An Information Architecture Process

I found this process amongst a category of old files – it dates from about 2002 when I was working with librarians to rearchitect various corporate web systems at the time. I’m sure I must have written this outline as a way to communicate next steps – we loved the waterfall process back then.
  • Take all the content and features apart (analysis)
  • Then put it all back together again (synthesis)


  1. Create a complete listing of all content: Forget how content is produced, Political structures
  2. From the content audit, identify broad types of content
  3. Create core content attributes
    • All content is intended:
      • For someone (an audience)
      • Who is trying to do something (a task)
    • Identify intrinsic attributes of each content type
    • Start with some simple questions:
      • What is it? (White paper? Product review?)
      • Who made it? (Author)
      • When was it made? (Date Published)
      • Where was it made? (Location/Company Published)
      • What is it about?
      • What type of media?
  4. Subject Attributes
    • All content has a subject
    • Subjects exist independent of content
    • Subject attributes are highly specific to that subject
  5. Attribute Relevance
    • Prioritization based on persona(s)


  1. Taxonomy
    • Look for commonalities among attributes
    • Group like attributes into categories
    • Organize categories into hierarchies
  2. Primary and Secondary Structures
    • Multiple overlapping taxonomies are very common
    • Prioritize taxonomies by relevance
    • Make less relevant taxonomies secondary
  3. Final Relevance (to target) and labeling
  4. Verify with testing





Translated from :

Differences between Information Architecture and Information Design

Between the two names we have different concerns. Information architecture (IA) is primarily about cognition, how people process information and construe relationships between different pieces of information. Information design is primarily about perception, how people translate what they see and hear into knowledge.

Both require different skills. Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, but I sense that a majority of them display an orientation toward language. Information designers, on the other hand, tend to be oriented toward the visual arts. As a result, the majority of information designers come from exactly one discipline: graphic design.

Information architecture belongs to the realm of the abstract, concerning itself more with the structures in the mind than the structures on the page or screen. Information design, however, couldn’t be more concrete, with considerations such as color and shape fundamental to the information designer’s process.

Which I picked up many years ago from Jesse James Garrett.

Mobile Information Architecture: 4 different models

IA Mobile Navigation Models

Mobile devices have their own set of Information Architecture patterns, too. While the structure of a responsive site may follow more “standard” patterns, native apps, for example, often employ navigational structures that are tab-based. Again, there’s no “right” way to architect a mobile site or application. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the most popular patterns: Hierarchy, Hub & spoke, Nested doll, Tabbed view, Bento box and Filtered view.

Designing for Mobile, Part 1: Information Architecture. Via Small Surfaces

Principles of Successful Navigation

Navigation that works should:

  • Be easily learned
  • Remain consistent
  • Provide feedback
  • Appear in context
  • Support users’ goals and behaviors
  • Offer alternatives
  • Require an economy of action and time
  • Provide clear visual messages
  • Use clear and understandable labels
  • Be appropriate to the site’s purpose

Bullet points provided by Jennifer Fleming’s old but still relevant Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience (1998). I wore that book out reading and rereading on the bus ride to my main gig then.

An Interview with Jesse James Garrett

It’s unfortunate but not unexpected that the interview is viewable only in Windows Media (DevSource is basically a Microsoft mouthpiece), so if you are using a Mac don’t expect too much in terms of quality. It took me a few tries to get it to play and a few more to get through it. It’s still worth it.
“Jesse James Garrett is the “notorious” father of AJAX. You may not also realize that he’s also a writer, interface developer and designer, information architect, and experience strategist. He co-founded Adaptive Path in 2001, where he is now Director of User Experience Strategy. Garrett is the author of the popular book, The Elements of User Experience, and other groundbreaking works, and co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute.”
An Interview with Jesse James Garrett, the “father of ajax”

Does information need architects?

More on the “species”:
“… it was surprisingly hard to find someone willing to call herself an information architect. “I don’t like to call myself that because … ” was a common phrase used as people introduced themselves. Similarly, the question of the precise definition of information architecture was frequently raised and almost as frequently skirted. This is surprising at a conference whose attendance is booming and in a profession the value of which is clear and clearly increasing.
Nevertheless, the dividing line among information architects is real. One group tends more toward control and using expertise to create a structure that should work the same way for every user. The other tends more toward flexibility and enabling user interaction to determine the structure of the site and the content of the answers.”
Read the full article.

The Information Architect Species

A lighter look at what disciplines those who practice IA might have practiced before or in addition to becoming IA’s.
“Given that IA as a profession is really only about 10yrs old (or at least, that’s the figure I hear bandied about), it makes sense that *most* IAs have a ‘past life’ of one kind or another. This has got me to thinking that there are probably about six different species of Information Architect, based on the kind of professional past life they’ve had (nor not).”
Read The six species of Information Architect at disambiguity

(Garret IA) 描述信息结构和交互设计的图示词汇表

I don’t think I have linked to the Chinese version of JJ Garrett’s Visual Vocabulary in the past. Though not set in Big 5 this could use some promotion as more Taiwanese designers start to understand and utilize the fundamental building blocks of building web sites that IA is. Using a shared visual vocabulary such as this saves us time and effort.
“图表是网络应用开发团队(Web development teams)在沟通信息架构和交互设计方面最基本的工具。本文所讨论的是使用图表来描述系统时所要考虑的事宜、信息架构和用户交互设计时使用这些基本元素的要点,并且介绍这些元素的使用方法。”
Jesse James Garrett: Visual Vocabulary for Information Architecture (Chinese)