we define information architecture
We define Information
architecture as a systematic, question-based
process for creating communication products that improve users performance.
A system is a set
of interrelated parts that work together toward a defined goal. In building
web sites, you can think of the system as a methodical, structured, means
for helping people find and use information. The entire system is performance-based.
work because they focus an organizationat the outseton how
the system can support people in doing what they want to do. Without this
precise statement, subsequent planning and implementation steps can become
unclear and sites can fail. Systems approaches also work because they
link different elements in the site development process. All evaluation
is based on the goals you set in the beginning. In this way, the success
of your site is measurable, thorough, and repeatable.
used systematic approaches in developing communication products for more
than thirty years. Systems models are based not only upon theory and research
but also on a considerable amount of practical experience.
As information architects,
we need to gather information on structure and content from a "questioning"
perspective. Our goal is to give users not only information they want,
and often to give them additional information they need. But we can only
help users of information if we understand how they think.
As we build a question-based
structure we must listen deeply (trying to understand how users perceive
the information environment). Its difficult to listen deeplyespecially
when we must quickly structure content and place it into a site. But it
is in understanding the questions that users ask and building sites to
support these questions that we can build effective communication products.
We also must fight
the disease of familiarity (think differently about information).If you
have ever been to a site where you did not understand what a label meant,
or been to a site organized around departmental structures (rather than
the inherent structure of the information) you have witnessed the disease
for creating communication products
instruction booklets, road signs, and telephone books are communication
products. They are performance tools that help people find and use information.
Any time we build an internal or external web site, we are communicating
information to a specific audience. But, unlike print, online media is
interactive. We need to pay attention to how we structure processes, procedures
and data in any situation where users are interacting with the system.
In developing communications
products for such a complex environment, you will work with others who
bring their ideas and expertise to the web project. Subject matter experts,
technical reviewers, and additional client representatives will make sure
that the technical content accurately and fairly represents the message
they want to communicate. Editors will help you anticipate the responses
of users and ensure that editorial guidelines are followed. Users themselves
can give you ideas as to which aspects of the presentation work and which
ones do not.. Listen to your users!
for improving user's performance
information architects, we are called upon to take complex information
and convey it to a target audience as clearly as possible.
However, organizations seldom meet user needs. Research by User Interface
Engineering, Inc. (UIE) shows that people cannot find the information
they are seeking on a Web site about 60 percent of the time.
As information architects,
we are called upon to think like "user advocates." In fact, thinking like
the user is the essence of information architecture.
As you build a site,
it's useful to head the advice of Donald Norman: "The design model
is the conceptualization that the designer has in mind. The user's model
is what the user develops to explain the operation of the system. Ideally,
the user's model and the designer's model are equivalent. But, the user
and the designer communicate only through the system itself...."
As you structure
information, think about how people will perform when the USE the system.
Think about the tasks they have to do.
Today's world is
competitive. Organizations look for productivity, competitive edge, quality,
and excellence. Information Architecture is a process for structuring
information so it improves performance.