Information Architecture A-Z

Developing web-based multimedia poses a significant challenge for web designers as it requires an in-depth understanding of various aspects of Internet technologies, such as user requirements, hypertext navigation, bandwidth considerations, usability, and browser settings. Nonetheless, people now expect sophisticated websites with multimedia playing a central role in their online experience.

Role of the Information Architect
An Information Architect organizes a website so that users have a better online experience. In general, their main responsibilities are to: assign tasks to team members.

Difference between Usability and IA
“Though the terms Usability and Information Architecture are often understood to be the same thing, this is not true. Information Architecture focuses on how to design information. On the web, this involves reading text, labelling items, creating navigation systems, searching for data, using content and so forth.”

Creating User-Focused Site Designs
“For your site to succeed, arrange the content around the user’s needs. Many novice web designers underestimate the difficulty in designing an effective site structure, especially one that will be appreciated by novice and experienced users. Thus, before any coding starts, gather, sort and organize your content. The more time spent on this, the more success visitors will have on your site.”

What is Information Architecture
“This emerging field has become more prominent in recent years as websites have grown increasing complex and users demand more friendly navigation systems. Information Architects organize content, such as text, labels, graphics, and shopping carts, so that users can understand the site¡¯s content and do things faster on the site.”

Recommended Reading

Hot Text

Based on research into attention, attitude, cognition, interface, reading, and usability, this book tells you how to write for the Internet-FAQ’s, help, e-mail, marketing copy, press releases, news articles, electronic newsletters, Webzine articles, and your own resume. Get specific guidelines, before-and after-examples, case studies, resources, and personal advice from two real Web writers. Web Writing That Works

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

“It’s been well worth the wait! This much expanded second version provides a holistic perspective on information architecture 
¨C something that wasn’t possible earlier on when the concept was just beginning to be raised in the web space.I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make their ideas become real, and most importantly, of value to their end-user community.” — Mary Lee Kennedy, Microsoft





  • Automatic Categorization
    Selection of feature words and proper names that reflect the main topics of the text
    “Automatic text categorization is an important research area and has a potential for many text-based applications including text routing and filtering. Typical text classifiers learn from example texts that are manually categorized. In this paper we discuss the categorization of magazine articles with broad subject descriptors.”
  • Classification Society
    The CSNA is a nonprofit interdisciplinary organization whose purposes are to promote the scientific study of classification and clustering (including systematic methods of creating classifications from data), and to disseminate scientific and educational information related to its fields of interests.
  • Content Wire
    Magazine for using taxonomies in knowledge organization
  • “Taxonomy software can reduce our reaction time to make informed and timely business decisions based on knowledge and information contained within the unstructured data of an organization’s digital documents. This software helps us form ideas from information we didn’t know we had while revealing relationships and correlations that were submerged or lost in the depths of the ocean of information overload.”
  • Learning how to classify | How to classify content by Gerry McGovern “Design classification like it will be ‘written in stone.’ You don’t want to be changing your classification every six months. This will mean a lot of work and will create confusion.”
  • Finding the Flow in Web Site Search
    Marti Hearst, Jennifer English, Rashmi Sinha, Kirsten Swearingen, and Ping Yee. pdf or html
  • Hierarchical Faceted Metadata in Site Search Interfaces
    Jennifer English, Marti Hearst, Rashmi Sinha, Kirsten Swearingen, and Ping Yee PDF


Content Development


Controlled Vocabularies

  • A list of the terms used to categorize most of the records in the Creativity Based Information Resources Database at Buffalo State College, including a PDF.


Education and Online Courses

  • Master Degree in Information Architecture
    The IAKM Master’s degree requires 48 credit hours: 24 hours in the core and 24 hours within a concentration. The core program provides competencies in information technologies, information design, information seeking behavior, strategic planning, and information users and uses. Contact Sharon Edwards at The prospectus is at
  • Information Architecture Ecomp 308
    The class will focus on work world applications, structuring documents, briefings, websites, electronic interfaces, and electronic support systems. The class will appeal especially to technical writers, webmasters, designers, or records managers who are looking for integrative solutions to communications problems. Details at the USDA site:


  • Sarah Bidigare
    Assistant Coordinator, Research Information & Publications
    University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Forums and Mailing Lists



  • Information Architecture for Indexers
    “This article will start with a brief description of my background and expertise and will continue with the goals of this discussion. We will then explore the nature of information architecture (IA), including the importance of users, context and content. We will conclude with a discussion of one possible IA process.”

Information Retrieval

  • MIT Information Architecture Project
    This MIT project is collecting the design principles that create navigable information spaces. “What if we could explore information like we explore the world around us Humans have a rich awareness of location and situation that directs how we interpret and interact with our environment. The Information Architecture project seeks to create information spaces, where people will use this awareness to search, browse, and learn. In the same way that they navigate in the physical environment, they will navigate through knowledge. “
  • Information Retrieval Online text of a book by Dr. C.J. van Rijsbergen. “Information retrieval is a wide, often loosely-defined term but in these pages I shall be concerned only with automatic information retrieval systems. Automatic as opposed to manual and information as opposed to data or fact. Unfortunately the word information can be very misleading. In the context of information retrieval (IR), information, in the technical meaning given in Shannon’s theory of communication, is not readily measured”
  • Knowledge Interchange Format (KIF) DARPA project based format for exchanging pieces of knowledge bases. “Knowledge Interchange Format (KIF) is a language designed for use in the interchange of knowledge among disparate computer systems (created by different programmers, at different times, in different languages, and so forth).”

Information Architecture – as described by the experts

  • The Art of Information Architecture
    Aaron West introduction to one of the core tenants of IA: understand the problem, plan the solution, create the design.
  • Seven deadly sins

    Sin 1: Forgetting who your users are
    Sin 2: Not creating a flowchart
    Sin 3: Not organizing your content
    Sin 4: Not using consistent navigation
    Sin 5: Using unclear link colours
    Sin 6: Using the TITLE tag incorrectly.
    Sin 7: Not looking ahead.
    “Your site will change over time – you’ll want to add information, prune old pages, incorporate new technologies and tags, and perhaps give it a complete visual overhaul. The best way to handle such changes is to come up with a plan for growth now, while you’re in the early stages of design.
  • Scott Jason Cohen’s Curse of Information Design
    To many, the information architect seems redundant. If the project involves heavy back-end implementation, the system and user flow will already be determined. In terms of layout, a good visual designer will know not to make a page too damn cluttered. So why use an information architect and his unparalleled influence in creating the site
  • Mark Hurst of Creative Good
    “The main difference between information architecture and customer experience is the foundation of each. Customer experience is founded on empathy with, and understanding of, the customer. Information architecture, on the other hand, is based on an understanding of information. “


  • Real world examples of key wording in action, shows a wide variety of associated pictures with key words. This basic key word document from the Picture Agency Council of America (PACA) covers a lot of information in two pages.

Metadata and Searching

  • Finding the Flow in Web Site Search. Marti Hearst, Jennifer English, Rashmi Sinha, Kirsten Swearingen, and Ping Yee. pdf orhtml
  • Hierarchical Faceted Metadata in Site Search Interfaces
    Jennifer English, Marti Hearst, Rashmi Sinha, Kirsten Swearingen, and Ping Yee pdf
  • Look Before You Ask by David Wertheimer. “Let search remain to maximize your site’s usability, but tone down its presentation just enough to encourage a click or two. The goal is not to eliminate search as an option, but to expose the audience to an alternate, and possibly superior, mode of site navigation.
  • Digital Web Magazine New column called IAnything Goes, Jeff Lash takes an in-depth look at IA. The Age of Information Architecture


  • The Scorpion Project is a project of the OCLC Office of Research exploring the indexing and cataloging of electronic resources. Since subject information is key to advanced retrieval, browsing, and clustering, the primary focus of Scorpion is the building of tools for automatic subject recognition based on well known schemes like the Dewey Decimal System
  • Word Wranglers Examines the features and capabilities of leading classification products. “Automatic classification tools transform enterprise documents from “bags of words” into knowledge resources” Katherine Adams

Performance Improvement

  • An independent Webzine providing resources on Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) and Performance Centered Design.





  • Searching for Needles in a World of Haystacks Jamie Callan
  • Using Words to Search a Thousand Images
    Marti Hearst powerpoint  (10MB)
  • Flexible Search and Navigation using Faceted Metadata
    Marti Hearst at the Infonortics Search Engines Meeting powerpoint   (4.5M)

Site Design


Success Stories


  • Managing Taxonomies Strategically “Taxonomies are structures that provide a way of classifying things — living organisms, products, books — into a series of hierarchical groups to make them easier to identify, study, or locate. Taxonomies consist of two parts — structures and applications. Structures consist of the categories (or terms) themselves and the relationships that link them together. Applications are the navigation tools available to help users find information.”
  • Online Taxonomies Taxonomies are knowledge representation tools, typically used in natural and life sciences to understand, group and classify nature, like plants and animals.”
  • Automated Categorization of Web Sites “In this paper¡­we analyze the nature of web content and metadata and requirements for text features. We present an approach for targeted spidering including metadata extraction and opportunistic crawling of specific semantic hyperlinks. We describe a system for automatically classifying web sites into industry categories and present performance results based on different combinations of text features and training data.”
  • Practical Taxonomies Implementation of taxonomies to organize organizational knowledge.  “The only thing harder than finding any particular item of information may be finding it again” Sarah L. Roberts-Witt


As Usability is often referred to when discusing Information Architecture, we have included the following links… in no great order of preference!



Columns and Publications

Well Worth a Look