>Information Architecture

>Information architecture can sometimes be a difficult topic to explain to other people.  According to the Information Architecture Institute it is defined as:

  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

So what exactly does that mean?
Since IA can sometimes be difficult to explain, the Information Architecture Institute has a section of their website for “elevator pitches.”  These are essentially a way of defining IA in a way that more people can grasp the concept of it and are worth checking out if you are unsure of what IA really is.   

Examples of IA

  • Content Inventory
  • User Profile
  • Use Case
  • Sitemap
  • Wireframes
  • Paper Prototype
  • Story Board
  • Style Guide

From this list, I found the user profile (persona) to be interesting.  The user profile will help you to understand the target audience.  It will have information such as name, occupation, gender, education, computing and web experience among others.  

So how does a user profile fit in with information architecture?
At first it may seem like it doesn’t.  However, you have to understand your users to be able to structure the information to meet their needs.  Having user profiles created can help the information architect to stay focused on the user and their needs.  These profiles are also important for helping make other decisions related to information architecture.  For example, using the profiles the information architect could get an idea of how high a level of Internet skills that most of the users have.  If most of the uses are not very technically skilled then the information architect can design the structure for the site to be easy to use for a non-skilled user.  In this case, complex navigation would not be a best fit for users less technically inclined.  
 

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