Information architecture

Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.[1] Typically, it involves a model or concept of information that is used and applied to activities which require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.

Information architecture is considered to have been founded by Richard Saul Wurman.[2] Today there is a growing network of active IA specialists who constitute the Information Architecture Institute.[3]


Information architecture has somewhat different meanings in different branches of IS or IT:

  1. The structural design of shared information environments.[4]:4
  2. The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities, and software to support findability and usability.[1][5]
  3. An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.[4]:4[6]
  4. The combination of organization, labeling, search and navigation systems within websites and intranets.[4]:4
  5. Extracting required parameters/data of Engineering Designs in the process of creating a knowledge-base linking different systems and standards.
  6. A subset of Data Architecture where usable data (a.k.a. information) is constructed in and designed or arranged in a fashion most useful or empirically holistic to the users of this data.


The difficulty in establishing a common definition for "information architecture" arises partly from the term's existence in multiple fields. In the field of systems design, for example, information architecture is a component of enterprise architecture that deals with the information component when describing the structure of an enterprise.

While the definition of information architecture is relatively well-established in the field of systems design, it is much more debatable within the context of online information systems (i.e., websites). Andrew Dillon refers to the latter as the "big IA-little IA debate".[7] In the little IA view, information architecture is essentially the application of information science to web design which considers, for example, issues of classification and information retrieval. In the big IA view, information architecture involves more than just the organization of a website; it also factors in user experience, thereby considering usability issues of information design.

Information architect

About the term "information architect" Richard Saul Wurman explains: "I mean architect as used in the words architect of foreign policy. I mean architect as in the creating of systemic, structural, and orderly principles to make something work — the thoughtful making of either artifact, or idea, or policy that informs because it is clear."[8]

Main components of Information Architecture

Organization Systems

Good organization of the information is important to fulfill the users needs.

Labeling Systems

How you label the information is how you communicate information to the users. So it is important to create consistent, effective, and descriptive labels for your site.

Navigation Systems

A good navigation system helps the users to effectively and easily find what they are looking for, understand where they are and where they can navigate to within a site.

Search Systems

A good search system helps the users to find what they are looking for, and can improve overall performance.

Notable people in information architecture


First generation

Second generation


See also


  1. 1 2 "What is IA?" (PDF). Information Architecture Institute.
  2. "Richard Saul Wurman awarded for Lifetime Achievement". Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  3. "Join the IA Network". Information Architecture Institute.
  4. 1 2 3 Morville & Rosenfeld 2007.
  5. Morville & Rosenfeld (2007). p. 4. "The art and science of shaping information products and experienced to support usability and findability."
  6. Resmini, A. & Rosati, L. (2012). A Brief History of Information Architecture. Journal of Information Architecture. Vol. 3, No. 2. [Available at]. Originally published in Resmini, A. & Rosati L. (2011). Pervasive Information Architecture. Morgan Kauffman. (Edited by the authors).
  7. Dillon, A (2002). "Information Architecture in JASIST: Just where did we come from?". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 53 (10): 821–23. doi:10.1002/asi.10090.
  8. Wurman, "Introduction", in: Information Architects (1997). p. 16.


Further reading

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