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According to Morville, Peter & Rosenfeld, Louis in their book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (2006) 3rd edition, its this:

  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The combination of organization, labeling, search and navigation systems within web sites and intranets.
  • The art and science of shaping information products and experience to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

These are four suggestions from the book, but is there a better one out there?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I believe that the Information Architecture Institute uses those same definitions for IA, and they are probably the most widely accepted. It's difficult to create a universal definition for IA because the need to organize information is cross-domain, and the methodology will vary between each domain. For example, you wouldn't organize a website the same way you would organize a library.

For the web, I like to think of information architecture as being very analogous to the architecture of physical structures. Both types of design seek to create a functional space, placing importance on the arrangement of doors and pathways that allow one to move through the space in a natural manner.

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I'm curious if anyone here has heard the term IA used to refer to the organization of actual physical library. My impression is that while IA in theory refers to any organization of information, in practice it nearly always concerns digital information accessed through a computer. Am I wrong? –  Michael Zuschlag May 2 '11 at 13:39
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Interestingly, the IA wikipedia article references physical libraries in the second sentence. I think it makes sense, but perhaps that is a mistake. Or perhaps Baa did not mean physical a library; there are other types after all. –  Lens May 4 '11 at 0:30

For me it's the logic, structure, relation, arrangement, definition and hierarchy of elements. Doesn't have to be necessarily digital.

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If layperson were to ask me informally what IA is, I’d say, “Mostly what links to what in a web site.” Of course that’s incomplete, but I believe it covers the overwhelming most frequent use of the term, especially if you take the layperson’s perspective that anything seen in a browser is a “web site.”

However, my sense is that professionals calling themselves information architects typically have UX knowledge beyond what is strictly necessary to determine what links to what. They seem to be a fairly well-rounded bunch.

If you want more hard-to-understand but technically more accurate definitions for IA, take a look at Wikipedia.

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Information architect work for users(people), they work what the users(People) want and how to engage users, the information architect explicit goal is human engagement. Unlike db architect which work for machine.

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Information Architecture should be designed to support users in carrying out their tasks/goals with the computer/software as an interaction partner. As an interaction partner we need to understand the needs and behaviour of the computer/software as well. Whilst we are in a sense 'champions' for the user, this does mean in some cases that we work 'for' the machine in order to bring about an overall better user experience. E.g., a particular search query may place a disproportionate load on a system impacting other users, so we might aim to restrict, discourage, or slow the use of that query. –  Splog Jul 14 '11 at 9:11
    
yup, i wrote in general. –  pir abdul wakeel Jul 14 '11 at 9:13

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