The development of technologies can introduce significant changes in the daily lives of people. The payment of bank accounts, online shopping, and the order of new equipment from the other end of the world serve as examples, but these are merely the tip of the iceberg. The creation of multimedia platform allows students to obtain an education in practically any field, including music, medieval poetry or microbiological science. A huge flow of historical, political, social, linguistic, scientific and, of course, entertainment information, is available 24 hours a day in such volumes that the human brain is not able to provide physically. To some extent, that reflects the hidden meaning of virtual networks, which are able to accumulate heavyweight data in innumerable boundless expanses. Besides the fact that information is collected, accumulated and stored, no doubt, it is also used. At the moment, there are many approaches that allow for finding and accessing this or that information. Nevertheless, a person, being in a virtual environment, sometimes feels some discomfort or simply experiences inconveniences when using of it. This happens for many reasons, among which are the congestion, a lot of unnecessary, unrelated to the topic information, inconvenient location of the used instruments, poor graphic design and structure of the site or its practical absence or due to an insufficiently developed management system. In response to this, the specialized field of information architecture has emerged, and it is used in the programming, the set design and related to it subjects.
The term “information architecture” first appeared in 1976 (Brand, 1995), having been coined by the American designer and architect Richard Saul Wurman. In one of the answers to the questions, he explained that such a phenomenon as the vast amounts of data generated by contemporary society has led to an unprecedented boom in information. Appropriately, such a process requires that the data be structured properly in order to implement the architecture, a series of specific systems, design tools that will measure, analyze and control all this. Soon, the solution in the form of information architecture acquired the status of definition and modified in whole direction that combines many disciplines at once and many currents. Wurman is most famous for having created the popular platform for presentation of thoughts, ideas, projects of extraordinary personalities and people, who are not only experts in their field, but often innovators and pioneers. This platform, called TED, which means Technology, Entertainment and Design, was first introduced in 1984. This platform enables multiple users to share their experiences with the general public, often drawing attention to non-profit, but socially and globally sensitive projects. Wurman has a degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he is the owner of numerous awards in various fields, including Arthur Spayed Brooks Gold Medal.
Information architecture embodies the idea of a complex interaction, involving in the information field not only architecture, but also everything that can be useful and serve for the benefit of development. Thus, Wurman created the so-called “Access series of travel guidebooks”, which were designed to familiarize vacationers with famous cities in the world. In the frames of this project, information architecture tools were used for writing the book “Twin Peaks Access” in collaboration with director David Lynch, which has constructed a new branch of the direction with more ambitious and sharp level of public perception. Wurman is an author of over 80 books, most of which deal with information architecture. At the moment, he is engaged in the project called 19.20.21, which is aiming to standardize the measurement tools for a deeper understanding of architecture and structure of cities.
Later, the Information Architecture Institute was founded, uniting professionals in the field of programming and computer technology. The Institute is a non-profit organization, and one of the most famous and biggest communities of virtual technologies. In includes 1200 members in 60 countries who are engaged in the development of new computer software and the introduction of tools to simplify web work. In addition, the organization offers volunteer opportunities for cooperation, takes proposals and initiatives, supports startups, implements grant programs and more.
“Information architecture” has many meanings, and there is still general debate around this concept, as it is involved in a too wide range of sciences. Thus, the Information Architecture Institute defines this phenomenon through the prism of the three main functions, including:
- The development of a structured design in the sphere of common information field.
- Art and sciences, which study the organization and marking of social networks, communities, websites, software and support modifications in order to improve the stability and usability.
- Formation of community that allows for transferring of all of the major architectural and design principles into the digital space.
Despite on this, the concept is often used in other areas, giving to it a completely different implication. However, many experts have their own understanding of information architecture. For example, Jesse James Garrett notes that information architecture includes a set of solving a plurality of problems, but the vast task is the simplification of communication systems. Andrew Hinton emphasizes that information architecture fills any web structure, whether it is entertainment community, such as Flickr or archive of scientific literature. Regardless of the content quality of the site, the architecture makes it possible to use it most easily and without limiting freedom and by giving the user a choice. Frequently information architecture is confused with such disciplines as graphic design, front-end development or web designing. In fact, all these areas have extremely close relationships, but each of them is focused on specific transformations and cannot replace the other. Graphic design and web design are considering the digital space in terms of textures, colors, fonts, tones, images and graphic elements. In contrast, information architecture deals with more global and objective questions by examining the way that the user overcomes during his or her search of the necessary data. It accelerates and facilitates the movement of the flow, making it more natural. In addition to this, it aims to develop the proper software for cataloging the information and analysis of results. There is a constant issue, to which architecture returns, “To what degree have the actions taken been proven effective and useful from the point of view of the user?”
In this connection, the information architecture carefully considers the following issues:
- An audience that visits the resource.
- Technologies that are embedded on a site (with which it is constructed or maintained).
- Content that fills the site in terms of its specificity.
- Obtaining the results, monitoring and feedback.
In order to understand how information architecture works, the user should imagine the already completed project. It can also be considered in terms of ordinary architecture. Thus, being in front of it, the person, based on his or her own preferences, habits and peculiarities of character, will change anything in it, adding or subtracting the elements, i.e. “design it for him/herself.” It is a typical architectural technique. The constructor, designing a house, explores the area, the location, the operational directions in order to generate the most proper construction. The same thing is happening in the computer field. It is necessary to mention that experts generally consider the information architecture only in terms of “simplification.” In reality, it applies only to those cases where the source offers a large traffic of data.
Given all of the above, in order to understand completely what the information architecture makes is difficult, it is necessary to point the basic directions in its work (Fowler, 2003). Among them, it is worth noting the following:
- Research of the chosen field or business where the project is implemented
Each project has a thousand small details and features which, working together, are able create an overall picture. The study of the basis of the needed area is a significant aspect in the IA. It may include tests, questionnaires, surveys, interviews, the study of history and the factors that may affect the process. This stage deals with the modeling of the user’s perception in the information environment.
- The analysis of data
There is such a conception as “user personas,” which allows for simulating the likely behavior of users as if they were real. This happens due to the clear analysis of the data, which is connected directly with the objectives of the project. “User personas” is characterized by behavioral features, deep personalization, capabilities of person, abilities, attitudes, feelings, desires and other characteristics.
- The development of the site structure
The last final stage in the information architecture is the direct work over a resource. The specialist takes a series of actions that optimizes an existing site or, more often, produces an optimal website from the ground up. This category involves such things as testing, creation of graphs, diagrams, charts and web-design wireframes. The architect is engaged in three questions at once, including issues of business, society and the user. Taking into account all this, the designer will be able to achieve the expected results.
Identification of Issues
- The change of the internal structure the company under the influence of information architecture
- Generalists and lack of personnel
- Abidance of ethics during the workflow
- Data quality and its reliability
- The choice of approach in the creation of the wireframe
- Partial Software
Analysis of Issues
3.1 The change of the Internal Structure the Company under the Influence of Information Architecture
Information architecture, despite its outstanding and vivid characteristics, has one surprising property. First, it is unnoticeable to the surroundings, creates not only the structure of the site, increasing the efficiency, but also changes the behavioral habits of people as a result of its introduction. Thus, Matthew C. Clarke, a renowned expert in the field of IA, provides an example on how he once developed the design of a system for choosing the optimal amount of fertilizers for farmers who grow cotton. In order to convert such a product commercially, experts spent a lot of time and made numerous before the system became a reality. However, the problem was the fact that such software was not in high demand, since most farmers at the time did not use computer devices, and saw no need to seek out a similar system. This procedure was rather complicated and cumbersome for them.
According to statistics, 19% of all projects generated in IT, have such fate. That is why information architects should remember that they act as the designers not only of sites, but also of behavioral habits, which they should include during the calculation of risks and effectiveness. Thus, it happens that IA forces people to change. This area develops tools, which provide a way of thinking that has not been considered by other people, excluding specialists of this field. That is why people go another way and are literally modifiable. Unfortunately, this management area is very rarely taken into account in the early stages of developing a specific IA project, and that, no doubt, is a drawback. The process itself does not have a complex structure and can be represented as follows. The first stage is the implementation of a unique technology into the company that almost immediately affects the behavior of users. As a rule, the organizational structure of the old system tends to maintain a balance and is resistant to innovations. For the successful implementation of the planned, the architect sets a clear direction for its technology, and then such obstacles will be eliminated.
The usual team that develops the productive IA, as a rule, consists of a group of skilled programmers, QA-specialists, writers of technical profile, consultants, analysts and many other professionals. Despite this, problems occur at the organizational level, rather than technical or professional. The result can be poorly configured communication process between the team members and the redistribution of responsibilities, which ultimately leads to the reworking. Thus, according to the given business motives, it can be said that the success of IA depends on particular organizational factors, rather than technical or professional ones, that has long been no secret for a variety of business models. In an environment of information architecture, there are several techniques that can help achieve significant changes on both sides, and the developer and the user.
- 3.1.1. The stress nature of the changes. Each modification, whether it is positive or negative effect, causes stress, which is justified by at least two factors. During the introduction of the new system, users need to learn how to interact with new tools, study all innovations related to the workflow, and get acquainted with interactive panels or widgets. In turn, it implies a change in responsibilities and staff ultimately loses its productivity, which is based on a period of habituation to the new environment. The second factor is that such a procedure eliminates the unnecessary elements from the past for the new system. In addition, people leave their comfort zones and experiences unpleasant feelings, associating all the psycho-social ties with the past work of the scheme.
- 3.1.2 The resistance of the system. Aside from individuals, the whole complexes tend to keep a balance so that any changes are taken negatively (Cook, 1996). It has its own justification, because not all innovations can be positive. Supply channels, inputs, outputs, communication channels are stable elements, and as a result new technologies arouse great resonance. The system can sabotage these activities or take them, depending on their scale.
- 3.1.3 Flexibility. The third condition is the logical consequence of the first two. Information architecture should involve effective communicative skills (Cooper, 2014) in order to avoid discomfort in the workplace and the impression of something unnatural. On the contrary, the process should take place gradually without abrupt, drastic and radical changes; it should be an interconnected chain of events, which translates as an organization and its employees to the “updated version” of already a familiar scheme. Without a doubt, these actions involve significant psychological work.
- 3.1.4 Participative design. Many experts note the importance of testing the pilot IA due to technical necessity, in order to improve its functionality. However, these tests can result in positive outcomes. Testing system allows users to feel some control over the process and the state of “involvement.” Accordingly, the possibility of stress states is reduced and the adaptation to new activities occurs painlessly.
- 3.1.5 Sponsor and champion. Some experts have proposed alternatives that improve the organization’s information architecture at the level of dissemination of information, adaptation to her of clients and potential users. This approach lies in the fact that every IA system has the so-called “Sponsor” and “Champion,” which in some extent are posts together with writers or programmers. The sponsor has considerable weight in his or her words, and continuously supports the project, always protecting it. He or she is an authority and confidant when it comes to business negotiations, and literally evidence that the system is working correctly and flawlessly.
The champion takes a more active stance, and distributes as much information about the product as possible, embodying the advertising manager and activist simultaneously. Regardless of the many conditions, one individual can occupy these two positions, the most important is the proper allocation of responsibilities, although in this case, both of them do not hinder each other.
3.2 Generalists and Lack of Personnel
The problem of personnel can exist in any field, but has a certain tone. With regard to the information architecture, two challenges cause certain difficulties in the process. Experts who have worked for many years on this ground, first of all, emphasize that the majority of people, organizations and companies, who use the services of information architects do not see a difference between architects, graphic designers, or even worse, the software developers. Moreover, the same can be said about the environment of the personnel who are involved in this process. Due to lack of the awareness, education or other reasons, experts of one area believe that they are the architects of information. Therefore, a number of problems arise, such as a vague understanding of the purpose, performance other tasks, incorrect results, and as a consequence, the loss of customer or his distrust, and not just to a particular specialist, but also to the field as a whole. Such actions create a shameful reputation, and “myths” that collapse with the providing of heavy attempts and a long time.
The second problem is closely related to the first, and they have a causal relationship and influence each other. It lies in the fact that, according to Spool (2008), information architects have a very narrow focus, and, according to statistics, a lot of employers do not want to hire a person with a similar profession on a full-time basis, because, basically, his or her knowledge and skills are necessary only in the early stages of project development. It is volumetric operation, but after its completion, such specialists are needed only if they continue to support the already done work that other employees can implement. For this reason, information architects occupy a freelance niche, often not getting the place into the state, which threatens the loss of certain social privileges compared to standard work. Due to this, there is a tendency for information architects to deal with a lot of “fleeting” things and often do “someone else’s work.” It, in turn, has both positive and negative consequences for all the institutions. Many experts demonstrate the successful compilation of a plurality of profiles. For example, Donna Spencer, a leading freelance information architect and designer, has been developing internal networks, creating websites, search engines for more than 10 years. Among others, and no less notable, are Nick Fink, Peter Morville, Jesse James Garrett, Louis Rosenfeld and Andrew Heaton.
3.3 Abidance of Ethics during the Workflow
Ethics and information architecture are placed in the same plane, and these issues are impossible to ignore. It concerns three areas: the adoption of ethically correct decisions with respect to the design and IA, the implementation of teamwork and the impact of any action on a profession.
IA belongs to the field of customer service and direct communication with it, in fact, the product that is being developed will be something that the user has heavy interaction with, so its quality is an essential part of the process. According to the well-known specialist (Spencer, 2007), every architect has to care about the clients with whom he or she provides services, whether they belong to a large company, a public organization, a small enterprise or even, say, a private dental clinic. Psychologically, this is due to the fact that quality work does not cause indignations, conflicts, unpleasant situations, and accordingly does not provoke stress, frustration, the apathy or feelings of worthlessness. Making the right design decisions is a part of this concern, which manifests itself in the context of the study of the chosen theme, the use of researches, personal experience, the study of similar cases, involvement in the collaboration and the advice of other experts. In addition, to make decisions, specialist should define the ultimate goals, to prepare facts and documents for supporting of them, to be as objective as possible, and to be able to analyze and implement any changes through the time and transform them. Thus, there is an interconnected chain of three points:
As for teamwork, the architect, regardless of his or her experience and career achievements, should respect other people and their skills. Working as a team, the organization’s members need to develop common goals that will make the work more effective.
As for the consequences, architects, by virtue of their profession, should calculate not only the decision in the process of creating a project, but also the actions that may affect the profession. It is promoted by deep work, transparency and honesty, proper prioritizing (primarily, tenacity not to achieve profits, but on good results) and, of course, mentoring. The achieving of an absolute understanding of the working sphere is the result of teaching someone else.
In conclusion, the profession of information architect involves a set of personal rules that must be mentioned.
- The architect should to work only on projects that are of interest. He or she should not do work that results in low motivation or indifference;
- He or she should not to work with those projects that could harm the environment, manipulate, humiliate or violate the rights of people;
- He or she should work only on the basis of productive methods.
3.4 Data Quality and its Reliability
The quality of the provided data is a sufficiently serious obstacle to the creation of an effective information architecture. The architect takes information from multiple sources, which represent at least some value and have a specific weight in the study area. Here, the investigations of leading analysts or colleagues (working as a team), testing, charts, interviews, surveys, questionnaires, analysis of statistical data for many years or for short periods, causes, conditions, evaluation of potential risks and more are used in the procedure.
One of the main challenges in terms of the IA data is the quality of the collected information. Besides the fact that an architect needs to “dig deeply”, and later, deal freely in the chosen area, he or she should take care of the reliability of the received information, because any false data will lead to a poor calculation and a lack of positive results. To avoid such actions, the ideal option is to provide the appropriate data by the company or organization that hired the architect. In such cases, the responsibility and the risks lie on the holder of information. However, it does not exempt the architect of his or her duties, including the multiple data verification.
Another obstacle may be the wrong analysis, understanding or use of the data by the architect. It may be a consequence of insufficient awareness, negligence or nonprofessionalism of employees.
3.5 The Choice of Approach in the Creation of the Wireframe
After collecting the data in the process of the main part, the architect begins the most important matter: the construction of the website wireframe. It is an outline of the site or an actual guide to visual information space with the arrangement of elements such as content, navigation, search engines, and most importantly the system, and how it works together. Usually, the wireframe as the IA, is not dealing with issues of colors, the style, or the selection of the content. It is aimed at maximizing the functionality of the site. It deals with:
- The possible functions are available and required by site;
- Information and functional priorities;
- Corporate prescriptions, which display data and content with regard to their sphere of influence;
- Selection of different options for displaying the contents and structure for the analysis of the impact.
Wireframes are used in various fields of computer technology and at different stages of the design. IA and business analysts often use a similar skeleton. Various disputes arise at this stage. In particular, if the layout is being developed for business companies, the debate between analysts and developers occur constantly, and eventually the work becomes poor. In this case, experts recommend a pattern, in which the business analysts first create the highlights of the frame, and then modify it with information architects. In such way, the work will have a greatest chance of success. Other problem is that the frame cannot display the 3-D elements, because it is static and planar presentation.
The information design reflects a structured display of information (Maier, 2009). This area is concerned with graphic design and tries to facilitate the perception of information. Navigation design is developed for communication between the pages, links and internal networks. The wireframe allows for managing these elements more easily. The last element, interface design, introduces the control of functionality, which makes a resource easier for usability. Among the tools, interactive buttons, text editors, forms, pull-down menus are often used.
3.6 Partial Software
In recent years, a number of programs that help information architects to draw wireframes has increased. Therefore, the market of software is added by a variety of tools. One of them is Microsoft Visio, which comes as part of the Microsoft Office Suite package. This program was developed and presented in 1992 by Shapeware Corporation. The software manages the VSD or VDX formats, and allows for the creation of charts and wireframe skeletons with the introduction of archival elements based on Database Model Diagram (DMD). These features are available in the premium version, unlike the standard and professional, which have fewer options.
Another tool is Omnigroup’s OmniGraffle. It is in direct competition with Microsoft Visio, and is able to bind files with AppleScript. In addition, it supports the same formats as the product of Microsoft, and can manage PDF-files. This software introduces a unique opportunity for those who want to create a quality product. A variety of graphs, charts, interactive elements, fast frames pages, sketches and much more are available at the touch of a click.
Less widespread, but no less of a successful program, is Axure RP (Axure RP Features), which serves as a tool for creating wireframes, specifications, various documents and web applications. The program was first released in 2003 by California-based Axure, whose main product is this software. By 2008, Axure had become well-known and attracted customers worldwide. The most significant advantage of Axure in comparison with other software is that it is able to program the interactive buttons that resemble similar in the finished project. In addition, it develops panel systems and other widgets with lots of customizable features.
The product supports a guide for beginners. Regarding the format, it works mainly with two: HTML and .chm (Brown, 2011). An interesting option is the creation of so-called common projects that can be developed by a whole team; this is a fairly universal function for large organizations and companies that apply this type of cooperation. Despite all of the advantages, the program does not provide users with a wide choice of widgets, but this problem can be solved by supplying the software by not from the company but from users-developers and designers-developers, which, working in a company, loads them for free access. Axure support .docx-format instead of PDF-files. Unfortunately, the cost of the program is higher than similar ones.
Another alternative may be software of Jerome Cordiez known as Lovely Charts (Dijck, 2003), which provides not only the functionality, but also the stunning design of the program itself. It embodies the very well-designed information architecture, which each site should have, after using these program. It is a significant feature, because personal examples may indicate so many things, confirming it with empirical evidence. After a simple registration, the software offers a lot of tools for creating of flexible, creative, stylish, efficient, simple, complex and information-rich charts. It is an ideal program for those, who often works with tables, figures, diagrams and always develops something.
In addition to the software, which creates the basic frameworks, information architects work with such supporting applications as Document Templates and Wireframe Stencils. They offer a wide range of ready-made standard templates, introducing the key assistance, helping to create a different sort of structures, etc. Moreover, Visio Resources offers a number of supporting applications Designer Visio Templates; Wireframe Stencil; Wireframe, Sitemap, Process Flow Stencil; Wireframe, Sitemap, Process Flow Stencil; Persona Creation Diagram; Templates and Stencils for Visio and OmniGraffle; The Information Architecture Institute’s Tools; and Jesse James Garrett’s Downloadable IA Resources. It would seem that a large variety of software should simplify the process of information architecture, but it happens only partially. The fact is that the field of IA requires mental work, where the main work is done by person. Information architects choose what methods and approaches they will use at work, including the specific software that creates a wireframe, if this procedure occurs in a digital format. Creativity is the main component of the information architecture, and it is worth paying attention to it, because it can cause both positive and negative traits. The most negative is that it is impossible to calculate, predict, and reduce risks, because the process is entirely dependent on the human factor.
The purpose of this paper was to study information architecture from different points of view and in its various manifestations. Information architecture is a unique science and technology at the same time. It combines the basic principles of architecture and design in conjunction with the programming. It was successfully developed due to the well-known designer, architect and extraordinary personality Richard Saul Wurman, who, thanks to his fascination with many interests, generated a chain of studies that led him to information architecture. For years, he had tried to structure the information in order to make it clear and simple. As a result, he became one of the most important founders of this technology, which has taken a separate niche in the programming and design. This paper examined several key issues that are crucial to the information architecture, and to some extent represent a challenge, having contradictory qualities. There is the change of the internal structure the company under the influence of information architecture, generalists and lack of personnel, abidance of ethics during the workflow, data quality and its reliability, the choice of approach in the creation of the wireframe and partial software among them.
As for first question, in my opinion, information architect literally constructs not only the site, but also changes the perception and habits of those who use its products. I think that the architect carries a huge responsibility for what he or she does; therefore, he or she should take into account all the possible consequences that may arise from its activities. Of course, to some extent, he or she can manage processes, bearing in mind similar characteristics, but, above all, the architect is obliged to organize a process that will have a clear strategy and will allow users to freely use the system and achieve significant results.
In my opinion, the information architect profession has one major drawback. The speciality is too narrow, so a lot of employers do not want to hire employees who cannot perform other functions and a profession of which involves most of the work only during the project development. On the other hand, employers run the risk of creating a gap in this niche. Information architect may not see the point in doing his or her work, and start participating in development of the application, design and other related professions, thereby leaving the field of information architecture. However, when looking at it in another way, it can be said that information architects can safely engage in freelance activity, but with the lack of any social guarantees.
The development process can cause a lot of disputes and conflicts. To ensure that they do not develop into a serious confrontation, information architecture has a set of rules that need to be carried out by the architect. No doubt, first and foremost, IA is the sphere of services, therefore, it takes into account any wishes of the user and takes care of him. Another important condition is making the right design solution, which consists of three stages, including the adoption of the decision itself, its analysis and the calculation of the possible consequences. Such tolerance exists among the whole working team if the architect does not work alone. In addition, the architect should only work on the tasks that he or she enjoys, which do not harm the environment and cannot adversely affect the person, oppress or infringe his or her rights.
I firmly believe that the success of the project largely depends on the data quality and its reliability. For example, if an architect at the initial stage of work gathers incorrect or unreliable data, the further process can be stopped, because it does not bring results and will be meaningless. In addition, I think that the architect should have high critical evaluation of all that he or she sees, hears or reads, checking every fact by evidence from reliable sources.
The architect has a huge selection of tools for creating simple frame for reliable operation of the chosen scheme. These frames can be created by software and a numerous of applications, which the market is replenished every year exponentially. All of them offer a wide range of tools, interactive panels, buttons, widgets. The most popular of them are Microsoft Visio, Onmigroup’s OmniGraffle and Axure, each of which offers its own formats of conversion and has certain unique options. In my opinion, the software is not able to replace the entire process from the very beginning to the end, because to a greater extent, information architecture is the mental sphere, where creativity, flexibility and the human factor are crucial ones. Thus, this paper has provided the short historical overview, it has shown major milestones of its development and the main reason of its occurrence. Essay has identified six key issues on the way to a successful implementation of the project, and has analyzed them, taking into account the weak and strong points of each. In addition, the work has provided the recommendations that will improve each of the questions.
- To introduce a gradual transition from the old to the new system in order to foster trust
- To be able to distinguish the specifics of work and be an expert in several areas
- Appreciate users and colleagues, and provide guidance to them in difficult situations
- Before creating of IA project to check the reliability of data and to subject it to critical evaluation
- To choose the most cost-effective and profitable option for creating a framework
- Combine software and personal investigations in such way that they complement each other