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What is information architecture?

"Oh, so that's what I do..."

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Briefly

Information Architecture (IA) is the study of the organisation and structure of effective web systems, in particular the relationships between pages and their internal components.

Elaboration

IA is the name for the emerging body of practise that combines the organisation of a site's content into categories with the creation of an interface to support those categories.

A brief history of IA
In 1970, Xerox set up the Xerox PARC research lab with a mission to create "the architecture of information". In 1976, Richard Wurman coined the term "information architect" at the American Institute of Architecture's convention (the theme was "the Architecture of Information").

As the Web emerged in the mid-1990s, the term began to take on a new shade of meaning, describing an evolving set of Web design practices. In 1997, Wurman published Information Architects. The explosive growth of the Web design industry in the late 1990s fuelled a growing demand for professional information architects, leading to the success of Rosenfeld and Morville's (1998) Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (aka "the Polar Bear Book").

So what actually is it?
Information architecture is considered an element of - qua approach to and technique for doing - user experience design.

In the context of web design the Information Architecture Institute defines information architecture as:

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

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