What is Information Architecture?

It’s often hard to define abstract, rudimentary and ubiquitous practices. Design is one such example which I’d touched upon earlier.

Information Architecture (IA) belongs to a similar territory.

Information architecture is the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.

IA Institute

Information architecture models are everywhere — printed material, digital documents, websites and even physical spaces (not typically thought of as information). It wouldn’t naturally occur that someone might have worked hard to make sense of mess to enable understanding and use.

When it comes to defining information architecture, IAI’s take is a good start. It attempts to describe IA through a specific activity. Several online references take a similar approach i.e. describing IA as an activity that involves “drawing boxes”, arranging parts or organising, structuring, and labelling. This approach makes the definition a bit narrow and incomplete.

Instead, taking a broader approach here’s an attempt to define Information Architecture—

Information Architecture is the thoughtful, deliberate practice of achieving a shared mental model, and further applying it to make something understandable.

Thoughtful, because it involves shedding biases and unseeing things as they appear (or are presented).

Deliberate, because it involves making carefully considered and well-reasoned decisions.

Practice, because it involves application of principles, theories, tools and processes towards a purpose.

Shared, because it involves reaching parity in understanding of ideas and thoughts.

Mental Model, because it involves representing assumptions, structures and arrangements people carry in their minds.

Hope this adds to how we all understand IA.