Information architecture (IA) is everywhere.
Like the best websites and apps in the digital world, information architecture also brings clarity and understanding to the real world. It helps us navigate complexity and clutter, enables us to get things done more easily even with enjoyment, and reduces our cognitive load as we go about our lives.
As Abby Covert, IA advocate and author of ‘How to Make Sense of Any Mess’, puts it:
“I believe information architecture has the power to make the world a clearer place”
We share five examples of information architecture at work in everyday life.
Does your phone home screen look like a random bunch of icons or a well-laid-out work of art? Fitness, entertainment, shopping, transport, banking…these days there’s some kind of app for every aspect of your life. While it’s handy to be able to access all these apps on the go, keeping track of them can be a mission unless you have some kind of system. If finding the right app at the right time is driving you crazy — maybe it’s time to give your phone information architecture some love?
Look up books
Are your books arranged by subject, category, author, size, color, or something else? Do you go for the common approach that everyone understands like a library or something more personal like ‘books I read a lot’ or ‘books I’ll never read’? However you do it, there’s some kind of system, (or information architecture), at work that drives your decisions about where individual books end up on your shelf — what’s yours?
Enlist a list
When you’ve got lots on and feeling overwhelmed or you’re packing for that well-earned holiday and don’t want to forget anything, chances are you enlist the help of some kind of list. What a relief to get all that stuff out of your head somewhere, in some kind of order. Whether you put pen to paper and stick it on your fridge or carry it around on your phone, the main thing is you’ve got a list somewhere — that’s a great information architecture starting point.
Supermarket shopping — love it or hate you — it’s got to be done. Do you browse the aisles or aim to get in and out as quickly as possible? Whether you’re pushing a trolley around your local haunt, out of town in unfamiliar territory or simply shopping online, you’re relying on some kind of signposts to guide your way through the myriad of products. Phew — Information architecture can be a lifesaver. It can also change lives as Jennie Leng discovered in her case study on online shopping at Countdown.
Find who’s who
Imagine you’re doing a spot of research ahead of a job interview, looking for the right person in a big company to pitch your product or you’re the newbie at work and unsure who’s who — an organizational chart can save time, and embarrassment — and generally make life easier. All power to information architecture!
So there you have it. Information architecture isn’t all about content audits, complex site maps, or complex tree testing projects. It’s also about systems and structures that help us navigate everyday life in the real world.