Our understanding of the world is largely determined by our ability to organize information. Where do you live? What do you do? Who are you? Our answers reveal the systems of classification that form the very foundations of our understanding. We live in towns within states within countries. We work in departments in companies in industries. We are parents, children, and siblings, each an integral part of a family tree.
We organize to understand, to explain, and to control. Our classification systems inherently reflect social and political perspectives and objectives. We live in the first world. They live in the third world. She is a freedom fighter. He is a terrorist. The way we organize, label, and relate information influences the way people comprehend that information.
As information architects, we organize information so that people can find the right answers to their questions. We strive to support casual browsing and directed searching. Our aim is to apply organization and labeling systems that make sense to users.
The Web provides us with a wonderfully flexible environment in which to organize. We can apply multiple organization systems to the same content and escape the physical limitations of the print world. So why are many large web sites so difficult to navigate? Why can't the people who design these sites make it easy to find information? These common questions focus attention on the very real challenge of organizing information.