Information architecture (IA) is a discipline that helps teams create meaningful relationships between core decisions of software products.
With this definition, IA is a required "making sense of messes" skill set for individuals, project teams, and organizations that desire to reach a higher level of design maturity.
In an effort to improve the quality of IA within software products, these are the five principles of IA that I have found most useful.
1. Minimize user types
A project team should strive to define scope to a minimum number of core user types. Start with one, and only increase as absolutely necessary.
2. Minimize user goals
A project team should strive to define scope to a minimum number of user goals per user type. Start with one, and only increase as absolutely necessary.
3. Minimize user goals per page
A project team should strive to define scope to a minimum number of user goals per page of a product. Start with one, and only increase as absolutely necessary.
4. Content follows user goals
Product content should answer “what” information helps a person achieve their goal.
5. Distribute content over time
Product content should be distributed in a product over time to take a person through a sequence that meaningfully accomplishes their goal.
Generally, these principles help scope products and focus teams. Additionally, the can act as a high-level evaluation to frame the state of a mature product.
Such clarity of scope and foucs helps tremendously with operational decisions of a team or organization:
- How to size teams
- How and when to scale teams
- How much teams can handle
- What team compositions should be
- How to keep work managable
- How and when to move from problems to solutions
- How to plan the finances
- How to measure success
- Likely more...
In the future, I plan to write playbook activities that use these principles in practice, since these principles begin to enable the enactment of a design-bias product decision framework.
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