These principles make an assumption: information architecture is the practice of designing structures. These principles help guide the design of structures, but they presume the following:
The information architect’s primary focus is the structure itself and secondarily the user interface representing the structure on screen (I make site maps and flow charts)
The information architect has a good understanding of how people want to relate to the content and functionality contained in the structure (I’ve done my research)
The information architect has a good understanding of the range of content and functionality to be supported by the structure (I’ve inventoried the content)
The Principle of Objects
The Principle of Objects Treat content as a living, breathing thing with a lifecycle, behaviors and attributes. Where it comes from. Thinking of content as objects comes from object oriented programming, where a computer program is broken up into discrete, logical chunks. Each chunk has methods, behaviors that the chunk of code can perform, and properties, pieces of information attached to the object. Objects are really templates, so the methods and properties provide a framework for thinking about all instances of a particular object. So, when I say “object,” I mean that website content has a consistent and recognizable internal structure (such as the different ingredients of a recipe) and
a discrete set of behaviors (such as how recipes can have variations or can become more or less important)
The Principle of Choices
Create pages that offer meaningful choices to users, keeping the range of choices available focused on a particular task. Where it comes from. The Paradox of Choice is a book by Barry Schwartz  that came out in 2005. In brief, the book’s message is that a greater number of options can make it more difficult for people to make a decision. More options means more cognitive effort, and more effort can sometimes mean more anxiety. People think they like having a lot of options, but they really do not.
The Principle of Disclosure
Show only enough information to help people understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper. Where it comes from. Progressive disclosure is a common design concept that builds on the ideas that we can only process so much information at once, but that we can use what we have to anticipate what’s to come. I like the explanation in Universal Principles of Design, a book byWilliam Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler [2, p. 154]: “Information presented to a person who is not interested or ready to process it is effectively noise.”
The Principle of Exemplars
Describe the contents of categories by showing examples of the contents. Where it comes from. Cognitive science has long studied how people categorize things. The field looks at what it means to hold a concept in your head. Ultimately, psychologists have discovered that our brains represent categories as networks of good examples.
The Principle of Front Doors
Assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page. Where it comes from. This notion has become commonplace since even the larger sites find that most of their traffic comes through a side door, not the home page. These direct links are the power of search.
The Principle of Multiple Classification
Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content. Where it comes from. Good information architecture acknowledges that people have different ways of looking for information. Even narrow audiences represent a diversity of motivations and mental models (how we imagine information space).A classification scheme attempts to provide simple ways for finding information across this range.A classification scheme describes what labels you will use to categorize the website’s content.
The Principle of Focused Navigation
Don’t mix apples and oranges in your navigation scheme. Where it comes from. Lots of design teams use phrases like “global navigation” or “right rail” or “left menu bar” to refer to a menu that lets users browse content, but do so with its location on the page.Where a menu appears should not constitute its definition.
As for where it came from, it’s all me.Working with design teams in organizations that use phrases like “global nav,” I realized that the label makes it difficult for those teams to understand what the navigation menu is for.A navigation menu loses its purpose when its name comes from its location on the template.
The Principle of Growth
Assume the content you have today is a small fraction of the content you will have tomorrow. Where it comes from. Of all the principles on this list, this one is at once both the most self-evident and the most confounding.We all know where it comes from: the web today has more content than it did last year and the year before and the year before that. The convenience of publishing content combined with inexpensive storage means people put stuff up, but don’t take stuff down. Designing for the exponential proliferation of content is challenging. Designing a structure that can accommodate twice as much content as it can today is like building an armoire with twice as many drawers. The digital storage of information comes with (apparently) limitless space, but the presentation of and access to that information must conform, on some levels, with the limitations imposed by physical space.Why? The people who browse the stacks at a library are the same people looking for content online: we have the same cognitive and ergonomic requirements.
Universal Principles of Information
Architecture As Lidwell, Holden and Butler say in the introduction to their book, “The use of well-established design principles increases the probability that a design will be successful.” [2, p.13] The key term here is “well-established.” Information architecture, though perhaps in its infancy compared too their design fields like building architecture and graphic design, can still establish a set of self-evident truths derived from other fields of design,experience and testing.These principles can constitute the foundation of a theory of information architecture, a framework for informing design decisions about the structures of websites (among other things). What separates these principles from, say, those described in the Lidwell, Holden and Butler book is that, for now, these are my principles. I derived them from my work either organically or as adaptations of principles from other fields validated through experience. They’re the principles I bring with me to every new project, a psychic history of prior challenges, debates and lessons learned. They serve as the starting point for project-specific principles, a fertile ground for growing guidelines geared especially for a particular client, set of design challenges or project objective.