Definition: (Full disclosure, this is a made up word — but so worth defining) — The organic structure that emerges from an unwillingness to think about how to structure something.
Origin: This word was made up by foremost information architecture expert, Abby Covert. It emerged from her frustration with designers lack of emphasis on how products are organized.
Thoughts: I felt that this word was important to define because any UXer worth her salt should understand the importance of information architecture and how organization impacts all aspects of design and ultimately a product’s success.
Covert recently wrote an article on this very topic for the blog, A List Apart, and states,
We need to teach people that information architecture (IA) decisions are just as important as the look and feel of technology stack choices.
PSA: Don’t ever fall into a lacksonomy and forget that there is always a better and more succinct way to organize information. Your users will thank you for this; I promise.
Word: Top-down approach
Definition: An approach to information architecture that involves creating a site’s architecture directly from an understanding of product objectives and user needs.
Thoughts: This approach begins with the broadest possible categories for the content and strategy while still accomplishing the strategic goals. From there, the broad categories can then be broken down into more logical and specific subsections.
However, here is your word of warning… when using a top-down approach, important details can go overlooked so be mindful and proceed with caution and thoughtfulness (as I’m sure you already do).
Question: When is a top-down approach an ineffective strategy?
Word: Information Architecture
Definition: “The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.” – As defined by the Information Architecture Institute
Reference: Information architecture is performed by a variety of practitioners from specialized information architects themselves to more general UX researchers or even more broadly yet, UX/UI designers. However, and quite obviously, the disciplinary practice pulls from a variety of other subjects including library science, cognitive psychology, semiotics, cybernetics, discrete mathematics, and yes, even architecture. Information organization is not something that a UX designer should take lightly. Findability is an incredible component of what makes user experience so credible and invaluable to products, companies, and especially users.
Question: It is easy to see how an information architect is extremely important when organizing a site with a plethora of information (think of the nightmare it was to do Amazon’s IA). Is there ever a point when a site is too small for IA or IA does not need to be considered?