Information architecture for a site defines how the data and subsequent interfaces are related. The relationships have to do with how the data in your site is organized, stored, accessed, grouped, labeled, and related to other data within your site. Therefore IA considers your site structure, interfaces, content, and data.
When you look at a site from the audience’s perspective, you see IA reflected in how the
- content on the pages is grouped, labeled, and organized
- content of the site is broken into site sections and subsections
- content in one section can appear seamlessly in another section
- content is tagged with keywords to help you find other related bits of information
- keywords are links to pages designed to navigate you to other pages that share that keyword
- navigation options change (or stay the same) depending on the topic of the page and the page content
- content on a page updates automatically when another part of the site gets new content
- URL path is configured (the use of words versus page numbers)
- audience and/or user are given multiple ways of doing or finding what she needs.
If you are using a content management system, information architecture is also present behind the website. Much of IA is seen in the relationships between data tables. For example,
- the user identification is related to the page
- the list of tags is related to different types of content
- one page is related to another page in a parent/child style relationship.
The requirements of your site are going to help you define what your architecture should be and how you should configure your content management system to support it. The art of information architecture is coming up with a structure or model that allows you to grow and change as your content grows and changes.