Uses for Information Architecture

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Here are some of the places where Information Architecture is often crucial to the success of a system:

From architecture to implementation

The reason we apply these techniques is to gather the concerns of the various stakeholders into a neutral form. Often this helps because it allows decisions about the technical aspects of an implementation to be delayed until after we understand what the solution needs to achieve.

But there will come a time where the finely honed Information Architecture needs to be implemented in a real system. At this point the constratints, classifications and interactions have to be translated into one or more actual structures.

Data Models

The most obvious way that shape of information influences working systems is via the data model that is used.

A good Information Architecture does not define a data model, but it does describe some of the constraints that a workable data model must follow.

The creation of a good data model is more of an art than a science. There are no generic instructions that will automatically create a data model. However there are some general rules that will help in the early stages, each aspect usually defines a different entity, the different hierarchical levels may be mapped to different types or to a single underlying type with some other way to distinguish them.

The relationships usually map to attributes, however the cardinality must be considered. For example if the relationship is Many to Many most data modeling languages require an explicit description of how it is to be implemented.

Tagging Systems

There are many types of system that rely on "tagging" elements with a set of descriptive values. These may be selected from a defined set of approved values, selected from a set of values entered by the users or a combination of these.

The information architecture can obviously be used to define an initial set of tags that match the terminology and usage the potential users expect.

In addition the relationships can help to anticipate the likely combinations of tags. For example when entering tags some systems are able to suggest likely additional ones once a few have been entered. Alternately if the user selects combinations of tags that are unexpected this can cause additional checks to be carried out to ensure the selected values are what was intended.

Information Resources

Don't forget that many information resources

Documents, on-line

User Interfaces

Business Knowledge

Links to this page

The following pages link to here: Gathering Data, IA Best Practice, Implementing IA, Information Architecture

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