A Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture

As part of the “create a design notebook” post, I mentioned being consistent in organizing the contents so they can be relocated. Sure, you could just search your site for whatever you’re looking for, but it can be simpler (or even more inspiring or revealing) to simply surf to the right collection of posts and skim until you find what you were looking for. Not only that, but some blogging and notetaking apps don’t offer a built-in search tool (or only offer one to paying customers).

So, it’s worth your time to sit down and figure out how you want to organize your materials. There are different layers to organizing your content: categories and tags.

Let’s start with categories. You’re most likely familiar with these on blogs that break their content down into subtopics. For example, if you look at the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve identified a number of categories I sort my posts into based on what I like to blog about. If you looked at my Evernote account (where categories are called “notebooks” and groups of notebooks are called “stacks”), you’d again see a number of categories and grouped categories, this time based on either an area of my life or project.

These categories or notebooks are the broadest groups of posts, and usually the largest collections of posts. (I do have a notebook in Evernote that isn’t, just because of the nature of the project it supports.)

A tag is a keyword that further identifies a piece of content. While a blog post about worldbuilding might be under the same category as a blog post about developing a supporting character, tags sort them further so that someone looking for one won’t necessarily be bothered by the other. Again, if you look at the blog’s sidebar, you’ll see I have a large collection of tags I use to identify my content. And you’d find the same thing if you were able to look inside my Evernote account.

What makes tags really useful is that they aren’t necessarily contained by the categories where they’re used. On this blog, I have used tags across multiple categories on a fair few posts. It’s not just a way to further organize a category (although tags can be used that way); it’s a great way to build connections between content that wouldn’t otherwise be connected, and that opens the door to exploration and experimentation.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Oh, so hashtags do the same thing!” While some sites (like deviantArt) do use hashtags as a kind of tagging system, hashtags are a more social tool that help people with common interests or who are at the same event connect with each other. It can be used as an organization tool, but it’s really meant to be more of a social tool.

Investing a little extra time at the beginning of organizing and cataloging your work can make using your research and notes easier on future projects.


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One thought on “A Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture

  1. Pingback: Learning to Develop Information Architecture | Genius in Transition

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