Chapter 5. The Anatomy of an Information Architecture

We are searching for some kind of harmony between two intangibles: a form which we have not yet designed and a context which we cannot properly describe.

Christopher Alexander

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • Why it’s important (and difficult) to make an information architecture as tangible as possible

  • Examples that help you visualize an information architecture from both the top down and the bottom up

  • Ways of categorizing the components of an information architecture so you can better understand and explain IA

In Part I, we discussed information architecture from a conceptual perspective. This chapter presents a more concrete view of what information architecture actually is to help you recognize it when you see it. We also introduce the components of an architecture; these are important to understand because they make up our palette. We’ll cover them in greater detail in Chapters 610.

Visualizing Information Architecture

Why is it important to be able to visualize information architecture? As we mentioned in Chapter 2, the field is abstract, and many who might conceptually understand the basic premise of information architecture won’t really “get it” until they see it and experience it. Also, a well-designed information architecture is invisible to users (which, paradoxically, is quite an unfair reward for IA success).

Because it’s highly probable that you’ll need to explain information architecture to several important ...

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