Information Architecture

10 Jan. 2011 Software Development

Information architecture is the art of conveying a concept of information used in activities that require denotative details of complex systems. Information architecture can be evidenced as a structural design, methods of organizing and tagging internet and intranet websites, and mode of bringing the design principles into digital platform.

Information architecture can be referred to the analysis and design of the data captured, focusing on entities and its dimensions. It can also be mentioned as the modeling of corporate data models which are used to align its definition in various trenchant. It covers a broad range of design and planning disciplines, and the boundaries among information architecture, technical design, user interface, and graphic design are necessarily blurred by the need for all of these communities of practice to cooperate to produce a cohesive, coherent, and consistent experience for the end user.

There are some principles which make an assumption that information architecture is the practice of designing structures and help guide the design of structures. The primary focus of the information architect is the structure itself and secondarily the user interface representing the structure on screen.

The Principle of Objects

Content should be treated as living, breathing thing with a lifecycle, behaviors and attributes. And such thinking of content as object comes only from object-oriented programming where a program is broken up into clear-cut logical clods. Each clod has methods, behaviors and a code to perform, properties and bits of information attached to the object. Objects are nothing but real templates, so the methods provide framework for thinking about all case of object. Here object is mean as website content, which has structure & set of behaviors of how to use it.

The Principle of Choices

Creation of pages that offer meaningful choices to users, keeping the range of choices focused on a particular task. It is said that a greater number of options can make it more difficult for people to make a decision. More options means, more cognitive effort, and more effort can often mean more anxiety. People think they have a lot of options, but they really don’t. In designing information hierarchies, Its good to spread things out. That is, to make shorter lists of choices, at least at the upper levels of the hierarchy.

The Principle of Disclosure

Progressive disclosure is a common design concept that builds on the ideas that we can only process so much information at once, but that we can use what we have to anticipate what’s to come. A site presents diverse layers of the same content in different areas of the site. Showing only enough information to help people understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper.

The Principle of Exemplars

This is nothing but describing the contents of categories by showing examples of the contents. Cognitive science, after a long study, has analyzed how people categorize things. This field looks at what it means to hold a concept in your head. The best way of achieving this will be categorizing the content. It helps the user understand the category’s content than any straight description.

The Principle of Front Doors

Not always the website’s visitors will come through home page. Larger site’s most of the traffic comes through a side door, not the home page. These links are the power of search. The principle yields at least two concrete pieces of advice. First, a Landing page has to help users understand what else they can find on the site. Users coming to these pages through search engines may find what they’re looking for, but the page may also convey the visitors where they are and what else they can do while they’re here. The second piece of advice is that the home page does not have to do everything. Good home pages exemplify the breadth of information on the site, but do not try to expose every category and provide a path to every nook and cranny. They actually focus on helping new users understand what the site is all about.

The Principle of Multiple Classifications

Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content. Good information architecture acknowledges that people have different ways of looking forward towards information. Corporate intranets offer a suitable opportunity to use multiple classification schemes. Providing multiple ways to find content being beneficial to the users, but providing too many ways can overwhelm and distract them.

The Principle of Focused Navigation

Lot many designers use phrases like “global navigation” or “left menu bar” to refer to a menu that lets users browse content, but do so with its location on the page. Where a menu appears, it should not constitute its definition. A navigation menu loses its purpose when its name comes on the template. Designing the navigation means establishing a strategy to find content on the website. It is best to incorporate navigation mechanisms: Topic navigation:

  • Timely navigation: A short menu that provides links to subtopics that were especially relevant or seasonal.
  • Signpost navigation: A menu that appears on the interior pages to reveal how the article was categorized which gives users an opportunity to explore those categories.
  • Marketing navigation: A short menu appearing adjacent to the topic navigation that provides links to services offered.

The Principle of Growth

Designing for the exponential development of content is really challenging. Designing a structure that can accommodate twice as much content as it can today is like building an closet with twice as many drawers. The users who browse the stacks at a library are the same people looking for content online. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rules come from this principle and it is impossible to predict how much more? And what more? It can be adding more content to existing categories or more articles under a topic. To deal with new content types, the information architect can design the topic page anticipating new forms of content – video, presentations, photo galleries, and design the page to accommodate them. By splitting up the responsibilities of accommodating growth, a website can do so gracefully and hopefully with minimal flurry.

Information architecture, though perhaps in its infancy compared to other design fields like building architecture and graphic design, can still establish a set of self-evident truths derived from other fields of design, experience and testing. These principles can establish the foundation of information architecture, a framework for informing design decisions about the structures of websites.

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