A good way to understand what information architecture is, and the tasks associated with it, is to use an example of a familiar, existing web site, such as Amazon.com. Amazon is a content-heavy site that sells hundreds of items across many different sales categories. Site visitors need to be able to come to the site and find what they’re looking for.

Information architects are involved in the early planning stages of a site in these ways:

  • Some tasks are oriented toward user experience – understanding people who will use the system and the information in it – such as user interviews and personas.
  • Some tasks help the client plan and design the site navigation with site maps, and wireframes.
  • Additionally, information architects help organize and classify all the information in the site, using metadata and taxonomy.

The goal is to get the information into the site and manage it in such a way that users can get it out in a useful, practical, and easy way.

Some skills I use during the IA phase include: content inventories, analytics analysis, site mapping, content prioritization, paper sketching, wireframes, metadata and taxonomy. This list isn’t exhaustive, but should give you an idea of how I work. The exact tasks for a project are decided on given the time, budget, and research needs.

Want to learn more about information architecture? Read the Information Architecture and Taxonomy and Metadata articles.