What is information architecture?

Information architecture is a multi-disciplinary task that is often shared by multiple roles within an organization, such as UX designers, developers and content strategist. Whether you are a content strategist (to-be) or a UX designer, information architecture is a huge field where you can dive deep into various aspects.

An attempt to define information architecture

Because information architecture is a field which crosses multiple disciplines, it’s hard to narrow down an exact definition. The Information Architecture Institute, a non profit organization, defines IA by the following:

Information architecture is about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for, in the real world as well as online.

The core is structure (and from the 70s)

Following the definition, information architecture is the structure of information on- and offline. It should help users to understand where they are and where the needed information is located. As a content strategist you are diving into information architecture as soon as you take a look at content and try to structure it in a meaningful way.

The discipline of information architecture isn’t something new, it already began around the 1970s even before anyone knew what UX or content strategy is. The background also roots in fields such as architecture (of buildings) and library science.

With the rise of wearable devices, smartphones and the internet of things, information becomes ubiquitous. This highly connected life introduces new challenges such as information overflow. Information architects will be needed to make information findable and understandable.

Methods & tools

During our Information Architecture course by information architect & content strategist Roger Sheen at the Content Strategy Master programme of the FH Joanneum Graz, I have discovered various tools and methods which are used by information architects. In general, information architecture is a very creative discipline which should involve (user) research as well as analytical and strategic thinking.

Common tools and methods which are also often defined as deliverables for clients are for example:

  • Sitemaps
  • Taxonomies
  • Metadata
  • Wireframes
  • Content & data models
  • Navigation systems
  • Vocabularies
Creative Process
Information architecture is a creative discipline.

If you want to dive deeper into the matters of information architecture, I can highly recommend the followings books: