Chapter 2. Defining Information Architecture

We say nothing essential about the cathedral when we speak of its stones.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • A working definition (or four!) of information architecture

  • Why it’s so hard to point to something and say, “that’s a great IA”!

  • A model for effective IA design

If you’re new to information architecture, at this point you may be wondering what this is all about. This chapter has answers for you! And if you have been working in one of the UX design disciplines for a while, you may be thinking, “But isn’t information architecture about making sitemaps, wireframes, and website navigation menus?” Well, yes—these are important elements of information architecture design. But there is much more to this story! In this chapter, we’ll give you a broader picture of what information architecture is—and isn’t.


Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by information architecture:

  1. The structural design of shared information environments

  2. The synthesis of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within digital, physical, and cross-channel ecosystems

  3. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability, findability, and understanding

  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape

Were you expecting a single definition? Something short and sweet? A few words that ...

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