Information architecture (IA) is all about organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The idea is to help users find information and complete tasks efficiently. But what does that really mean?
Information architecture explained without technical terms
My friends often ask me what an information architect does? Actually, most of us use the basic information architecture (IA) principles every day. Good organizers know what they have in the fridge, keep count on birthdays of the nearest and the dearest, and always know where the keys are.
Decades ago, we used to have phone directories where we could find addresses and phone numbers. Current lifestyle and digitalization have changed the way we use and can organize data. In order to skip searching the same information all over again we often use mobile phone contacts, where all the necessary contact information on family, friends, colleagues, customers etc. can be stored. In today’s word mobile phone contact list is a better tool than heavy phone directory unless you can memorize all your contacts. You have the data available in one place all the time and the data can be easily updated and shared.
For example, you want to send a birthday card to your friend; you know when the birthday is and the correct address. If you ignore the information architecture principles, you might store addresses in multiple places, such as excel, WhatsApp messages, emails or even on paper. As a result, you may need to ask your friend the address again. That is bad information architecture. If you store all the contact information in one place, you can reuse and update information easily.
Just as in our daily lives, we use different kinds of systems in our daily work. Behind these systems lies data. Businesses need good quality data; information needs to be up-to-date and always at hand. An information architect knows what information company has, how it is used and participates in the design of new systems or developing business.
An information architect is the gatekeeper of the organization’s data – just like you are the gatekeeper of the data of your personal life.
The blog is written by QPR's Jurate Jurkko and Tarja Viantie.
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