Information Architecture is a method to organize information in a purposeful and service-oriented way. It applies a systems design approach to information (Cummings, 2002). Some goals of information architecture include:
- Improving access to information
- Improving the relevancy of information
- Improving utility of information for a particular audience or group of clients
- Developing and maintaining quality information over time (Cummings, 2002)
How do Webpage and Website Designers Fulfill the Goals of Information Architecture?
Webpage and website designers typically use the following criteria:
Hierarchy of Content: Structure content in a vertical direction or manner. This is usually done by using a top-down or bottom-up approach:
Content Model: defines, describes, disseminates, and discusses content. Group content by the product or the service that the website is promoting, the audience that visits the website or webpage, and any statistical data that will be used.
Content must be clear, concise, and page-specific to avoid redundancy in the information (Dunn, Scherle).
Site Flow: Website and webpage designers should use a diagram that portrays the use or user flow of information (Cummings, 2002). Site flows incorporate shape libraries such as the ones shown in this website.
Meta Data Schema: Content can be grouped with metadata schema, which is a value- and element-information-based system. It associates certain values, terms, and elements to describe or classify different forms of content (Dunn, Scherle).
Taxonomy: Taxonomies and vocabulary go hand-in-hand. Ideally, websites or web pages should use professional vocabulary that is content-specific. Vocabulary can help create a taxonomy that is a hierarchical system, establishing relationships between content in a specific manner (Cummings, 2002).
- A top-down approach starts with limited information and ends with broader information.
- A bottom-approach starts with broad generalizations and moves progressively toward more and more limited information (Farnum, 2001)
Content Inventory: Many times, websites are large in scale and website users are unaware or unfamiliar with its content. Website information should be organized as lists. Content must present what it is trying sell or advertise. Content inventory includes:
Content Volume: Depending on the size of the website or web page, the content must be organized accordingly. It must answer audience questions without overloading the information (Princeton University, 2008).
Content Analysis: Content analysis is used to understand whether the information put on the website is necessary or not. It analyzes the quality, detail level, language, and tone of the content (Princeton University, 2008).
- overview of the topic of the web page
- page title and URL
- date of page creation, revision, and future revision
- expiration date
- author of the web page
- web page status (in other words, being edited, in review, or ready for posting).(Dunn, Scherle)
Concept and Site Maps: Concept and site maps can be useful for smaller websites. However, they provide a complete hierarchical picture for larger websites. These maps serve to present important content, helping site visitors to find the information they are searching for (Barker, 2005).
For more information, refer to the following resources.
Barker, Iain. 2005, May 2. "What is information architecture?" Two Step Designs http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/kmc_whatisinfoarch/index.html
Cummings, Michael. 2002. Information Architecture. http://www.interaction-design.org/printerfriendly/encyclopedia/information_architecture.html
Dunn Jon, Scherle Ryan. "Building a fedora architecture to support diverse collections" Digital Library Program, Indiana University.
Farnum, Chris. 2001. "Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability". Argus Center for Information Architecture http://argus-acia.com/content/current_content.html
Princeton University. "Guide to creating website information architecture and content". The Trustees of Princeton University. http://www.princeton.edu/communications/services/docs/IAguide2.pdf
The Information Architecture Institute. "What is IA taxonomy?" The Information Architecture Institute. http://iainstitute.org/en/learn/education/taxonomy.php