Chapter 5. Organization Systems

The beginning of all understanding is classification.

Hayden White

What we’ll cover:
Subjectivity, politics, and other reasons why organizing information is so difficult
Exact and ambiguous organization schemes
Hierarchy, hypertext, and relational database structures
Folksonomies, tagging, and social classification

Our understanding of the world is largely determined by our ability to organize information. Where do you live? What do you do? Who are you? Our answers reveal the systems of classification that form the very foundations of our understanding. We live in towns within states within countries. We work in departments in companies in industries. We are parents, children, and siblings, each an integral part of a family tree.

We organize to understand, to explain, and to control. Our classification systems inherently reflect social and political perspectives and objectives. We live in the first world. They live in the third world. She is a freedom fighter. He is a terrorist. The way we organize, label, and relate information influences the way people comprehend that information.

As information architects, we organize information so that people can find the right answers to their questions. We strive to support casual browsing and directed searching. Our aim is to design organization and labeling systems that make sense to users.

The Web provides information architects with a wonderfully flexible environment in which to organize. We can apply multiple ...

Get Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 3rd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.