8 Principles of Information Architecture
Update: Brown has written this presentation up in the latest ASIS&T bulletin.
- We design structures: a set of relationships between concepts.
- Goal: to make those relationships explicit, meaningful, useful.
- Decide which are most important concepts (prioritize).
- Decide which relationships users are most interested in (prioritize)
- Describe how those relationships grow and flex to accomodate variation.
- Unified Theory of IA: to drive process - what makes a good principle?
- Agreement (on underlying concept)
- Interpretation (leave room for this)
- Internalization (make sense, can take in)
The 8 Principles
- Think about content model as a tangible object you can hold.
- Content can be classified in a number of ways:
- Relationships to other types of content (internal and external properties/connections)
- Content exhibits behaviors related to:
- Subject to rules.
Paradox of choice
- We can't decide if there are too many choices.
- Less is more.
- Expose digestible groups.
- Gradual revealing of information as requested by the user.
- Means of accessing additional information.
- Consider the different ways that a single piece/type of content will be exposed (different disguises/representations it will wear)
- Structure must be flexible enough to allow you to use those different representations where you need them.
- Visual or list-like examples.
- Category names don't necessarily speak for themselves.
- Structures need to include a rule for how to choose these examples to represent a category.
- iTunes = exemplars going horribly wrong!
- Netflix = MUCH better at successfully segmenting categories.
Multiple front doors
- Lots of access/entry points
- Because users often START experience deep within your site, have powerful search engines rendered homepages useless? 🙂
- Ergo: inside pages must be navigationally-useful without obscuring the content; regardless where you land.
- What parts of structure do I need to expose?
- Is there a meaningful bridge between current content and other parts of site?
- Structures must accomodate new content and new concepts.
- Danger of time-dependent snapshot of site architecture.
- Can you easily add new boxes/types of content?
Multiple classification schemes
- Content doesn't live in a single taxonomy
- Always think with multiple lenses
Navigation by function
- Don't use header, left, footer, etc. to describe navigation
- When designing navigation, label it meaningfully!
- Think about navigation as a Tool that serves various PURPOSES, such as:
- exploring related topics
- digging deeper into current topic
- escaping current topic
- filtering collection