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Components of an Information Architecture

In this conclusion to a two-part article on the anatomy of an information architecture, we take a close look at its typical components. It is excerpted from chapter four of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Third Edition, written by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld (O'Reilly, ISBN: 0596527349). Copyright © 2007 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media.

  1. Components of an Information Architecture
  2. Browsing Aids
  3. Search Aids
  4. Content and Tasks
  5. Invisible Components
By: O'Reilly Media
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June 05, 2008

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Information Architecture Components

It can be difficult to know exactly what components make up an information architecture. Users interact directly with some, while (as we saw above) others are so behind the scenes that users are unaware of their existence.

In the next four chapters, we’ll present and discuss information architecture components by breaking them up into the following four categories:

Organization systems
How we categorize information, e.g., by subject or
   chronology. See Chapter 5.

Labeling systems
   How we represent information, e.g., scientific
   terminology (“Acer”) or lay terminology (“maple”). See
   Chapter 6.

Navigation systems
How we browse or move through information, e.g.,
   clicking through a hierarchy. See Chapter 7.

Searching systems
How we search information, e.g., executing a search
   query against an index. See Chapter 8.

Like any categorization scheme, this one has its problems. For example, it can be difficult to distinguish organization systems from labeling systems (hint: you organize content into groups, and then label those groups; each group can be labeled in different ways). In such situations, it can be useful to group objects in new ways. So before we delve into these systems, we’ll present an alternative method of categorizing information architecture components. This method is comprised of browsing aids, search aids, content and tasks, and “invisible” components.

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