Thoughts on the Definition and Community of IA

Peterme goes deeply into the issue of defining the damn thing.

I argue for a more focused definition of information architecture, something of a cross between Argus' "Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully," and Jesse James Garrett's "Stuctural design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content." The Argus definition comes from a library background, and Jesse's from journalism. Both, though, are focused on finding, managing, retrieving, accessing, and understanding content and/or information. And, I think, both implicitly acknowledge the Web/networked/online nature of the practice.

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Now, I do think having an umbrella discipline and term is important, because it's clear to everyone that information architecture, as I'm defining it here, is a facet of a much larger activity of designing a complex, information-rich tool/space/whathaveyou for others' use. And I think we've already got that umbrella discipline -- "user experience." A term that's been around since at least 1991, and defined to address the design of all elements that touch a user of a designed system.

I think it's foolhardy to have information architecture == user experience (as many have argued), because then it glosses over the very real problem of designing information spaces to facilitate access and understanding, a problem which clearly deserves its own label.