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Introduction to information architecture

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1 Introduction to information architecture
I. What is information architecture? • Origins of IA II. Evolution of IA • IA in organizations • IA in the world III. Basic concepts and principles • Organization and order • Hypertext      • Navigation and labeling • Technical IA: infrastructures

2 I. What is information architecture?
A brief history of information architecture Resmini and Rosatiu provide a brief history and overview of IA and discuss its significance for our field IA has gone through at least three stages and is entering a fourth While IA has been linked closely to the web, changes in technology are driving IA in new directions ~ What changed when the focus of IA shifted from information design to information systems? ~ How does the work of the IA change in pervasive IA?

3 I. What is information architecture?
IA has a history that predates the web It is not a science and predates Wuhrman Definition: a professional practice and field of studies focused on solving the basic problem of accessing, and using, the vast amounts of information available today It is mainly a production activity, a craft It relies on an inductive process Also a set, or many sets, of guidelines, best practices, and personal and professional expertise Resmini, A. and Rosatiu, L. (2011). A brief history of information architecture. Journal of Information Architecture, 2(3).

4 I. What is information architecture?
IA and information systems Focus: solving information management problems within the larger business vision or logistic needs that drive organizations IA role is primarily an IT function whose main tasks are to enable consistent access to the correct data and help structure enterprise information assets Enabling the provisioning of the right information in the appropriate context to those who need it Holistic planning to meet organizational information needs and avoid duplication, dispersion, and consolidation

5 I. What is information architecture?
IA and Information systems 1964: IBM’s high level framing set the stage for IA by abstracting architecture from physical construction As conceptual structure and functional behavior Distinguishing organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation 1970: XeroxParc - technology to support the “architecture of information” Led to a focus on HCI and user-centered technologies The first PC with a user-friendly interface, laser printing, the first WYSIWYG text editor

6 I. What is information architecture?
IA: the components of the information infrastructure that take the business model and component business processes and deliver IS that support them Data architecture, the systems architecture and the computer architecture Data connections, bandwidth, costs, server topology, and storage limits are part of IA Connects IA to the strategic company thinking Many design deliverables are picked up by Rosenfeld and Morville in 1998 Blueprints, requirements, information categories, wireframing, business strategy and processes

7 I. What is information architecture?
IA as information design Richard Wuhrman introduced IA in 1975, thinking about the role of information urban planning and design Used an architectural metaphor to describe the need to transform data into meaningful information for people to use Information as instructions for organizing space It involves the creation of systemic, structural, and orderly principles to make something work The thoughtful making of either artifact, idea, or policy that informs because it is clear

8 I. What is information architecture?
From a speech in 1976; an “information architect is: 1) the individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear 2) a person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their personal paths to knowledge 3) the emerging 21st century professional occupation addressing the needs of the age focused upon clarity, human understanding, and the science of the organization of information.” Wuhrman, R.S. and Bradford, P. (eds). (1996). Information Architects. Zurich, Switzerland: Graphis Press.

9 I. What is information architecture?
IA as information science Promoted by Rosenfeld and Morville's “We both believed the Internet would become an important medium and that librarians had a great deal to offer this brave new world of networked information environments” Used the architecture metaphor to highlight the importance of structure and organization in web design Departed from Wurhman’s design approach Organization, labeling, navigation, and search were the touch points around which they structured their practice

10 I. What is information architecture?
“…while some folks adhered to the Wurman definition, we became evangelists of the LIS … school of information architecture. We argued passionately for the value of applying traditional LIS skills in the design of websites and intranets. We hired ‘information architects’ and taught them to practice the craft. We embraced other disciplines, integrating user research and usability engineering into our process. And, along the way, we built one of the world’s most admired information architecture firms.” Morville, P. (2004). A brief history of information architecture. In Gilchrist, A. and Mahon, B. Information Architecture: Designing information environments for purpose.

11 I. What is information architecture?
Goal: help people find and manage information more successfully Organization systems: the ways content can be grouped Labeling systems: what you call those content groups Navigation systems: help you move around and browse through the content Searching systems: help you formulate queries that can be matched with relevant documents IA as the design of taxonomies, menus, and structures is mainstream and most accepted view of what the field is

12 I. What is information architecture?
IA as pervasive Web 2.0 blurs producers and consumers Technological change: new affordances and personal mobile devices and home appliances are redrawing the boundaries of computing Social change: how we interact, the data we need How we allow ourselves to be distracted by the information we receive New problems need to be addressed and IA is moving into new territories How will this change IA?

13 I. What is information architecture?
IA as pervasive One possibility: addressing the design of information spaces as a process Opening up a conversation with ubiquitous computing and service design A boundary practice whose contributions are crucial Exploring the complexity, unfamiliarity and information overload that stand in the way of the user, regardless of the very nature of the environment being designed

14 I. What is information architecture?
IA has become more significant as an activity and a profession since 2000 ASIST sponsored the first IA conference in 2000 and it has become a prime meeting place for IAs The Asimolar Institute for Information Architecture (AIfIA) was formed in 2003 There is no credentialing, but there are IA grad programs Kent State has an IA masters, we have a post-masters certificate program Professionals come from LIS, HCI, web design, technical writing

15 I. What is information architecture?
What is IA? The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within an information system The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content The art and science of structuring and classifying web sites to help people find and manage information An emerging discipline and community of practice focusing on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape

16 I. What is information architecture?
Dillon and Turnbull’s definition IA is the term used to describe the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating information spaces that are humanly and socially acceptable to their intended stakeholders They argue that it is a craft IA creates as it produces, reacting to emerging elements of its own design to drive subsequent modifications How can the field achieve and maintain professional status? Dillon, A. and Turnbull. D. (2005). Information architecture. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.

17 I. What is information architecture?
Big IA: the process of designing and building information resources that are useful, usable, and acceptable Covers user experience and organizational acceptance of the resource Top down: treats the full product and its human or organizational impacts Little IA: a more constrained activity designing metadata and controlled vocabulary of information organization Not involved in analyzing the user response or the graphical design of the information space Bottom up: does not deal directly with or evaluating formally the user experience of the resulting space

18 I. What is information architecture?
IA practice Understanding the information as content and shaping its organization and access Building abstract associations between units of content Developing browsing and searching functionality Designing the graphics, interfaces, and interaction techniques to allow users to access the body of information IA: the complete process of design with specific methodologies for managing deployment of resources and sequencing of deliverables

19 I. What is information architecture?
IA research The study of navigation and how people find what they are looking for in an information space The perception of information shape or the emergence of web genres and their exploitation for design The interaction between various structural forms of information space and the user Search behavior and the design of efficient search mechanisms IA should have a future: a world of digital information will need people to architect spaces to share, collect, and organize documents and resources

20 Introduction to information architecture
I. What is information architecture? • Origins of IA II. Evolution of IA • IA in organizations • IA in the world III. Basic concepts and principles • Organization and order • Hypertext      • Navigation and labeling • Technical IA: infrastructures

21 II. Evolution of IA Complexity and the practice of web information architecture Burford uses a grounded theory approach to argue that web IA in organizations is a complex adaptive system She studies web work in seven organizations to provide empirical examples of actual practices of information organization and find that the work is deeply contextual and characterized by compromise and negotiation ~ If the authors are correct in there findings, what happens to the possibility of best practices for IA? ~ If you were a corporate IA, how would the Cynefin framework affect your work?

22 II. Evolution of IA A website will have an information structures regardless of whether an organization consciously implements a process for web IA The ability of website users to find information is paramount and enabled by attention to information design Effective online information structures are a vital organizational asset and source of competitive advantage Rosenfeld and Morville offer a systematic evolving structured methodology for the practice of web IA Burford, S. (2011). Complexity and the practice of web information architecture. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(10),

23 II. Evolution of IA The web’s growth and development and the ease of participation in website publishing by multiple organizational stakeholders introduce challenges A website serves multiple audiences leading to goal conflict between organizational subunits with different target customers IA practices vary greatly across organizations Web IAs require a broad set of skills and expertise: research, design, evaluation, coordinating ` stakeholders, and project management Issue: how to structure information in a new information environment without established traditions and practices

24 II. Evolution of IA Debate: can there be systematic approaches with best practices to the design of online information spaces? Rosenfeld and Morville offer a systematic evolving structured methodology for the practice of web IA U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a set of web development guidelines But Spool and Nielsen claim that a website’s deep information structures require contextual, dedicated, and creative information design activity that cannot be standardized in the form of guidelines

25 II. Evolution of IA Describes research that examined the practice of web IA in large organizations. Seven large organizations were investigated and data analyzed for emerging themes and concepts Five patterns emerged 1. Provisional information structures Web information is tightly coupled to both business activity and the involvement and vested interest of business stakeholders Unpredictable and frequent change to its web information structures happens in large organizations

26 II. Evolution of IA Provisional information structures The business stakeholder with no IA expertise has a sense of ownership of process and outcome and brings a urgency to the project Web IAs find themselves working quickly to respond to business request for changes Agile changes are demanded on many levels (frequent small and less-frequent large scale changes) Issue: the public-facing website of an organization demands a level of responsiveness not expected of traditional information structures such as a DBor formal and standardized taxonomy

27 II. Evolution of IA 2. Concessions to best practice IAs develop their own contextual ways of working that are not best practices or prescribed methodologies Participants reported using a range of prescribed methods as they suit the circumstances. Ongoing adjustments to work practices, at times, are at odds with recommended or “best” work practices The work and outcomes of IA in its situated contexts involves compromise - best practices and methods cannot always be accommodated The work is characterized by pragmatism

28 II. Evolution of IA 3. Experts and novices: The IA of the website of a large organization is constructed by experts and novices IA expertise is frequently used for major redesigns and is located in dedicated IAs employed centrally within the organization or consultant IAs With limited resources, central web IAs encouraged self-reliance among stakeholders in the creation of devolved web information structures Novices conduct IA, without training or experience, incorporating web work with other duties, on the lower tiers of the enterprise website

29 II. Evolution of IA 4. Timing and opportunity: Business readiness is an essential factor in successfully attending to a website’s information structures. IAs develop a sense of timing and learn to wait until conditions are favorable for large-scale web IA work If an IA project is initiated and driven by central web staff without buy-in from the business unit, it is more likely to fail At times, an identified and much needed change to the website proved to be difficult to negotiate and to enact a large organization

30 II. Evolution of IA 5. Practice and projects: Project approaches to are frequently adopted in but can’t easily adapt to situated realities of practice The business driven volatility of information structures challenges project outcomes and optimal project-based designs meet resistance due to lack of content IAs reported that large-scale redesigns had been done using the Morville and Rosenfeld project methodology There is tension between the business drivers for changes to the web IA and the need to protect the project outcomes

31 II. Evolution of IA What we learn IA practice in large organizations involves compromise, negotiation, and responsiveness to meet the volatile requirements of an organization in its use of the web to inform its clients Business stakeholders demand immediacy IA occurs in environments that defy the existence of stable, long-term information structures Rapid creation and multiple, interacting issues and influences are key characteristics of the business use of websites

32 II. Evolution of IA Cynefin framework: the environment in which web IA is practiced influences the approach taken Challenges the belief that all things, with enough time and effort, can be ordered “Known” quadrant: a place of order and logic where standard categories and processes are common Formal and standardized taxonomy developmenbt characterizes IA work “Knowable”: laws of cause and effect are still in place but are less obvious A set of analytical processes, expert input and time and resources are required for problem resolution

33 Regions of order on the right and unorder on the left
II. Evolution of IA Regions of order on the right and unorder on the left Unorder: the paradox of the lack of order within emergent order or a form of order that is not directed or controllable Burford (2011; 2033)

34 II. Evolution of IA Complex” and “Chaotic” exist without obvious laws of cause and effect “Chaos”: difficult to make sense or achieve solutions The environment is too turbulent and IA actions should reduce the confusion and instability “Complexity”: the nature of interacting components and their relationships cannot be fully known or defined The construction of information structures to shape web delivery of business information involves negotiation, imperfection, rapid response, and provisionality Within this aspect of web IA complexity arises

35 Introduction to information architecture
I. What is information architecture? • Origins of IA II. Evolution of IA • IA in organizations • IA in the world III. Basic concepts and principles • Organization and order • Hypertext      • Navigation and labeling • Technical IA: infrastructures

36 III. Basic concepts and principles
The information architecture of behavior change websites Danaher et al. explore the uses of web sites by medical professionals to promote changes in behaviors They argue that different IA schemes produce different results when presenting behavior change strategies developed in office or clinical settings on the web ~Is it possible for a web site and its contents to be a stimuli for behavioral change? Why? ~Should IAs develop different types of site structures for different types of behavior change?

37 III. Basic concepts and principles
They are taking a pragmatic approach to IA How can the web be used to deliver effective behavior change programs? They argue that IA is a critical component, especially the structure of the web site Assume: different site designs can be be matched with different behavior change goals IA plays a role in web-based behavioral interventions Research question: how much change is due to the strategies and how much to the site IA? Danaher, B.G., McKay, H.G. and Seeley, J.R. (2005). The information architecture of behavior change websites. Journal of Medical Internet Research 7(2).

38 III. Basic concepts and principles
Information organization IAs work with two kinds of systems for organizing information Organizational and structural systems What are the different ways in which digital content can be organized? What kinds of structural arrangements facilitate access and use? Navigation and labeling systems What are the relationships among the chunks or containers?

39 III. Basic concepts and principles
Structures that make a difference in behavioral change The free-form matrix design that offers little information structure Most pages are linked to each other Maximum content Freedom of movement but at the cost of getting lost Good for small sites and experienced users J Med Internet Res Apr-Jun; 7(2): e12.

40 III. Basic concepts and principles
Structures that make a difference in behavioral change A hierarchical design that provides the user with information arranged in an organized fashion Top down allowing review of increasingly detailed content Information is chunked Effective searching through drilling down Reduces confusion J Med Internet Res Apr-Jun; 7(2): e12.

41 III. Basic concepts and principles
Structures that make a difference in behavioral change A tunnel design that defines a narrow path with a predefined series of steps Designer attempts to control user interaction Good for accomplishing tasks (buying, booking) May be good for learning May reduce anxiety and encourage dialog J Med Internet Res Apr-Jun; 7(2): e12.

42 III. Basic concepts and principles
Structures that make a difference in behavioral change A hybrid design composed of a combination of modules that have their own IA design Allows exploration of content (engage in discovery learning) while maintaining focused forward movement More freedom of movement with more constrained options Richer experience J Med Internet Res Apr-Jun; 7(2): e12.

43 III. Basic concepts and principles
Let’s get crazy J Med Internet Res Apr-Jun; 7(2): e12.

44 III. Basic concepts and principles
Organizational/structural systems Creating the high level information architecture of a site Developing major categories of information and creating relationships among them One way to represent a web space is a “wireframe” It is a skeletal rendering of every click-through possibility on your site A text-only “action,” “decision” or “experience” model It depicts the flow of specific logical and business functions and identifies entry and exit points users see on the site

45 III. Basic concepts and principles
This process is done before the actual design begins It is not concerned with design, navigation, content or developers’ and designers’ concepts of how to produce the site A wireframe begins with “what” and “action” questions: What is the purpose of this page? What does a visitor do at this point? Where can a visitor go from here? You ignore questions about what the site looks like

46 III. Basic concepts and principles
The wireframe provides a complete text-only schematic of the site It displays the business logic and user functionality efficiently This is kept separate from all other issues A clean wireframe makes the development of the prototype much easier It can be done on paper It can also be done on the web People can easily see the organization and structure

47 III. Basic concepts and principles
A wireframe for SLISWeb: Site view III. Basic concepts and principles Home A1 A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 A7 A8 A9 A10 A11 A3.1 A3.2 A3.3 A3.4 A3.5 Key: Home A3: Programs A3.1: MIS A3.1.3: Current curriculum A : New curriculum A3.1.1 A3.1.2 A3.1.3 A3.1.4 A3.1.5 A

48 III. Basic concepts and principles
A wireframe for SLISWeb: Page view III. Basic concepts and principles Branding logo Search Nav links Faculty Graphic Link News links Dean’s message Apply Address footer

49 III. Basic concepts and principles
Organizing information Classify, label, and catalog content for easy navigation Deal with ambiguity and heterogeneity Clear language is essential, especially for major section headings Present information with varying degrees of granularity (resolution) Different types of information may be side by side (links to articles and journals) Links may lead to single pages or groups of pages Information may also be available in varying formats

50 III. Basic concepts and principles
Ontology research and development. Part 1 - a review of ontology generation Ding and Foo argue that ontologies are an important way to improve information organization and review relevant research projects Ontologies are representations of shared conceptualizations of phenomena or domains that allow the communication of heterogeneous information ~The authors argue that ontologies will be crucial to the semantic web. Do you agree? Why? ~Why is is important that ontologies are reusable?

51 III. Basic concepts and principles
Ontologies are important in IA work They are shared understandings of common domains Set of classes or concepts These concepts have relations, functions, axioms, instances It is formal (machine readable) and explicit They capture the consensual knowledge of a community Allow the transfer of heterogeneous information Ding, Y. and Foo, S. (2002). Ontology research and development. Part 1 - a review of ontology generation Journal of Information Science, 28(2),

52 III. Basic concepts and principles
Ding and Foo 2002; 124

53 III. Basic concepts and principles
An ontology is a reference model for a domain It provides a consistent standard and is reusable In the semantic web, they act as metadata representing the semantics of data Typically created by hand so they are hard to update There is work on automated ways to generate them Top down: generalization to specialization Bottom up: specialization to generalization Middle out: important concepts to generalization and specialization

54 III. Basic concepts and principles
1. Identify purpose and scope 2. Create the ontology Ontology capture: identify and define key concepts and relationships Ontology coding: settle on basic terms (class, entity, relation) Choose a representation language and write code Integrate existing ontologies 3. Evaluation 4. Documentation and guidelines for each of the previous phases

55 III. Basic concepts and principles
The final resulting ontology should be clear with unambiguous definitions and terms Consistent and coherent Externally consistent Extensible and reusable Designed for reuse and extensibility

56 III. Basic concepts and principles
Another example

57 III. Basic concepts and principles
When ontologies don’t work… Searching becomes difficult Usability is affected alertbox/9605.html

58 III. Basic concepts and principles
Making use of ontologies in IA Labeling and navigation The way the information is organized affects the way that people understand it Organization is also important because it affects labeling and navigation The basic task is to classify the site’s content into categories and develop links among the categories What are the shared characteristics of site’s content? How are sets of characteristics related? What is the best way to represent these sets?

59 III. Basic concepts and principles
Folksonomy: an ontology created by many people who are active in the domain Collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and inks Allows classification and retrieval Metadata can be applied by professionals, creators, or users The last is the most chaotic and becoming more popular

60 III. Basic concepts and principles
Information architecture for digital libraries Simon describes three different IAs used in working DLs They vary on the degree of centralization involved and the types of technical infrastructures developed This approach is an example of the information systems approach to IA ~ What are the strengths and weaknesses of Simon's approach to IA? ~ How does it differ from Rosenfeld and Morville's version?

61 III. Basic concepts and principles
Basic questions What exactly is a DL? What standards and technologies are utilized by DLs? What role does interoperability play? Can the emerging discipline of IA provide guidance? Goal: survey of DL that explores IA models mainly from a technology standards perspective DL: a resource–discovery service that extends the range and reach of physical and/or electronic resources in a digital environment Simon, S.J. (2008). Information architecture for digital libraries. First Monday, 13(12).

62 III. Basic concepts and principles
Common elements of DL: It is not a single entity It requires technology to link multiple resources The linkages between DLs and information services are transparent to the end users Universal access to DLs and information services is a primary goal DL collections are not limited to document surrogates They extend to digital artifacts that cannot be represented or distributed in printed formats

63 III. Basic concepts and principles
Standards are important in architectures in which communications between systems are necessary Knowledge of standards and how they interoperate are essential to understand DL architectures Functional units or layers: the physical, data-link, Internet, transport, and application layers of hybrid TCP/IP–OSI These layers are open standards that promote interoperability between hardware and software Use a modular design approach that subdivides architectural components into independent modules that address specific tasks .

64 III. Basic concepts and principles
Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) A standardized architecture that enables diverse computer systems to communicate effectively An open, vendor independent specification for an architecture and infrastructure for interoprerability Web services Interoperable building blocks for constructing application A new form of Web application that is self–contained, self–describing, modular, and can be published, located, and invoked across the Web

65 III. Basic concepts and principles
University of Michigan Digital Library Project A decentralized architecture based on the notion of a software–agent Agents are elements of a DL collection or service and are highly encapsulated pieces of software Autonomy: agents both compute something and determine preferences They can reason about how they use their resources Only fulfills services consistent with its preferences Negotiation: autonomous agents negotiate with other agents to gain access to resources or capabilities

66 III. Basic concepts and principles
Networked Computer Science Reference Library A federated digital library based on an open architecture A set of services, each with a well–defined protocol that specifies the interface to that service A common infrastructure supporting multiple services Mechanisms for interoperability among library systems that may not share the same service decomposition Key services: repository, index, collection, user interface More than 100 institutions provide a federated DL for CS materials in the form of individual collections and accompanying library services

67 III. Basic concepts and principles
Distributed National Electronic Resource Developed in the UK by the Joint Information Systems Committee as an international DL test bed Features a variety of quality–assured electronic and physical resources A service–based architecture accesses content in local collections, JISC collections available through content providers, and external proprietary collections Three high-level activities: discovery, access, and use Uses portals, brokers, aggregators and content providers

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