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Strategy, Architecture & Tomorrow’s Web. Peter Morville President, Semantic Studios March 21, 2003. Information Architecture. We define information architecture as: The structural design of shared information environments.

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strategy architecture tomorrow s web

Strategy, Architecture & Tomorrow’s Web

Peter Morville

President, Semantic Studios

March 21, 2003

information architecture
Information Architecture
  • We define information architecture as:
  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

Are these definitions definitive? Absolutely not. Our craft is new and still taking shape. We’re clear on the center but fuzzy at the boundaries. This inherent ambiguity challenges us to think deeply and seek diverse perspectives.

business strategy
Business Strategy
  • Defining how an organization will use its scarce resources to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.

“Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.”

“The essence of strategy is in the activities – choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals.”

strategy at vanguard

“The prime responsibility of mutual funds must always be to their shareholders.”

John Bogle, Senior Thesis

Princeton, 1949-1951

Strategy at Vanguard
  • Early in its history, Vanguard established “a mutual structure without precedent in the industry – a structure in which the funds would be operated solely in the best interests of their shareholders.”
  • Since “strategy follows structure,” it made sense to pursue “a high level of economy and efficiency; operating at bare-bones levels of cost…for the less we spend, the higher the returns – dollar for dollar – for our shareholders/owners.”
  • John C. Bogle, Founder of The Vanguard Group
Vanguard’s Activity System Map. Adapted from On Competition
  • Featured in Information Architecture for the World Wide Web




Adapted from The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning

by Henry Mintzberg (1993)

strategy defined as 5 p s
Strategy Defined as 5 P’s
  • Plan. A direction, guide, course of action.
  • Pattern. Consistency in behavior over time.
  • Position. Locating specific products in specific markets.
  • Perspective. Way of doing things (The HP Way).
  • Ploy. Specific maneuver to outwit.
  • From Strategy Safari by Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, Lampel (1998)


The spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things.

Futurism doesn’t mean predicting an awesome wonder; rather it means recognizing and describing a small apparent oddity that is destined to become a great commonplace.


Life expectancy for Americans has reached an all-time high of 77.2 years, mostly due to a decrease in deaths due to major diseases, including AIDS.

a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention herbert simon nobel laureate economist
A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate Economist
“Among very experienced users, the Internet now ranks higher than books, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines as an important source of information.”
  • UCLA Internet Report, January 2003.
Design Look 46.1%
  • Information Design/Structure 28.5%
  • Information Focus 25.1%
  • Company Motive 15.5%
  • Information Usefulness 14.8%
  • Information Accuracy 14.3%
  • Name Recognition & Reputation 14.1%
  • Advertising 13.8%
  • Information Bias 11.6%
  • Writing Tone 9.0%
  • Identity of Site Operator 8.8%
  • Site Functionality 8.6%
  • Customer Service 6.4%
  • Past Experience with Site 4.6%
  • Information Clarity 3.7%
  • Performance on Test by User 3.6%
  • Readability 3.6%
  • Affiliations 3.4%

“While information structure is often associated with usability, the comments here show how information structure has implications for credibility. Sites that were easy to navigate were seen as being more credible.”

“Executives routinely rely on their intuitions to solve complex problems when logical methods (such as a cost-benefit analysis) simply won’t do.”
  • “Your mind continuously processes information that you are not consciously aware of, not only when you’re asleep and dreaming but also when you’re awake. This helps explain the ‘aha’ sensation you experience when you learn something you actually already knew.”
  • “When to Trust Your Gut” by Alden M. Hayashi
  • Harvard Business Review, February 2001

David Rose

convergent architecture
Convergent Architecture


A new type of consulate for knowledge exchange…a 3,200 sq.ft. wired loft located in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jeffrey Huang

Harvard University


“The more I watch what’s happening with the evolution of web sites, the more I believe that search is essentially an experiment that has failed.”

Jared Spool

recent sigia discussion

Please indicate the importance of each factor to the practice of information architecture over the next five years.

Future of IA Survey,

In the next 5 years…

Future of IA Survey,

scenario planning exercise
Scenario Planning Exercise
  • Scenarios are stories about the way the world might turn out tomorrow.
  • Scenarios are not predictions. It is simply not possible to predict the future with certainty.
  • An old Arab proverb says that “he who predicts the future lies even if he tells the truth.”
  • Scenario planning is about making choices today with an understanding of how they might turn out.
scenario planning process
Scenario Planning Process
  • What is the Focal Issue or Decision?
  • What are the Key Factors (Local)?
  • What are the Driving Forces (Macro)?
  • Rank by Importance and Uncertainty.
  • Select Scenario Logics.
  • Flesh out the Scenarios.
  • Consider Implications.
  • Identify Leading Indicators and Signposts.

The Practice of

Information Architecture Over the Next 5 to 10 Years


Tell A Story

How Did We Get Here?

Paint A Picture

What’s This Future Like?

Web-Centric IA

City Without


& Architectures


IA = Luxury

IA = Necessity

IA as Coffee Table Book


Name Your Scenario

Which Label Works Best?

Consider Implications

What Can We Do Today?

Cross-Media IA



Peter Morville [email protected]


Semantic Studios

Asilomar Institute