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Information Architecture Terms

The DSIA glossary contains a controlled vocabulary of more than 300 terms. These terms are used to communicate patterns, behavior and concepts that have emerged in the theoretical study of information architecture and user experience (UX) design.

The DSIA glossary is currently divided into two subject domains:

Terms are typically released because they have been mentioned in a published article or paper. They will continue to be released as needed.

While most terms listed in this public glossary are considered stable, their relationship to each other and to ongoing research and theoretical inquiry make them subject to refinement at any time.

nathaniel davis

Nathaniel Davis
Information Architecture Analyst and Practitioner
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Featuring  Terms


Abstract Construct
A conceptual relationship between two or more unique entities

An excessive amount of information and content

The co-dependent state between the structure and the communicated design of an object or other experience

Area of Interest
See: Subject Matter; relates to Practice Tier

A loosely supported concept that claims theoretical or practical relevance; conjecture


Boersma Assertion
The Peter Boersma assertion implies that the complete practice of user experience design overlaps or entails some aspect of every form of professional practice in the architecture and design of computing interfaces.


Classic Information Architecture (Practice)
A school of thought concerned with the strategy and design for navigating, organizing and relating information in ways that promote information findability, management and use

Common Set
An official grouping of probes and constructs that make up the tactical interests of a professional practice

Complex Domain
Describes the state of an information architecture where the physical and abstract constructs are not adaptive across modes and domains

Contemporary Information Architecture (Practice)
A school of thought concerned with the design of information environments and the management of an information environment design process -- Source: Earl Morrough

A conclusion deduced by surmise or guesswork -- Source: Merriam-Webster

See: Abstract Construct, Physical Construct

A set of information structured by language for the purpose of an intended communication

Content Model
A collection of related content types and their inherent attributes

Content Type
A content object that embodies unique communicative properties and behaviors

The temporally interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs

Cross-Domain Information Architecture
A site information architecture that serves as the canonical model for accommodating and enabling multiple abstract and physical constructs across multiple subject domains


A plan or convention for the construction of an object or system of communication

Equipment or a mechanism designed to serve a special purpose or perform a special function
-- Source: Merriam-Webster

Digital Literacy Gap
The degree of education that a user needs in order to effectively use and contribute to a knowledge system and information architecture

Domain Extension
Integration of the physical and abstract constructs of an information architecture into other physically independent domains.

A related set of concrete and/or abstract constituents (like a device, network of devices, or subject matter like Science or History)


The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner -- Source: Merriam-Webster

Something that exists as a particular and discrete unit -- Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


Feedback (Information Overload)
Undesirable human performance or behavioral response as a consequence of an information overload event

Filter Failure
Ineffective controls for determining content quality and relevance

First Order
An informational pattern that is the symmetrical grouping of multiple subject domains and their primary tiers




An acronym for the term information architecture

That which can be used as an asymmetric reflection of experiential phenomena and accommodate relationships with other phenomena to facilitate language; a building block for language

Information Architect
A practitioner who designates the function of information architecture as their core competency or primary functional responsibility within a business organization

Information Architecture
See: Information Architecture (Business Function); Information Architecture (Practice); Information Architecture (Work Product)

Information Architecture (Business Function)
The organizational function responsible for simplifying how people navigate and use information that connects to the Web

Information Architecture (Practice)
The effort of organizing and relating information in a way that simplifies how people navigate and use content on the Web

Information Architecture (Work Product)
The assumptions and governing constructs for assigning properties and attributes to information and the endowment and evolution of information relationships over time within a given domain; a governing model for information behavior within a digitally mediated environment

Information Overload
See: Micro Information Overload and Macro Information Overload



Koltay Assertion
The Tibor Koltay assertion argues that low digital (information) literacy contributes to the propagation of information overload. View Tibor Koltay's original article.



Macro Information Overload
Where the abundance of information becomes a quantitative obstruction to an underlying intention of a system

Micro Information Overload
Where the abundance of information becomes an obstruction to an underlying intention of an agent interacting with a system

The physical container and its inherent properties by which information is consumed on a device

Multi-Domain Information Architecture
A site information architecture that accommodates and enables multiple abstract and physical constructs of multiple sites within a single subject domain


Natural Domain
Describes the state of an information architecture where the abstract and physical constructs are adaptive across modes and domains

See: Physical construct


Order Grid
The first order mapping of a segmentation


Physical Construct
The interactive sequence and dependent nodes for a single or all directed paths to content within a domain; navigation

Practice Tier
A single area of interest of a practice vertical

Practice Vertical
A set of practice tiers that represents the primary areas of interest of a single professional practice

The collective behavior of intentional empirical probing around an area of interest, whereby the contribution of documentation of discovery enables consensus that builds and reinforces discipline around such behaviors.

A target set of perspectives or content relative to shared and dependent contexts


Quartet Compression
A co-dependent relationship between a technology platform, applications, information and an individual or group of people


Reactionary Propagation
A perpetual cycle of increasing volatility and volume of use, adoption and performance encouraged by a quartet compression


Search Engine Optimization
A practice of improving the relevant discoverability of information by search engines

A proposal for a primary information architecture

Single-Domain Information Architecture
A site information architecture that does not share its abstract or physical construct with other information sources with intention

Shirky Assertion
The Clay Shirky assertion implies that the failure to properly filter information is what humans are inaccurately interpreting as information overload. Nathaniel Davis describes filter failure as a signature of information overload. View Clay Shirky's original presentation.

The coherent order and relations between physical and abstract constructs in support of a communicated design

Subject Domain
The collective behaviors and vocabulary of an individual or group that directly relate to a unique subject matter or function within a business, organization or other social context

Subject Matter
A topic of inquiry and discussion of a single or multiple subject domains; area of interest

Rules that govern how information forms linguistic constituents like words, phrases, images, gestures and sound


An abstract construct that reflects the collective division of entities into ordered domains arranged in a way that demonstrates parent-child relationships between domain constituents

A concept that argues how a multi-disciplinary practice is a set of shared subject matter from other unique practices, and how a practitioner's added focus in a given practice vertical creates a "T" shape when graphically plotted

A child domain of a subject domain within an order grid


User Experience Design
A practice of determining the content, form and behavior of a user interface and its related systems given the holistic exploration of situational context and user empathy

Utility Gap
The amount of unused and unusable information stored within a domain


The increasing rate of information flow within a domain


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