Campfire #42: Architecting information
Many product designers see information architecture as a small part of the overall experience, but it goes much further and is massively undervalued.
Information architecture helps us define information, organize it cohesively, create properties and their relationships, and establish different points of view on hierarchies.
Dan Klyn explained information architecture (2009) as the interplay of meaning, arrangement, and rules for interaction. He used taxonomies, ontologies, and choreographies to create a framework to ensure this architecture was practical, relevant, and authentic.
Consider yourself in a large shopping mall for the first time. You start looking for your favorite store to buy a black t-shirt (the designer's only choice). What an undertaking! Typically, the first thing you'd do is ask someone or go to the information desk.
When browsing the mall's signage, you usually follow their verbal or visual cues: parking, escalator, level 1, level 2, clothing stores, etc. All of these cues are part of the building's information architecture.
If you were to explain information architecture (IA) to a kid, you would say something like this:
IA is the practice of arranging the parts of something to make it understandable.
Signs provide us with a better understanding of the direction we're going.
Regarding product design, IA is the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, applications, and software to support usability and discoverability.
Back to our example with the shopping mall. When looking at directional indications, there are various categories such as parking, escalator, level 1, level 2, or clothing stores. Each sign broadly represents locations using unique titles or categories, known as "Ontology" in information architecture.
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