25 Theses of Information Architecture
For the record: These were written by me, Andrew Hinton, but were inspired by the input of all those who collaborated to form the beginnings of the IA Institute.
- People need information.
- More importantly, people need the right information at the right time.
- Without human intervention, information devolves into entropy and chaos.
- The Internet has changed how we live with information. It has made ubiquitous the once rare entity: the shared information environment.
- Shaping information to be relevant and timely requires specialized human work. Doing so for a globally shared environment that is itself made of information is a relatively new kind of specialized human work.
- This work is both a science and an art.
- This work is an act of architecture: the structuring of raw information into shared information environments with useful, navigable form that resists entropy and reduces confusion.
- This is a new kind of architecture that designs structures of information rather than of bricks, wood, plastic and stone.
- People live and work in these structures, just as they live and work in their homes, offices, factories and malls. These places are not virtual: they are as real as our own minds.
- Many people spend most of their waking hours in these spaces. As the numbers of physical workers decline and knowledge workers increase, more and more people will live, work, share, collaborate, learn and play in these environments for more and more of their lives.
- There is already too much information for us to comprehend easily. And each day there will only be more of it, not less. Inexorably, information drowns in its own mass. It needs to breathe, and the air it needs is relevance.
- One goal of information architecture is to shape information into an environment that allows users to create, manage and share its very substance in a framework that provides semantic relevance.
- Another goal of information architecture is to shape the environment to enable users to better communicate, collaborate and experience one another.
- The latter goal is more fundamental than the former: information exists only in communities of meaning. Without other people, information no longer has context, and no longer informs. It becomes mere data, less than dust.
- Therefore, information architecture is about people first, and technology second.
- All people have a right to know where they are and where they are going and how to get what they need. People naturally seek places that provide these essential needs. Any environment that ignores this natural law will attract and retain fewer people.
- The interface is a window to information. Even the best interface is only as good as the shape of the information behind it. (The converse is also true: even the most comprehensively shaped information is only as useful as its interface. For this reason, interface design and information architecture are mutually dependent.)
- Just as the Copernican revolution changed the paradigm for more than astronomy, the Internet has changed our paradigm for more than just technology. We now expect all information environments to be as accessible, as immediate, and as total.
- Just because information architecture happens mostly on the Internet today, it doesn’t mean that will be the case tomorrow.
- Information architecture accomplishes its task with whatever tools necessary.
- These tools are being fashioned by many people, including information scientists, artists, librarians, designers, anthropologists, architects, writers, engineers, programmers & philosophers. They all bring different perspectives, and they all add flavor to the stew. They are all necessary.
- These tools come in many forms and methods, including controlled vocabularies, mental modeling, brainstorming, ethnography, thesauri, human-computer interaction, and others. Some tools are very old, and some are very new. Most are still waiting to be invented.
- Information architecture acknowledges that this practice is bigger than any single methodology, tool or perspective.
- Information architecture is first an act, then a practice, then a discipline.
- Sharing the practice grows the discipline, and makes it stronger.
NOTE: I realized recently that I never actually posted this on my own site. So I’m remedying it now, but tucking it back onto a previous date (close to when it was posted at what was then AIFIA, but is now the Information Architecture Institute). I keep expecting someone to become horribly embarrassed of them at the IAI and hide them away, but at the moment the Theses still exist on their site.