This is the controlled vocabulary for my book, How to Make Sense of Any Mess. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead it focuses on capturing the ontological decisions that went into my writing.
Words I Say
- Ambiguous (adj.): Open to interpretation.
- Architect (v.): To determine the structure of something.
- Baseline (n.): A measurement of something before making changes.
- Block Diagram (n.): A diagram depicting how objects and their attributes interrelate to create a concept.
- Broad (adj.): Provides many choices at once.
- Channel (n.): Anything that carries or transfers information.
- Choreograph (v.): To determine the sequence of steps and movements users can take.
- Classification (n.): The process of sorting things with similar qualities or characteristics. See also: Classify (v.)
- Communication (n.): The act of transmitting thoughts, messages, or information to people or systems. See also: Communicate (v.)
- Concept (n.): An abstract idea or general notion.
- Condition (n.): The relative state of something.
- Connection (n.): A relationship or association that links a person, thing, or idea with another person, thing, or idea. See also: Connectivity (n.) & Connect (v.)
- Content (n.): Things that are being arranged or sequenced.
- Context (n.): The surroundings, circumstances, environments, background, and settings that determine, specify, or clarify the meaning of an event or other occurrence. See also: Contextual (adj.)
- Controlled Vocabulary (n.): An organized list of terms, phrases, and concepts to help someone understand a topic or domain.
- Data (n.): A collection of facts, observations, and questions about something.
- Deep (adj.): A structure with many nested levels of classification.
- Dependency (n.): A condition that must be in place for something to occur.
- Design (v.): To plan something with an intended outcome. See also: Designed (adj.)
- Diagram (n.): Any illustration or picture that helps an audience understand something.
- Direction (n.): An indication of the place something or someone is traveling toward.
- Ecosystem (n.): A collection of interrelated systems.
- Exact (adj.): A precise way of classifying things. See also: Exactly (adv.), Exactness (n.), Exactitude (n)
- Exploded Schematic (n.): A diagram that shows how its pieces come together to create a whole.
- Form (n.): Whatever is created when content is sorted into a structure for use.
- Façade (n.): The visible face of something.
- Facet (n.): Any aspect, piece of knowledge or feature of something that can be used for sorting and retrieval.
- Flag (n.): A prescribed circumstance in which data is delivered.
- Flow Diagram (n.): A diagram depicting the steps in a discrete process, including conditions, connections, and places related to it. See also: Sequence
- Frame (v.): To arrange or adjust for a specific purpose. See also: Frame (n.), Framing (n.)
- Gantt chart (n.): A diagram depicting a process or set of processes as they relate to one another step-by-step over time.
- Goal (n.): A desired result.
- Heterarchy (n.): A classification method in which the individual pieces exist without rank, or level. See also: heterarchical (adj.)
- Hierarchy (n.): A classification method that applies successive ranks and levels. See also: hierarchical (adj.), hierarchy diagram (n.)
- Homograph (n.): A term that has different meanings depending on its context.
- How (n.): The specific ways something will be made or delivered.
- Hypertext (n.): When things are arranged so that related items are connected through an action taken by a user. See also: Hypertextual (adj.)
- Indicator (n.): A measurement or event used to monitor the operation or condition of something.
- Information (n.): Whatever is intrepreted from a particular arrangement or sequence of things. See also: inform (v.)
- Information Architecture (n.):
- As an object: The way we arrange the parts of something to make it more understandable as a whole.
- As a practice: The act of deciding which order the pieces of a whole should be arranged in order to communicate the meaning that is intended to users.
- Information Architect (n.): A person who helps other people determine or improve their information architecture.
- Intent (n.): The planned meaning and outcomes.
- Interface (n.): A point where a user affects a location or object.
- Interpretation (n.): A mental representation of the meaning of something. See also: Interpret (v.), Interpreted (adj), Interpreting (v.)
- Journey (n.): The steps taken within or between locations. See also: Journey Map (n.)
- Knowledge (n.): Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience and study. See also: Knowing (v.), Know (n.), Know (v.)
- Language (n.): A system for communicating.
- Lexicography (n.): The collection of varied meanings for single terms. See also: Lexicon (n.)
- Linguistic Insecurity (n.): The feeling of anxiety, self-consciousness, or lack of confidence surrounding the use of language in a specific context.
- Location (n.): A particular place or position.
- Map (n.): A diagram that shows how places are arranged within a defined area.
- Matrix Diagram (n.): A diagram outlining differentiated areas for sorting, presentation, discussion, or definition of ideas.
- Meaning (n.): The perceived significance, understanding, or importance of something.
- Mental Model (n.): The internal belief structure and thought process we use to make sense of the world.
- Mess (n.): A situation where the interactions between people and information are confusing or full of difficulties.
- Mind Map (n.): A diagram depicting connections between concepts, objects, ideas, channels, people, and places within a particular context that don’t necessarily live under an established hierarchy or sequence.
- Narrow (n.): A structure with fewer choices at once.
- Noun (n.): A person, place, or thing.
- Object (n.): A material thing that can be seen or touched. See also: Objective (adj.). Object of Discourse (n.)
- Ontology (n.): The declaration of meaning for terms and concepts within a specific context. See also: ontological (adj.)
- Opinion (n.): A personal belief or view about something.
- Option (n.): A possible way forward.
- Perception (n.): The process of considering, understanding, and interpreting something. See also: Perceive (v.)
- Place (n.): A portion of space designated for a purpose.
- Placemaking (n.): The act of determining how to communicate the intended purpose of a place to its users.
- Progress (n.): Movement toward a direction.
- Purpose (n.): The reason why something is done.
- Quadrant Diagram (n.): A diagram that depicts how a group of things compare to one another according to either exact or ambiguous spectrums of classification.
- Reality (n.): The experiences that determine how things appear to a person.
- Relationship (n.): A connection between things.
- Requirement (n.): Something that’s needed or wanted.
- Rhetoric (n.): Communication designed to have a persuasive effect on its audience.
- Scale (n.): The relative size of something.
- Schematic (n.): A representation of an object or interface.
- Scope (n.): The areas and requirements that are included in the work being done.
- Sequence (n.): The order in which things are encountered.
- Shallow (adj.): A structure with only a few nested levels of classification.
- Sitemap (adj.): A hierarchical diagram representing the relationships between pages or page states on a website.
- Space (adj.): An area that is free, available, or unoccupied.
- Stakeholder (n.): Someone with a viable and legitimate interest in the work that you’re doing.
- Structure (n.): A configuration of objects.
- Subjective (adj.): Particular to an individual.
- Swin Lane Diagram (n.): A diagram depicting how multiple users work together within a system.
- Synonym (n.): A term that closely resembles another word or phrase in meaning.
- System (n.): A set of structures.
- Taxonomy (n.): The classification of something.
- Timescale (n.): The period of time represented by a diagram or map.
- Thing (n.): A separate or self-contained entity. See also: Everything (n.), Anything (n.), Nothing (n.)
- Truth (n.): An accepted belief. See also: True (adj.)
- User (n.): A person who encounters a message.
- Venn Diagram (n.): A diagram depicting the result of overlapping concepts or objects.
- Verb (n.): An action, state, or occurrence.
- What (n.): The thing or things that specify something.
- Why (n.): The reason or explanation for something.
- Worksheet (n.): Any device made to capture answers to questions.
Words I Don’t Say
In my experience, a list of things you don’t say can be even more powerful than a list of things you do. A controlled vocabulary doesn’t have to end with terms you intend to use. Go deeper by defining terms and concepts that misalign with your intent.
I’ve avoided using these terms and concepts:
- Doing/Do the IA (commonly misstated)
- IA (as an abbreviation)
- Information Architecture (as a proper noun)
- Information Architect (exceptions in my dedication and bio pages)
- App as an abbreviation (too trendy)
- Very (the laziest word ever)
- User experience (too specific to design)
- Metadata (too technical)
- Semantic (too academic)
- Semiotic (too academic)
I have reasons why these words aren’t good in the context of this book. That doesn’t mean I never use them; I do in some contexts.