a common technique.

The usability of human-facing systems, and standards compliance of internal ones, are paramount.

Why Information Architecture Matters

Information architecture (IA) is the foundation for great Web design. It is the blueprint of the site upon which all other aspects are built - form, function, metaphor, navigation and interface, interaction, and visual design. Initiating the IA process is the first thing you should do when designing a site. This series of articles describes specific methods and processes for developing a site's IA.

People sometimes view the development of an IA to be impractical, both in terms of the time it takes and the skill needed to do it effectively. But this mentality is slowly changing. A good IA is incredibly effective, and knowing the basics of the IA process can save both time and money in the long run. Also, you don't need to be an expert to use it to your advantage.

IA serves as a road map for the site's construction. Additions and revisions are made easier by the presence of this document. Oh, yeah - and clients and management love this stuff.

Information Architecture and technical writing

With reference to writing for the Web and producing organizing principles for documentation, it has been said that:

When a Web site or help system lacks definition and structure, readers can get lost in the content.
The IA is the practice of organizing and interrelating content so the reader remains oriented and gets answers.
By defining formal design patterns for information architecture, content providers can apply tested architectures to improve the user's experience. [#1]

Information architects in this context help

  • define such things as the division of topics and
  • set the specialization of content types, and
  • set guidelines and examples for the type of information that goes into specific content object types.

The creation of categories and taxonomies is inherent in IA.

This type of information is typically designed for a high level of re-use, with the intent that a single content object can be deployed to different media types, including print, on-line help, marketing materials and on web pages.

See also

more details at Information Architecture Artefacts (Applied AI artefacts)

h2. References

  • [#1] [↑] Organizing textual context in this way is typically done using a structured approach such as DocBook or DITA
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