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Defining Information Architecture - Administration

If you've ever had trouble recognizing what an information architecture is, or building one for your web site, you've come to the right place. This article will set you on the right track. 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. The Anatomy of an Information Architecture
  2. Defining Information Architecture
  3. Answering User Questions
  4. Content and Information Architecture
  5. Invisible Information Architecture
By: O'Reilly Media
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May 29, 2008

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Thus far, we’ve noticed all sorts of things that aren’t information architecture. So what is recognizable as information architecture? You might be surprised by how much information architecture you can see if you know how to look. For example, the information has been structured in some basic ways, which we’ll explain in later chapters:

Organization systems

Present the site’s information to us in a variety of ways, such as content categories that pertain to the entire campus (e.g., the top bar and its “Calendar” and “Academics” choices), or to specific audiences (the “I am a...” area, with such choices as “Prospective Students” and “Staff Member”).

Navigation systems

Help users move through the content, such as the “A–Z Directory” and the “Go Quickly To...” menu of popular destinations.

Search systems

Allow users to search the content. Here, the default is set to search the Gustavus site, but one could also search the Gustavus calendar, its directory, or the whole web from the site’s search interface.

Labeling systems

Describe categories, options, and links in language that (hopefully) is meaningful to users; you’ll see examples throughout the page, some (e.g., “Admission”) more understandable than others (“Nobel Conference”).

Figure 4-2 provides a visualization of these architectural components.

As we can see from this figure and from Figure 4-3, these areas are just the tip of the iceberg. Categories group pages and applications throughout the site; labels systematically represent the site’s content; navigation systems and a search system can be used to move through the site. That’s quite a lot of information architecture to cram into one screenshot!

Figure 4-2.  This page is crammed with architectual components

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