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#08 - Information architecture

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Importance of information architecture

Information architecture helps us more than we think, many designers and engineers see it as a small part of the whole experience but it goes much further, it is very underrated itself.

Information architecture helps us to reduce and limit the complexities of a problem, to organize information coherently, to define information, properties and their relationships, and to establish hierarchies and different points of view.

Dan Klyn (2009) created a framework to ensure that this architecture was useful, relevant and authentic using taxonomies, ontologies and choreographies.

Ontology in information architecture

Ontology is about meaning, what that thing means, what it implies. If we talk about a horse for example, what does it mean? an animal horse? or a power horse? a steam horse? Here the context plays a very important role, and if we don't have it, we will have to play a little with creating either a more propitious environment or playing with the meaning and its lexicon. If we choose the animal horse, which horse? which breed?

Taxonomy in information architecture

Taxonomy refers to the structure between the last ones, to achieve either an objective within the context, or to reinforce the global context. This reinforces the integrity of the taxonomic structure, as long as it is both precise and scalable to change. If this horse is a thoroughbred (ontology), what is its taxonomy? We can refer to Herbivorous Animals or Breeds native to England, or Race Horses. Who said that context is not that important?

Taxonomy also considers classification and hierarchy; one is used to group data and the second to classify and rank according to their properties.

Choreography in information architecture

And finally, we have choreography, which are the interactions between ontologies and taxonomies, fitting them together and creating a single unit, the navigation experience. It is totally invisible if it is executed well, extremely satisfactory if it is optimized and strange and rare when it is executed badly.

The choreography is very much linked to the needs of the people who use your navigation, you can follow good practices, but you have to rely on its flow and understand it in order to create an optimal navigation interaction.

Are the interactions between the different taxonomic hierarchies well executed? It is not the same to first start with Animals > Horses what Horses > Animals.

Where are the other taxonomies in relation to this one, are they close or do you have to leave the context to access them? Information architecture is not just about creating a navigation menu.

A bad definition of ontologies creates a poor taxonomy, creating a choreography without rhythm.

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