Defining an IA Framework

I’m going to admit it. I’m struggling with my last (ish) assessment piece for the semester. The reason why is while I have drawn a conceptual framework, I cannot seem to come up with a logical structure in which I can present it in the form of a journal article.

I am looking at information architecture – key concepts and principles, from which I have identified from the literature; have visually arranged them in a way which makes sense, in order to address and achieve objectives of user and organisational information requirements, in a digital (technical) library context. I seek to apply my framework to the unique information environment that is aviation, or more specifically, aircraft engineering technical data. Guided by the literature, I will seek to define the role of the elements (concepts and principles) in the conceptual framework, and apply them within the parameters which define the information environment and requirements – industry regulations. I will also examine the industry regulations (which govern the management of engineering (approved) technical data) by giving my ‘two cents worth’ discussion about how they may be out of date with the methods and technologies currently used for managing and maintaining engineering technical data.

So I’m going to attempt now to briefly outline my conceptual framework. Hopefully by doing this will provide a brief outline for when I (hopefully) write a draft tomorrow.

Information architecture begins with identifying information needs or requirements. What feeds into these are: –

  1. the tasks required to be performed by users of the information
  2. information seeking behaviour of the individual user
  3. organisational/ departmental objectives
  4. operational requirements, satisfying regulations governing the use of technical data

Information needs and/or requirements influence or define: –

  1. context (in which information is required to be sought and retrieved to perform tasks)
  2. content (of the technical library collection)
  3. users (who uses the information)

These three areas form the focus of information architecture methodology.

Information architecture methodology then involves: –

  • analysis – tasks, content, information needs
  • curation (of content)
  • content management

Practices that support the methodology include: –

  • classification
  • indexing
  • controlled vocabulary/taxonomy
  • metadata

These methodologies and practices seek to achieve: –

  • findability, and
  • usability

Findability is what information architecture is most concerned about when designing “shared information spaces”. Yet there appears to be little distinction between this concept and ‘usability’. By using the three focus areas of information architecture methodology, I propose that findability is context and/or content oriented, where as usability is more experience-oriented.

The product of, or combined might of the two – findability and usability – defines and produces the resulting ‘functionality’ of a website, or in this case, a digital library.

Another key concept I’ve seen about the literature is ‘access’ and ‘accessibility’. It tends to be used interchangeably with ‘functionality’ or ‘findability’, yet once again I see a distinction. What determines the accessibility of information is made up of the product of ‘functionality’ combined with the channel/format/medium through which the information is delivered. This is where my conceptual framework links up with identifying information needs. By providing the necessary access to engineering technical data, the library can address (information needs and requirements), satisfy (industry regulations) and achieve (organisational objectives).

I certainly welcome any feedback or comments regarding my thinking around information architecture. Hopefully by roughly placing my framework into words, I should be able to come up with a paper that is logically structured and presents these ideas so they may be understood.

 

References

Batley. S. (2007) The I in information architecture: the challenge of content management. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives. Vol 59, No. 2, pp 139-151.

Batley. S. (2007) Information Architecture for Information Professionals. Chandos Publishing: UK.

Morville. P. & Rosenfeld. L. (2007) Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. 3rd Edition. O’Reilly: USA.

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  1. You look like you are on the right track. I like your distinction between findability and usability. You also need to consider the user when determining accessibility of information. Good luck with your assignment!

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