DSIA Information Architecture Glossary


Information architecture (IA) is a practice of organizing and relating information in a way that simplifies how people navigate and use content that’s presented in application user interfaces. This glossary reflects proposed terms within the context of IA theory and practice based on DSIA research.

See also What is Information Architecture? for additional context.

Disclaimer: This is a working document and managed by Nathaniel Davis. As a result, it may not always reflect my most recent insights and edits.


Abstract Construct

A conceptual relationship between two or more unique entities.

Abundance (Information Overload)

An excessive amount of information and content.

Activity Branch

(Activity branch definition coming soon.)

Activity Phase

(Activity phase definition coming soon.)

Architectural Intent

A rationalized objective of two or more reciprocating entities within a domain of behavior.

Application User Interface (AUI) Function

A function of network computing where human behavior is the central performance dependency.

  • Related article pending review

Application Technology Interface (ATI) Function

A function of network computing where technology is the central performance dependency.

  • Related article pending review

Architecture (Activity Branch)

The definition of architecture has been temporarily removed.

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 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

Construct (Common Set)

See: Abstract Construct, Physical Construct


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

Content Component (Application UI)

A collection of content objects used to create a presentational object.

Content Model (Application UI)

A description of a collection of related content objects and the inherent attributes they require to achieve an intended outcome for an application user interface.

Content Object (Application UI)

A presentation-based HTML element with which a user of an application user interface will engage. For instance: text, images, tables, lists, header, etc.

Content Module

A collection of content components.

Content Type (Application UI)

A description of a collection of related content modules that provide usability to an application user interface.


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.


Design (Activity Branch)

The definition of design has been temporarily removed.

Design Solution

The outcome of design activity that serves as the representational requirement for an intentionally (with reference to architectural intent) built object.


Equipment or a mechanism designed to serve a special purpose or perform a special function.

— Source: Merriam-Webster

Digital Literacy Gap (Information Overload)

The degree of education that a user needs in order to effectively use and contribute to a knowledge system and information architecture; literacy gap

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)

The undesirable human performance or behavioral response as a consequence of an information overload event.

Filter Failure (Information Overload)

Ineffective controls for determining content quality and relevance.

First-Order Domain

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 that is responsible for simplifying how people navigate and use content that’s connected throughout an organization.

Information Architecture (Web Practice)

The practice that concerns itself with providing the conceptual “blueprint” for application user interfaces.

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; the governing framework for content behavior.

Information Domain

A set of modeled information behavior that includes properties, attributes, and base information.

Information Environment

A set of modeled information behavior that includes one or more information domains.

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 an information technology 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 and content designated for consumption.

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

The 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 root properties within an information domain.

Single-Domain Information Architecture

A site information architecture that does not share its abstract or physical construct with other information sources with an 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.


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 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.

User Interface (UI)

The apparatus by which a human uses to communicate as a proxy for the purpose of computation, communication, or mechanical effort. 

Utility Gap (Information Overload)

The amount of unused and unusable information stored within a domain.


Volatility (Information Overload)

The increasing rate of information flow within a domain.