Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites

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In Chapter 6 of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the authors discuss the details of good search-engine design. In a bitingly humorous segment, they analyze a Web site's search-page results: "Let's say you're interested in knowing what the New Jersey sales tax is.... So you go to the State of New Jersey web site and search on sales tax. The 20 results are scored at either 84% or 82% relevant. Why does each document receive only one of two scores?... And what the heck makes a document 2% more relevant than another?"

With a swift and convincing stroke, the authors of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web tear down many entrenched ideas about Web design. Flashy animations are cool, they agree, as long as they don't aggravate the viewer. Nifty clickable icons are nice, but are their meanings universal? Is the search engine providing results that are useful and relevant? This book acts as a mirror and with careful questioning causes the reader to think through all the elements and decisions required for well-crafted Web design. --Jennifer Buckendorff


  • ISBN13: 9780596527341
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  1. K. Mohnkern says


    A book on web design written by librarians. Skeptical? So was I. But darned if they don’t hit the ol’ web design nail right on the ol’ head. (Okay, they’re not really librarians – but both authors come from a Library Science background.) When I started on my Interaction Design masters degree, there wasn’t anything written sepcifically about it. So my education was based on other fields – architecture, rhetoric, psychology, graphic design. Now we’re starting to see some good Interaction Design books coming from experts in those other fields.

    The strength of this book is its emphasis on defining a navigable structure for a site. It covers structure, navigation, searching/browsing, and this is the first book I’ve seen that spends a whole chapter on button and link labelling systems. It’s added labelling to my ID vocabulary.

    I do agree with another reviewer who wanted more in-depth examples, but with enough web experience it’s easy to come up with examples on our own. So I gave the book the fifth star.

    This and Jennifer Fleming’s Web Navigation (both O’Reilly books) are must-haves for web designers.

  2. John Leo Mencias says


    I had been looking around for a book like this for some time now: one that guides me through the crucial conceptual design phase of web site development. Most books on web site design are really about user interface design. This book offers a top-down planning approach to getting from the recognition of a need for a web site through to the final working design. It plugs up a lot of the gaping holes that topic-specific design texts leave open.

    The over-riding concern and emphasis in the first section of the book is on how to organize the information on the web site in such a way that the target audience can readily get at it. To this end, the authors focus on three ‘systems’ that need to be developed, implemented and coordinated on a web site: a navigation system, a labeling system and a searching system. Once these systems are thought through and designed then the rest of the work becomes a matter of filling in the information content, functionalities and the bells and whistles.

    Clear, concise and even a bit humorous, this book will definitely give you a peace of mind if you find yourself a bit overwhelmed at times when deciding on just how you will approach building a web site.

  3. janice labarbera says


    a DEFINATE ASSET for ANY role in website development- from the project managers, designers, to even developers- it would even be a good book for clients who want results or are working closely with the agency developing content for their site. i am going to ask my boss to buy this book for everyone at work! this book reinforces many basic website organization “rules” while offering many that i never thought of- all to help me have a fresh approach to organizing websites and interfaces each time i begin a new project at work. it teaches you what to look for to constantly learn while working and visiting other sites. i’ve been to one of louis’ seminars and would also reccommend you to go to one!

  4. Frank Stepanski says


    What is information architecture? Actually that is a question that I never really knew until I came across this book. Information architecture (as defined by the author) is the structural design of shared information environments. It is the combination of organization, labeling, search and navigation systems within web sites and intranets. IT is also the art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability.

    Does that definition make it any clearer? Maybe a little, but basically it means how to properly design the architecture of medium to large websites (kind of).

    Unless you’re a senior developer of a large company that has a large website, or are in the process of doing so, you probably never had the first hand experience of how to set the foundation of properly displaying large amounts of data to customers.

    The beginning of the book the author explains the importance of Information Architects and how one can gain the experience to be one since there is really no degree or certification at this point in time. The author explains the backgrounds one may need to have to gain the necessary knowledge: journalism, library science, product management, technical writing, etc. To be an “AI”, does not mean you have a computer background, it means that you have an understanding of how to use information to convey the meaning they are trying to get across to the customer. Indexing data, organizing data, structuring data are some of the tasks that are needed. It seems to me that it is one of the “unknown solders” disciplines in web development, but it is necessary for a successful site design.

    The book also discusses the niches of AI that are popping up recently such as:

    Metadata Specialist

    Content Manager

    Director, User Experience

    Search Schema Content Editor

    The first part of the book focuses on the anatomy of information architecture. The author goes through many web page examples of showing how to visual information architecture. Showing each sites home page and going through categories such as navigation systems, search systems and labeling systems shows you how important small bits of information can convey a particular question to the user.

    The questions could be:

    How do I get around the site?

    What’s important and unique about this organization?

    What’s available on this site?

    How can I contact a human?

    What’s there address?

    Later in the book the author describes different browser aids, search aids, content and tasks and invisible components that an AI can use to help the user get the information they need.

    Examples would be:

    Browser aids:

    Sitemaps, site guides, site wizards, contextual navigation systems, local navigation

    Search aids:

    Search interface, query language, query builders, search zones, search results

    Content and tasks:

    Headings, embedded links, lists, sequential aids, identifiers

    “Invisible” components:

    Retrieval algorithms, categorizing data, specific vocabularies

    All of these are discussed throughout the book in an easy-to-read manner so that when you design or re-design a site you can keep these in mind if you can’t afford to hire an AI yourself.

    A really interesting book that makes you re-think the design of your site!

  5. John S. Ryan says


    There’s a reason all the famous web-design folks recommend this book. It’s still about the only book that addresses the design of _information_, and it still does the job very well.

    O’Reilly has become justifiably famous with its user-friendly technical volumes, but this one is a bit of a departure. There isn’t anything in here about how to code anything; there are no handy lists of functions or commands for easy reference. What there is is a thorough, focused but wide-ranging discussion of the issues facing someone who wants to make electronic information usable and accessible via a website.

    (That includes database design, by the way. There isn’t all that much detail and it’s in the context of making websites searchable, but there’s good discussion of e.g. controlled-vocabulary terms and how users actually look for information.)

    The overall approach is refreshingly big-picture: the authors emphasize, for example, navigation _systems_ and labelling _systems_ (rather than just “labels”), and they devote an entire chapter to “conceptual design.” No wonder, three and a half years after its initial publication, it’s still the standard reference work in a field that usually puts books out of date overnight.

    And no wonder Jakob Nielsen thinks well enough of it to write the foreword. If you know who Nielsen is, you probably already have this book; but since none of the information on this page credits his contribution, it can’t hurt to let readers know.

    Ostensibly devoted to websites but generally applicable to any context in which electronic information has to be organized, this book should be somewhere on the shelf of every IT professional. If you like Steve Krug’s _Don’t Make Me Think!_ (as I do), you’ll like this one too — maybe better. (Krug’s book is a good one to show your boss; this is a good one to read whether your boss sees it or not.)

  6. Todd Hawley says


    This is another example of a book I wished I’d known about a year or so ago. I’m an amateur web designer and up until just recently maintained web sites for three different volunteer groups. Now one of them has decided to get another person to run the site. If I’d known about the concepts presented in this book, I might still be running it! The book discusses how to organize the content on a wbe site and covers a lot of areas the average site designer might not consider on first glance. There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the “middle” of a site and “getting lost” with no way out other than to start over. While this is an extreme example, too many sites suffer from navigational problems.

    This book offers choices on how to organize the information on your site, various ways to design it, the types of systems you can use to search for specific data on the site, researching and planning it (with a great outline on what you should include in your research), and the business of creating and maintaining your design. The book’s authors stress the importance of keeping everyone in the process involved in it at all times, as well as pointing out that just because you finally finished it does not mean your job is over! There’s always the job of keeping the site as current as possible.

    Anyone responsible for maintaining a site (even if it’s just your own) should take a look through this book.

  7. John Zapolski says


    With the second edition, Morville and Rosenfeld have met a pretty significant challenge: surpassing their first book. The new edition is chock full of great new chapters on topics both technical and creative.

    By covering subjects like thesauri, CVs, and metadata, while at the same time tackling headfirst “big picture” ideas of information architecture, the two authors are to be commended for writing a book that is at once instructive to advanced practioners yet still recommendable to strategists, designers, programmers, and others who might have only a vague notion of information architecture. And the chapter on business strategy is as good an introduction as I’ve read in any business book.

    This book is the closest anyone has come to a single book addressing all of the complexity and challenges of organizing, structuring, and managing large scale Web sites, and does so with clear, easy-to-read prose eshewing jargon and consultant-speak. Quite an accomplishment, indeed!

  8. Gunnar Kruuse Langemark says


    If I were to teach a class in Information Architecture on a remote pacific island, and I could only bring one book – this would be THE BOOK.
    This is the book which brings students of IA further than any other single book. It is the book that covers the most ground. It is the book You would have killed for when You started as an IA. But it is not really a “how-to” book. It is much more of an “understand the business” book.

    The second edition is different from the first edition. It has improved in so many ways. We’re talking solid 460 pages packed with practical advice, knowledge supported by experience, and great examples. The Library and Information Science bias that made the first edition a little single sided is not present in this second edition which encompasses the entire field and deals with most aspects of Information Architecture – from presenting search results to making elevator pitches in the world of business strategy.

    Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is not one of those books that are backed by a lot of scientific evidence. The advice given in this book is backed by the authority and experience of two of the most widely recognized people in the field. If that counts for You, then this book is for You.

    The cover says “designing large scale web sites”. This is true. It is not a book about building community sites, and it is not about small e-business sites. This is a book about the big picture on the big projects, but it actually has a lot of relevant input for the building of smaller sites as well.

  9. E. Griffin says


    This is a great book to introduce business people to information architecture, for architects to reinforce their skills, and for web designers to principles to apply to site design. The second edition has more information and is more in depth than the first, and is well worth purchasing.

    The first three chapters of the book explore what information architecture is and what it is needed. Chapters 4 – 9, the “Basic Principles of Information Architecture” have the most substance. Several chapters bear reading several times, including:

    Chapter 5: Organization Systems, Chapter 7: Navigation Systems, Chapter 8: Search Systems and Chapter 9: Thesauri, Controlled Vocabularies, and Metadata

    The sections on Process and Methodologyactice, and Organizational fit are all good for people learning about IA, but may be too basic for anyone that does a lot of work or reading in the field. The Education Chapter is already out of date, which is to be expected.

    IA for the World Wide Web is a great book, worth reading and worth hanging onto for reference or to use to explain the IA to others.

  10. Jim Moran says


    Today many Website design technologies and rigid content requirements have made Web development a more demanding task. Although there are many fine Website design books around to assist Webmasters, a return to the basics of design layout is in serious order.

    Information Architecture for the World Wide Web offers readers the guidance they need to design Websites that are easy to manage, navigate, and expand as mission requirements change. Rather than discussing strict HTML and Web graphics design, the authors focus upon the actual mapping out of Websites to insure that they are properly structured and will deliver content in an efficient and orderly manner.

    Rosenfeld and Morville outline the main job tasks of the information architect and the disciplinary background they should possess or cultivate. They cite backgrounds in library science, journalism, engineering, marketing, graphics design, and computer science as essential disciplines to be embraced. When brought together and put into practice they will perform important roles in developing an eye and mindset for successful Web development.

    The authors discuss important Website design considerations such as the productive use of screen real estate, navigational bars, frames, pull-down menus, and other features that can be employed to effectively deliver Website content. Although this line of instruction is not the main emphasis of the book, the brief addressing of these features assist readers to gain added perspective of the overall strategy of delivering, you guessed it, Web content!

    Readers are instructed to perform thorough research to determine answers to questions such as: What are the goals? What can your clients afford? Who are the intended audiences? Why will people visit a site? What types of content should and should not be part of the site? Answers to these and other questions should be determining factors throughout the entire Web development process.

    Readers will find the discussions involving brainstorming extremely helpful. This activity should be of major concern during the Web development process. The use of boards, flipcharts, mockups, design sketches, developing prototypes, metaphor exploration, creating scenarios, and structured blueprints can greatly enhance the entire development process.

    Reading this book will be for many a refreshing and stimulating experience. Readers will gain valuable behind-the-scenes insight necessary to successfully design Websites that not only look good but perform well to achieve intended goals. Good HTML, programming language scripts, and flashy Web graphics are not enough. Pick up some solid visionary thinking skills. Highly recommended!