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The LIS Foundations of IA. A Presentation Made at the University of Arizona SIRLS Amy J. Warner, Ph.D. Who I Am. Amy J. Warner, Ph.D. ( Independent consultant in taxonomy & metadata design and information architecture

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the lis foundations of ia

The LIS Foundations of IA

A Presentation Made at the University of Arizona SIRLS

Amy J. Warner, Ph.D.

who i am
Who I Am

Amy J. Warner, Ph.D. (

  • Independent consultant in taxonomy & metadata design and information architecture
  • Formerly Thesaurus Design Specialist with Argus Associates, Inc.
  • Faculty member in library and information science at University of Wisconsin-Madison (1985-1988) and University of Michigan (1989-2000)
  • Co-author of Information Retrieval Today
  • Fortune 500 consulting
  • What is IA?
    • IA defined
    • Why IA is important
    • Basic concepts and building blocks of IA
  • IA in context
    • IA and users
    • IA and business context
definition of ia
Definition of IA

The art and science of structuring and organizing

information systems to help people achieve their


The application of principles and methods of library

and information science (LIS) to the design of

corporate intranets and websites.

why is ia important
Why Is IA Important
  • Costs
    • To the user
      • Finding information (time, # of clicks, frustration, precision)
      • Not finding information (recall, frustration)
    • To the organization (lost revenue, competition)
  • Value of learning (related products, services, projects, people)
why is ia important1
Why Is IA Important

Web Site Statistics

  • Wasted expense: most sites will waste between $1.5M and $2.1M on redesign next year
  • Forfeited revenue: poorly architected retail sites are underselling by as much as 50%
  • Lost customers: the sites we tested are driving away up to 40% of repeat traffic
  • Eroded brand: people who have a bad experience typically tell 10 others

Forrester Research

Why Most Web Sites Fail (Sept. ‘96)

why is ia important2
Why Is IA Important

Intranet Statistics

  • Employees spend 35% of productive time searching for information online (Working Council for Chief Information Officers)
  • Managers spend 17% of their time (6 weeks a year) searching for information (Information Ecology, Thomas Davenport & Lawrence Prusack)
  • Sun’s usability experts calculated that 21,000 employees were wasting an average of six minutes per day due to inconsistent intranet navigation structures. When lost time was multiplied by staff salaries, the estimated productivity loss exceeded $10M per year (Web Design and Development, Jakob Nielsen [Sept. 1997)
why ia fails
Why IA Fails
  • ‘Internet time’
  • Cultural issues--developers, librarians, managers
  • Project management
  • Underestimating the problem
    • Thinking it’s easy
    • Good IA is ‘invisible’
why ia is hard
Why IA Is Hard
  • Expectations
    • Underestimating time/cost
    • Underestimating difficulty of task
  • Diversity: goals, users, authors
  • Heterogeneous content / objects
  • Relevance is subjective and situational
  • Organization & language are ambiguous
making ia a manageable problem
Making IA a Manageable Problem
  • Identify and address the major needs of major audiences
  • Remove old, outdated content (ROT)
  • Enable precision
  • Design for the 80/20 rule
basic concepts components of ia
Basic Concepts/Components of IA
  • Organization systems
  • Navigation systems
  • Labeling systems
  • Searching systems
organization systems
Organization Systems
  • Organization scheme
    • defines the shared characteristics of content items and influences the logical grouping of those items
    • identify through content inventory
    • types
      • exact--divide information into well-defined and mutually exclusive groups (alphabetical, chronological, geographical)
      • ambiguous--divide information into categories that are not exactly defined or necessarily mutually exclusive (topical, task-oriented, audience specific, metaphor driven
organization scheme cont
Organization Scheme, cont.
  • Organization structure
    • defines the principle ways in which users can navigate
    • often can be determined through user research
    • models
      • hierarchy--top down
        • polyhierarchies
        • depth vs. breadth
      • hypertext--nonlinear
        • chunking and linking
      • databases--relational
navigation systems
Navigation Systems
  • Hierarchical navigation systems--the information hierarchy is the primary navigation system
  • Global navigation systems--often enables greater vertical and lateral navigation within a site
  • Local navigation systems--often used for sub-sites
  • Ad hoc navigation--relationships between individual content items or groups of content items; usually embedded within a page
  • Mechanisms for producing navigation systems
    • navigation bars
    • frames
    • pull-down menus
    • tables of content, indexes, site map, guide pages
labeling systems
Labeling Systems
  • Synonymy and ambiguity
  • Labels as links
  • Labels and index/search terms
  • Labels as headings on pages
  • Sources for labeling systems
    • other web sites
    • controlled vocabularies outside, inside the organization
    • content
    • users and experts
searching systems
Searching Systems
  • Support different types of search
    • comprehensiveness vs accuracy
    • exploration
    • existence
  • Support different search mechanisms
    • Natural language vs. controlled vocabulary
    • Searching fields
    • Retrieval models (boolean, statistical, etc.)
  • Integrate search and browse
ia generations
IA ‘Generations’
  • ‘Brochureware’
  • Pages served from database
  • Metadata-driven website


ia from top to bottom


local subsites

(HR, Engineering, R&D…)

IA From Top to Bottom
  • Top-Down Bottom-Up
    • portal sub-site
    • strategy objects
    • hierarchy metadata
    • primary path multiple paths

Object X


Product Category:


Stale Date:



where does ia fit
Where Does IA Fit?

The Elements of

User Experience

Jesse James Garrett

why metadata driven web sites
Why Metadata-Driven Web Sites
  • So Your Users Don’t Have To!
epicurious com facets Facets

Main Ingredients


Beans, Beef, Berries, Cheese, Chocolate, Citrus,

Dairy, Eggs, Fish, Fruits, Garlic, Ginger, Grains,

Greens, Herbs,Lamb,Mushrooms,Mustard, Nuts,


Poultry, Rice, Shellfish,Tomatoes, Vegetables

Christmas,Easter,Fall,Fourth of July,

Hanukkah,New Years,Picnics,Spring,


Valentine's Day,Winter





Mediterranean,Mexican,Middle Eastern,




D'oeuvres,Main Dish,Salads,Sandwiches,

Sauces,Side Dish,Snacks,Soup,Vegetables

Preparation Method


Microwave,No Cook,Poach,Quick,Roast,

Sauté,Slow Cook,Steam,Stir Fry

epicurious first facet
Epicurious, First Facet

Browse > Picnics

epicurious second facet
Epicurious, Second Facet

Browse > Picnics > Poultry

bitpipe com

Search Term

Broader Term

Narrower Terms

Related Terms

bitpipe s cv
Bitpipe’s CV

Web Application Software

BT Internet Application Software

NT eBusiness Software

eCommerce Software

Portal Applications Software

RT Internet

Web Applications Architectures

Web Development Tools



Contact: Amy J. Warner