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Today a friend of mine asked me if I knew the 8 principles of Information Architecture. I was surprised and I acknowledged that I did not. So I looked up in the web. I found the article from Dan Brown http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Aug-10/AugSep10_Brown.pdf talking about it.

Surprisingly if I was asked to talk about IA and things I should take care I too have come with the same list because this is what we practice in our daily bread earning work. Now I started my career as an Information Architect by reading – Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites. This was like a bible where is gist of IA is primarily 4-

  1. Organization of information
  2. Labelling of menu items
  3. Navigation within the site
  4. Search for content

So a set of 8 new principles came as a surprise but essentially they are very logical. You can get more details from the link above but in gist this is what it is-

1. Treat content as an object-It has a lifecyle, behavior and attributes. Content grow old and need to be updated. Contents which are links behaves differently than ones which are heading and finally content has attributes like topics associated with it. e.g a product name will have attributes like features, benefits, documents, support and how to buy

2. Have multiple front doors-With the growing importance of Google, it is very unlikely that people with entire the site only through the homepage. Hence the site should be able to guide users to navigate no matter what is their entry point

3.Multiple Choices-Provide users with multiple choice all focused towards a targeted task. In a website where you want your user to subscribe to your newsletter provide them choices to subscribe while they are looking for a product information, after they have seen a video or by presenting a big button near to a prominent position in the website.

4. Progressive disclosure-Users have very less patience. So to hold them and not overwhelm them bring out information slowly and based on their needs and requirements. Don’t brag about your great product right at the face.

5. Focused Navigation- Don’t mix navigation modes. If your site allows task based navigation follow it throughout. You may implement supplementary navigation based on topics but keep it supplementary and not mixed with the primary mode of navigation.

6. Growth- Expect the content of the site to grow over years. So make sure the information architecture allows expansion both horizontally and vertically. Never put product names in a tab. Once the number of products grow more than 5 you are in soup. I am waiting for apple.com to restructure as soon as they come with another product.

7. Multiple classification-Users will try to access information from your site with multiple objectives and multiple thoughts in mind. So try to match multiple mental models and classify content accordingly. Personas help creating these multiple classifications.

8.Citing examples-Instead of making users guess of the content within a link it is better to give a preview of what they are expected to see when they click on a link. For example if you have a link to a document in your site, try creating a thumbnail of it acts like a preview to the document. Users are more likely to click on the link than just plain old text for a link. Also I am sure you never write a link saying “for more details click here.”

Here are some interesting images related to Information Architecture I have loved over the years.

ExplainIA Entry: Information Architecture Conn...

ExplainIA Entry: Information Architecture Connects People to Content (Photo credit: murdocke23)

English: DOE Strategic Goals and Information A...

English: DOE Strategic Goals and Information Architecture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)