Glossary of Information Architecture Terms
Affordances — properties of an object that make explicit how a user can engage with that object.
Base dynamics — one direction of information transfer between people and objects.
Big IA — An approach to information architecture that focuses on the bottom-up process of developing an information architecture through iterative development with users.
Blocks — multiple modules arranged in specific ways to create emergent interactions.
Channels — Channels are connections between objects that exchange information.
Collaborative Collection — A collection created by multiple users. Ex. Pinterest.
Constrained attention — a mechanic where a user can only see one object or module at a time. Ex. Tinder cards.
Daisy — A platform structure where a primary dashboard is the primary focus of the structure, but there are other secondary pathways that a user can go on.
Emergence — Dynamics that results between users and within platforms as a result of multiple goals interacting within a given structure.
Energy — Exerted effort applied to an information system
Energy Efficient — A system that demands less energy than a user is willing to exert in a system.
Forum — Threads around a central topic in which the final outcomes of one thread form the foundations of other threads in a way that the foundational threads loop back to primary discussions.
Games — incentive structures that impact user energy input and goals within an information system.
Goal — What a user wishes to accomplish when they interact with an information system.
Goal-constrained — A platform structure in which the creators of the platform delineate clear user-cases and navigation through the platform.
Hypertext — One word is linked to another page.
Information system — A designed structure of objects, channels, modules, and blocks that helps a user accomplish their goals.
Levers — techniques to decrease the energy demand of an information system or increase energy inputs.
List — Ordered objects. If a person wants to play an album all the way through from start to finish, the song order has meaning and would be a list instead of a general collection of related songs.
Little IA — An approach to information architecture that focuses on taxonomies, classification, navigation, and way-finding in a website.
Loop — Two connected base dynamics, or a user action and a response to this action.
Matrices — A platform structure that combines a strict hierarchy with hypertext. A user can navigate through the site in multiple different ways.
Mechanics — specifically designed way to present and interact with one loop in a way that alters the dynamics between users in the system.
Mental map — a person’s spatial understanding of the layout and organization of a space, whether a physical city or digital platform.
Module — are several different objects connected together to create a larger functional unit with a singular primary function.
Nested — Objects that are contained in other objects. This is like when numerous songs are contained in a larger playlist.
Objects — Basic unit of information that can be conceived as one entity.
Object groups — Objects linked together to form larger patterns.
Object-to-object — A basic dynamic where information is shared between one non-energy exerting object and another.
Object-to-person — A basic dynamic where information is transferred from an object to a person.
One-to-many — When one object transmits information to several other objects simultaneously.
One-to-one — When one object transmits data to one other object.
Open-goal — A platform structure in which users have a lot of power in defining the content and dynamics of a platform.
Partial Reveal — Users only see parts of another user’s profile or conversation at a time. Information between users is revealed slowly.
Person-to-object — When a person transmits information to an object.
Person-to-person — When a person transmits information to another person.
Platform structures — overarching organization of an information system.
Pool — Distinct modules arranged in a hierarchy.
Relational grouping— objects set beside each other. For example, Spotify has a section below a users’ playlists for other songs they might enjoy.
Sidewalk — a block where users can see community-created content organized by proximity with the ability to delve deeper into specific topics.
Signifier — A visual cue that conveys meaning.
Situation connectedness — Visual connections between objects or modules.
Strict hierarchy — System creators delineate every pathway that a user can navigate through.
Streams — Modules arranged in a scrolling pattern arranged by a dynamic algorithm.
System connectedness — How modules are linked into different structures and dynamics.
Structuralism — An approach to information architecture that searches for underlying information structures and reproducible patterns.
Structured steps — objects linked together across multiple pages. As a song plays, it is linked to other songs in the playlist across multiple different pages.
Threads — nested comment modules.
User — A person who engages with an information system.
User-generated — a user’s input of a word generates a collection of content related to this word, but there is no defined hierarchy between content before a user’s interaction with this content.
Wall — User-changeable but generally static profile information with community-generated posts connected into a collection around a specific user.