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.