Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape. Typically, it involves a model or concept of information that is used and applied to activities which require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.
Information architecture is considered to have been founded by Richard Saul Wurman. Today there is a growing network of active IA specialists who constitute the Information Architecture Institute.
The difficulty in establishing a common definition for "information architecture" arises partly from the term's existence in multiple fields. In the field of systems design, for example, information architecture is a component of enterprise architecture that deals with the information component when describing the structure of an enterprise.
While the definition of information architecture is relatively well-established in the field of systems design, it is much more debatable within the context of online information systems (i.e., websites). Andrew Dillon refers to the latter as the "big IA-little IA debate". In the little IA view, information architecture is essentially the application of information science to web design which considers, for example, issues of classification and information retrieval. In the big IA view, information architecture involves more than just the organization of a website; it also factors in user experience, thereby considering usability issues of information design.
About the term information architect Richard Saul Wurman wrote: "I mean architect as used in the words architect of foreign policy. I mean architect as in the creating of systemic, structural, and orderly principles to make something work -- the thoughtful making of either artifact, or idea, or policy that informs because it is clear."
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