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 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.
Navigation that works should:
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.
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”
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.
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
Information-seeking behavior varies from situation to situation. Donna Mauer explores different ways in which users look for information and offers tactics for accommodating them.
Four Modes of Seeking Information and How to Design for Them – Boxes and Arrows
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)
I received a number of books for Christmas and I thought I would share a couple. I’m not one for book reviews but I’m sure some of the thoughts contained in these books will make it into later posts. I have hard time getting through my library of texts pertaining to Information Architecture, Experience Design, and the like. You have to be pretty dedicated to read from the beginning to end George Lakoff’s “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things” or even Sorting Things Out. These books just seem very dry. I have high hopes for Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability which at first glance looks well written with an easily digestible format similar to Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think”. Amazon describes the book better than I will as follows:
“How do you find your way in an age of information overload? How can you filter streams of complex information to pull out only what you want? Why does it matter how information is structured when Google seems to magically bring up the right answer to your questions? What does it mean to be “findable” in this day and age? This eye-opening new book examines the convergence of information and connectivity. Written by Peter Morville, author of the groundbreaking Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the book defines our current age as a state of unlimited findability. In other words, anyone can find anything at any time. Complete navigability.”
The other book, Ricardo Semier’s “Maverick” might also prove to be a good read and it’s a topic I’m quite interested in – how to transform your workplace. Here’s a long passage from the end of the book:
“To survive in modern times, a company must have an organizational structure that accepts change as its basic premise, lets tribal customs thrive, and fosters a power that is derived from respect, not rules. In other words, the successful companies will be the ones that put quality of life first. Do this and the rest – quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all – will follow. At Semco we did away with strictures that dictate the “hows” and created fertile soil for differences. We gave people an opportunity to test, question, and disagree. We let them determine their own futures. We let them come and go as they wanted, work at home if they wished, set their own salaries, choose their own bosses. We let them change their minds and ours, prove us wrong when we are wrong, make us humbler. Such a system relishes change, which is the only antidote to the corporate brainwashing that has consigned giant businesses with brilliant pasts to uncertain futures.”
“The typical information architect thinks about structure – how one item in a group relates to all the other items in the group and how that group relates to all other groups. In the early days of information architecture (IA), groups and their related items tended to be well defined. For example, in the heyday of e-commerce, an information architect translated a product catalog into a storefront on the Web. Today, these problems seem old hat.”
“Beyond the technology, however, Web 2.0 brings with it a shift in mind-set. Today, people trust online content that individuals publish more than they did in the early days of the Web. Many people now willingly share information—like photographs or favorite Web sites or wish lists—freely on the Web and see sharing this information as beneficial.”
I dislike the whole web 2.0 labeling and hype and his use of IA 2.0 seems unnecessary but this article does bring to light the fact that there is allot to think about in how IA responds to new mindsets and technologies. I wonder how long it will take for the concepts and practices introduced via sites like Flickr to percolate down through to those who control budgets and initiate projects in Taiwan. Somehow I think we haven’t hit IA 0.5 yet.
This article is from UXMatters, a new publication for user experience professionals.
Read: Information Architecture 2.0
Before I took an all too brief detour into sound and tangible interfaces I was really quite interested in information architecture – I spoke allot about the topic here in the hinterlands of Taiwan and tried to put into practice all the theory I learned. At that time their was a tremendous amount of discussion surrounding IA and a vast library of literature. Lately having regained my interest and with some work coming I have set out to absorb any or all the latest thinking on the subject. But browsing all my old IA haunts have brought up little in the way of discussion, at least when compared to a few years ago. All I found were news announcements for various IA summits. Has the online discussion stopped? Have information architects all been forced to become business development managers or gone back to being librarians? Have sites that popularized social tagging made the information architect obsolete?
I’ll keep wading through all the bs hype about web 2.0 and ajax in the hope that I find something new to read.
“I want to convince you that many of the ways we’re attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we’ve adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies.
I also want to convince you that what we’re seeing when we see the Web is actually a radical break with previous categorization strategies, rather than an extension of them. The second part of the talk is more speculative, because it is often the case that old systems get broken before people know what’s going to take their place. (Anyone watching the music industry can see this at work today.) That’s what I think is happening with categorization.”
Read: Shirky: Ontology is Overrated — Categories, Links, and Tags
Jason Fried of 37signals is making an interesting point, there is no common concise answer to what the terms means.
Three years ago I threw together this definition from various sources:
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.
These days I tend to believe “I don’t know, but I’m sure the information architect does” and “Information Architect (noun): title invented by web designers desiring a software engineer’s salary.”
Read: An exercise in clarity: Explain “Information Architecture” in 10 words or less
“We all grew up knowing about tags. We had tags in our clothes, we had them on our holiday presents, we played a game called tag, and some even used spray cans to tag their turf. All of these uses of tag have different meanings, but unless we understand the context and/or the person using the word tag we do not know what they mean. This can be a problem with tagging on the web, but like everything else there are two sides to the story and there are some great benefits from tagging, if it is done well.”
Read the article
This is a must read for anyone interested in information architecture.
“Hierarchical Folders have dominated info organization since they first appeared over 40 years ago. But in industry after industry, a strange thing is happening: hierarchy is under severe attack, and even dying out.”
Read: Google’s War on Hierarchy, and the Death of Hierarchical Folders. Found via Webword.
“America’s entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe’s biggest broadcasters – the BBC – is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it.”
“The BBC is indeed quietly getting way ahead of most other media companies.
I often talk about IA as a competitive advantage: the BBC gets that. (I shouldn’t define IA this broadly, but hey). They have consistent URI’s for every program ever made (working on it at least), they have API’s in the new BBC Backstage, they embrace RSS and let users play with their data. In other words: they architect their information with an eye towards the future. Long term metadata. Good URI’s. Open to users.
The big advantage the BBC has had is that it’s attitude towards information hasn’t been lead by vendor pitches, but by passionate and talented people for years. You can’t just buy that, or expect to catch up with that in a year or two. That’s IA as a competitive advantage.”
From IA as a competitive advantage on Wired News: The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth
“What is faceted navigation? It’s a way to browse information, or to refine long lists of search results, along multiple dimensions, aka facets. These are orthogonal lenses through which to view the world. For example, I might search for an expert by facets like name, project, company, or dates and more likely, by some combination of those facets, selected in any sequence.”
Go to the article
“To successfully communicate the characteristics of an information space, I needed an approach for creating easily understood diagrams. To be useful to my audience, the diagrams must communicate the “big picture”? of the website to stakeholders, while providing enough detail to be useful for the development team.”
Read:Site Diagrams: Mapping an Information Space
“Just finished a brief heuristic evaluation of a client site, basing part of my feedback on a set of questions that I find quite useful for just about every IA-related project. Every information architect should always have a set of favorite questions in their back pocket; they really do come in handy.”
From Jakob Nielsen’s – Alertbox comes: “Testing ever-more users in card sorting has diminishing returns, but you should still use three times more participants than you would in traditional usability tests.” Courtesy InfoDesign: Understanding by Design
“Card sorting is a technique that many information architects (and related professionals.) use as an input to the structure of a site or product. With so many of us using the technique, why would we need to write an article on it?
While card sorting is described in a few texts and a number of sites, most descriptions are brief. There is not a definitive article that describes the technique and its variants and explains the issues to watch out for. Given the number of questions posted to discussion groups, and discussions we have had at conferences, we thought it was time to get all of the issues in one place.
This article provides a detailed description of the basic technique, with some focus on using the technique for more complex site.” @ Boxes and Arrows.
From Adaptive Path comes another fine article “Six Steps to Better Interviews and Simplified Task Analysis”.
“I spend a lot of time helping clients conduct task analysis to form mental-model diagrams. When teams first start analyzing the interview transcripts they