Information Architecture

Information architecture at metaWEAVE is the science of figuring out what you want your company to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put everything together. Information architecture isn't just about drawing boxes. However, making wireframes, the blueprints of a digital design, are a large part of it. An IA might also produce a taxonomy of how content and products on a site should be classified, or a prototype illustrating how the information should change on screen as a user progresses through a task.

These solutions will be arrived at by research. This can take the form of competitor analysis, reading academic papers on human/computer interaction, or testing ideas on real users. At The Guardian, for example, we invited some users into our office to try out our iPhone app at an early stage of development. We filmed them using the application for the first time, and tested whether they could understand and make use of the functionality that was on offer.

Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville defined the 'three circles of information architecture' as content, users and context of use.

A classic way to sum up information architecture is an image that appeared in 'the polar bear book' - "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. Their Venn diagram placed IA at the intersection of content, users and context of use.

In the end, however you try and define it, information architecture boils down to consciously organising the content and flow of a website, based on some principles that can be articulated, that have been derived through evidence gathering.

At a micro level this can mean deciding that products on a search page should be ordered by price rather than by name. On a larger scale it could be reorganising the content on a site to support some clear tasks that users want to perform. On a strategic level, an information architect might get involved in determining the way that articles and metadata are placed into a content management system. Information architecture is just one component in an emerging field known as user experience design. This recognises that a good digital service isn't just about functionality. It is about how people feel as they use a digital service, and about the way it does things, not just what it does.

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