Information Architecture IA
A simple website may only include 8 top level pages, 50 secondary and perhaps only 300 tertiary labelled (taxonomy) navigation elements, that’s only 358 entities. However IA tends to be associated with the structure and classification of websites, intranets and software that accesses in excess of 100,000+ separate entities to be classified. I have worked on several huge taxonomies for Government, Publishers, Colleges, Universities, Insurance Companies and Banks involved in trading that involve between 1,000,000 and 25,000,000+ entities.
An IA when embarking on a new project will investigate if there is a standardised taxonomy for the project domain and conduct a content audit. For example if the project is a United Kingdom, Government project then there is a standard taxonomy and a classification of entities within that taxonomy.
If a standard exists the task is relatively simple but highly time consuming as it then involves matching the in use taxonomy with the standardise one. However if no standard exists a standard needs to be created. Creating a standard taxonomy is done through domain research. How do other’s of the same domain describe things, at this point it is worth considering ownership of language in the form of brands, trade marks, patients and de facto standards.
Once the entities have been defined with their attributes and all the potential interrelationships then this is combined with or overwrites the content audit to define the new system taxonomy.
However there may be multiple audiences looking at the same content from different perspectives. For example in educational publishing the audiences could be;
Each one of these groups will have a very specific context of use, when looking for content, the descriptions they use and understand to find it and their underlying purpose in doing so. In this case they will each require a separate structure around an entity and may require their own version of the taxonomy.