INFO 246-15
Information Architecture
Spring 2021 Syllabus

Dr. Virginia Tucker

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning Wednesday, January 27, unless you are taking an intensive or a one- or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets. You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically. Be sure to logon to the Canvas site by the second day of the semester and begin coursework.

Orientation seminarsCourse Kick-off seminar will be held Wednesday, January 27, 6-7 pm PT. In addition, a Project Launch seminar will be held Monday, February 22, 6-7 pm PT. Both seminars will be held via Zoom; logon information will be on the course site. Students must participate in the seminars or watch the recordings.

Project seminars: As announced in the Class Schedules, students will participate in a mandatory seminar via Zoom to give presentations on their projects. Two dates are available: April 28 and 29, 6-8 pm PT. (There will be a poll distributed for seminar date sign-ups; sign up early to be sure of getting your first choice.) See further information below about the project seminars.

Course Description

INFO 246 Information Architecture covers core concepts and methods for designing knowledge structures for the Web environment. Students will design and develop information structures and create project documents for the design lifecycle, including proposal, user research, prototyping, and communicating with stakeholders. 

This course prepares students with the knowledge and skills needed in the information architecture and user-centered design professions. Students will design and develop user-centered knowledge structures for the Web environment and create project documents for the stages of planning, designing, prototyping, and informing stakeholders about a content-rich product. Core topics are: problems addressed by effective IA; how to design for findability and understanding; user research; best practices of information architects; methods for organizing, labeling, and structuring navigation systems; creating client documents and deliverables for IA projects.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 202. Recommended: INFO 200.

Course Requirements

General Requirements

  • Keep up with assigned readings and recordings, complete assignments to the best of your ability, and engage thoughtfully in the discussions.
  • Check the course site daily for announcements and discussion posts.
  • Submit all assignments by the due date. Late assignments are not accepted except in cases of serious sudden illness or family emergency.

Required Textbooks & Further Readings
Be sure to purchase correct editions of the required textbooks, described below. Readings in addition to the required textbooks will be available on the course site.


Website Critique (15% of grade)
Students evaluate an existing website using IA best practices and principles as criteria, then submit a written summary after discussing findings in small groups. The 3 assignment deliverables are due February 14,18, 21.
Supports CLOs 1, 3, and Competencies G, J, N. 

Discussion Participation (10%)
Participation in discussions is an important component of the course. Posts need not be lengthy but must be timely, constructive, and address the questions posed. Supports CLOs 1, 3, 5, and Competencies G, J, M.

The Course Project stretches over most of the semester, and students work with a partner or solo. A sample completed project is available here. The Project has multiple deliverables:

  • Project Focus and Proposal (15%)
    A structured Proposal is the initial phase of the Course Project. Students choose a focus and determine their project partners (or if they wish to work solo). Deliverables are due Feb 28 and March 21. Supports CLOs 1, 5, and Competencies G, H, M. 
  • Project Seminar Participation (10%)
    Students present on their projects in a seminar setting (small groups of colleagues in the class), giving an overview of the project, their preliminary documents and recommendations, and eliciting feedback to improve the final deliverables. For due-dates, refer to Project Seminar dates above; slides are due two days before your seminar presentation.
    Supports CLO 5 and Competency M. 
  • Project Report (50%)
    The final project report has multiple components, ranging from the project objectives and executive summary, content inventory, user research results, personas and usage scenarios, to the site model documents and final recommendations. Deliverables are due April 18 and May 19.
    Supports CLOs 1, 2, 3, 4, and Competencies G, H, J, M, and N. 

Course Calendar
A detailed calendar will be available on the course site on the first day of the semester. Due-dates above are subject to minor changes. 

Course Topics

Part 1:   IA Fundamentals


Course introduction

  • Information architecture: core topics, What is IA
  • Information architects: roles and settings
  • Overview of course objectives and projects

Solving problems with IA

  • IA design for finding
  • IA design for understanding

IA design principles, part 1: Understanding content

  • Organizing, labeling/metadata, structuring
  • Content inventory
  • More about metadata for IA

IA design principles, part 2: Understanding users

  • UX and usability heuristics (nutshell versions)
  • Information seeking behaviors in Web environment
  • Problems of having too much choice
Part 2:   Doing IA

IA design processes

  • Product lifecycle
  • Overview of team strategies
  • Overview of research strategies

IA design documents, part 1: Developing the proposal

  • Scoping
  • Stakeholders
  • Deliverables

IA design documents, part 2: Designing for the user experience

  • Information needs & behaviors
  • Personas
  • Scenarios & flow designs; storyboarding

User research methods & tools

  • Requirements elicitation
  • Card sort
  • Task analysis

Research and design tools

  • Sitemaps
  • Wireframes
  • Taxonomy management
  • Requirements analysis

Part 3:   Communicating IA


Communicating to stakeholders

  • IAs as communicators
  • Preparing for project presentation seminars

Communicating within teams

  • Documentation as communication
  • Team communication & dynamics

IA Project management

  • IA project management: nutshell version
  • Team configurations & roles

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 246 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand and apply best practices in information architecture (IA) for content structuring, organization, labelling, and navigation.
  2. Learn methods for eliciting user requirements and information needs for specific user communities.
  3. Evaluate websites according to principles of effective IA, usability heuristics for content-rich sites, and concepts of information-seeking behaviors.
  4. Evaluate and use appropriate tools to create IA design deliverables.
  5. Communicate cogently in IA design deliverables to project stakeholders.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 246 supports the following core competencies:

  1. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.
  2. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.
  3. J Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting individuals or groups with accurate, relevant and appropriate information.
  4. M Demonstrate professional leadership and communication skills.
  5. N Evaluate programs and services using measurable criteria.


Required Textbooks:

  • Rosenfeld, L., Morville, P., & Arango, J. (2015). Information architecture: For the web and beyond (4th ed.). O'Reilly Media. Available through Amazon: 1491911689arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Unger, R., & Chandler, C. (2012). A project guide to UX design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making (2nd ed.). New Riders. Available through Amazon: 0321815386arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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