Information Architecture and Web Design: first thoughts

First assignment, January 18, 2014

Dan Brown’s article, Eight Principles of Information Architecture, does a fairly thorough job of laying out the definitions, assumptions and principles of information architecture (Brown, 2010). He also provides a useful framework for how one might use the principles in an actual information setting.

I will come back to the Brown article in a moment.

Morville and Rosenfeld provide a crisp, clean set of definitions for information architecture, before proceeding to deconstruct it, thereby revealing its true “architecture.” Information architecture, according to Morville and Rosenfeld, is four “things.” It is structural design of shared information spaces, it is the aggregation of several functions (organization, identification, search, navigation and possibly many others) inside websites and intranets, it is the “art and science” of designing elements for usability and findability, and it is the developing discipline and community of practice for utilizing design and architectural principles to understand and use digital space (Morville&Rosenfeld, 2007). And, they counter, information architecture is NOT graphic design, software development, usability engineering, and a number of specific areas/disciplines related to internet and web technology and design. Glad we cleared that up!

Information architecture is necessary because, as alluded to by Morville&Rosenfeld, by Brown, by Parandjuk, and by our class notes, we live in an information environment, one that requires order and harmony, with dwelling units that are well-constructed, consistently and uniformly arranged, with proper navigation so we can move around from place to place with ease, comfort, confidence, trust, and a sense of well-being. That, in a word explains why we need information architecture.

Now, getting back to Brown’s article, I sensed an immediate connection between Brown’s eight principles of information architecture and Ranganathan’s five laws of Library Science that we covered in LSC 557, a correspondence between the eight and the five. I will have to save the full exposition of another occasion.

Comment: I also sensed Morville&Rosenfeld’s sort of deconstruction with reference to the IA profesionals at a conference. And I found a slight contradiction in Parandjuk’s top-down use of controlled vocabularies (taxonomy) and bottom-up user-generated metadata to ensure multiple findability. In a way it is sort of post-modern, I guess, a sort of simultaneous effort to dismantle the elements of modern librarianship and information hierarchy coupled with the celebration of counter-principles of networked, gap management facing a constant process of information expansion and transformation.

Comment: One may even argue that having lots of options is often problematic across the board, as alluded to by Brown’s mention of Schwartz’ paradox of choice. There is, on the one hand, analysis paralysis from actually attempting to choose between too many options, unsuccessfully, and, on the other hand, inaction inertia (I think that is how Schwartz describes it) as the inclination to avoid regret from the wrong choice results in no action at all. But that sort of takes us off the subject… Sorry.

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