A Brief History of Information Architecture

Information architects are inveterate systems thinkers. In the Web’s early days, we were the folks who focused less on pages than on the relationships between pages. Today, we continue to design organization, navigation, and search systems as integral parts of the whole. Of course, the context of our practice has shifted. Increasingly, we must design for experiences across channels. Mobile and social are just the beginning. Our future-friendly, cross-channel information architectures need to address the full spectrum of platforms, devices, and media (Peter Morville).

The is a quote from The System of Information Architecture, the editorial of the current issue of the Journal of Information Architecture (Issue 2, vol. 3) — the same issue that has our “Brief history”. Morville clearly expresses the purpose of the reconstruction we have made in our paragraph.

In our perspective, the evolution of information architecture is characterized by a progressive widening of perspective, from the single page, to the website, to the system — a collection of several channels and devices that participate, from the user’s point of view, in the same experience. This roughly comes down to three identifiable movements:

  1. IA as a synonym of information design (Wurman), where the focus is on the single item or page
  2. classical IA (Rosenfeld and Morville), where the structure and navigation of the whole website become central
  3. pervasive IA, where the structure flows across channels.

Read A Brief History of Information Architecture at the Journal of IA.