Ways to Organize Information

The amount of information available to the average person in the workforce is exploding. With informal learning coming to the forefront, instructional designers may increasingly be responsible for designing information, rather than online courses.This could be for websites, interactive resources, references, support systems, mobile glossaries and things we haven’t even thought of yet.

If you’re called upon to perform information design, you’ll want to make the information manageable, findable and easy to use. One approach to this is the LATCH system, created by Richard Saul Wurman. He wrote about LATCH several years ago in his book, Information Anxiety 2. Wurman is attributed with creating the term, Information Architecture, and is also the creator of the TED events.

He writes that there are mainly five ways to organize information and these are applicable to most situations. The acronym LATCH can help you remember them. Each one is described below.

Use this when organizing information around locales, from grand to small. For example, location can be used to understand population distribution as well as the location of stress points in the body.

Use this when organizing large quantities of information, such as specialized glossaries or the online resources on your company’s intranet. Wurman suggests that alphabetizing information is also effective when an audience might not understand any another classification system.

Use time to organize information that is well, time-based or occurring in a fixed time frame. It might be a history of your organization, a schedule of yearly events or a way to document a complex process that occurs over time, like a laboratory procedure.

Use the category approach when the information is similar in importance and the categories are intuitive or easy to understand. This is a good way to organize information about product models, job roles or human resource processes.

I think we are pretty familiar with organizing information by hierarchy. It’s a classic instructional approach to designing content according to its importance in the scheme of things.

This sums up the LATCH approach to information design. An advantage of these five approaches is that they are reasonably familiar to most people. Nothing shocking here.

Finally, I do have my own take on content organization, but it relates a bit more to instructional purposes: How To Organize Content. And if you’re involved in information design, let us know what models you use.

Related Articles:
How To Organize Content
Chunking Information

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  1. Jay Cross says

    Connie, I don’t have much to add about information design, but I love “Be brave…” I’ll probably steal it. Blogs are so much better when two-way conversation gets going.


  2. Neil Margolis says

    I’m a first time visitor here, and I loved how easy you made it to understand Wurman’s basic principles for organizing information. Your post proves the point- in a world overwhelmed by information, good information design leads to understanding and learning.

  3. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Neil,
    Welcome to the site and thanks for you comment. Effective information design is one of my favorite topics because it’s both visual and conceptual. I plan to write more on this, so check back often. And if you’re too busy, you can use the form at the top to sign up to get articles delivered to your Inbox.


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