Information Architecture is a unique skill set very different from typical IT skills of technical infrastructure and applications. Information Architecture requires library science, facilitation and domain (e.g. Pharmaceuticals, health) knowledge because your dealing with information, its value in relation to job activities and its classification so its surfaced. The value of such a role depends on how your organization views the value of its information and your ability to leverage it.
For example, when I think about corporate information, the following questions come to mind:
- What information does the business collect? How is it used? How much of it is stored and where? Why is it kept?
- What are all the different types of data and how are they classified? Do data owners exist for each data type or aggregate data collections?
- How is data collected? Why?
- How is data shared? Why?
- What are the business information availability requirements? Why?
- What confidentiality, integrity, and availability requirements apply?
- What is the legal environment surrounding the organization’s industry and the data it uses?
The discipline of Information Architecture has gained wider attention over the past decade due to the WWW and related technologies such as Web 2.0. The abundance of information and resulting usability issues has reinforced the need for the discipline. How does Information Architecture help? It helps by introducing a level of meaning to what is generally an overwhelming amount of information and thereby helping people find information specific to their job role and activities.
So what is Information Architecture? Rosenfeld and Morville (1998) formally define IA in the following way:
- The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within and information system.
- The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content.
- The art and science of structuring and classifying information systems to help people find and manage information.
- An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
WikiPedia’s definition is a follows:
- Information architecture (IA) is the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems. Among these activities are library systems, Content Management Systems, web development, user interactions, database development, programming, technical writing, enterprise architecture, and critical system software design. Information architecture has somewhat different meanings in these different branches of IS or IT architecture. Most definitions have common qualities: a structural design of shared environments, methods of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, and online communities, and ways of bringing the principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape. (Read more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_architecture)
Microsoft version is as follows:
- A Web site’s information architecture determines how the information in that site — its Web pages, documents, lists, and data — is organized and presented to the site’s users. Information architecture is often recorded as a hierarchical list of site content, search keywords, data types, and other concepts.
- Analyzing the information to be presented in an Internet or intranet Web site is an important early step in the site planning process, and this step provides the basis for planning:
- How the site will be structured and divided into a set of sub sites.
- How data will be presented in the site.
- How site users will navigate through the site.
- How information will be targeted at specific audiences.
- How the business vocabulary will be applied.
- How search will be configured and optimized.
The fundamental reason for the increased interest in taxonomies is simple-despite years of effort and new technologies, professionals are still spending more time looking for information than actually using the information they find. Rosenfeld and WikiPedia have a view that’s not bound to products while Microsoft’s definition is tightly linked to SharePoint functionality.
Want to read up on the topic?
- SharePoint Content Strategy – Delivering the Promise of Value
- Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-scale Web Sites
- The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond
- Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
- The Design of Everyday Things
- User and Task Analysis for Design