Information Architecture (IA)

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/03/2003 | The Job | His work: Watching people use the Web

Here's a zen question from the weird, wired world of the Web: Can there be an architect of something that will never exist in a three-dimensional form?

This is Ben Levin's zone.

His business card says 'User Experience Architect,' and the title isn't something cutesy dreamed up by a human-resource consultant who has been to too many motivational seminars.

In the Web world, this is a common job title in the field of usability - the interaction of humans and computers.

The article gets a few things wrong here and there but it's interesting nonetheless to see how our profession is depicted in lay terms.

Presentations and handouts from the Fifth Annual ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit

There are lots of handouts and presentations from the 5th IA summit available from their website. Most in power point but also in word and PDF and for example Jared Spools presentation "14 things users want to know" is published as a video presentation in real media format.

Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps! - Making Sense of It All

Lars Garshol, Development Manager at Ontopia posted a fantastic article on the relationships between different classification tools - topic maps, ontologies, taxonomies, and more. Well worth the read, since it's a clear explanation that separates similar concepts that too often get muddled.

IA Summit recap at Boxes and Arrows

This year's IA Summit, themed "Breaking New Ground," seemed to have the right mix of new and returning folks, a nice variety of interesting and well-attended pre-conference workshops and several tracks of presentations to suit the IA of every flavor

Thoughts on presentations from Saturday and from Sunday.

UCD / UX / IA Salary survey

There's a new salary survey that's open for participation until March 31, 2004 (The official announcement is available here). It's is focused on UCD & HCI but has a number of questions where Information Architecture can be selected, and it's fairly comprehensive in many other respects.

I think that it is beneficial for both practitioners and hiring managers to have accurate, realistic compensation information, and hopefully participating in this survey will help.

FYI, more salary and compensation info is available at the Salary Surveys page on the IAwiki.

Small Business IA & usability

I am thinking of creating some sort of Small Business IA/usability organization to promote the practice in small businesses. I've seen too many small biz websites that have really unusable websites -- since the vast majority of small biz owners have the do-it-yourself mentality (whether that's the best attitude to have is a whole different story) many, if any, do not understand that a site must be usable for it to benefit consumers.

I am not new to the idea of IA and usability, actually found out about the field a few years the past months have I have been starting to actively take a role in it.

I hope a few of you read this blog -- I'm currently looking for any organizations that exist that already fulfill the need I if you are reading, and do, please let me know so I won't duplicate any work or step on any toes.

Information architecture conference in Paris

Designing and Organising Digital Information Spaces is an information architecture conference held in Paris 8-9 June 2004. Featured speaker is Peter Morville from Semantic studios. The conference takes place in conjunction with i-expo.

IA Summit blogging

The IA Summit has set up a group blog where all conference-goers will have posting access. For those blogging the conference on their own sites, you can trackback to

Thanks Atomiq

The Page Paradigm

Mark Hurst has written an interesting discussion about web pages and how people navigate. In it, he reminds us of something he wrote in 1999,

On any given Web page, users will either… click something that appears to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal, or click the Back button on their Web browser.

The interesting part of his message here, I think, is that the IA/designers’ focus on aspects of the UI such as navigation consistency is less important than the supporting of users in getting them to their intended goal. He says provocative things such as “users don’t care where they are in the website”. If you can get your head past that idea, 3 bullets summarize what this should mean for you in practice:

  1. Identify users’ goals on each page.
  2. De-emphasize or remove any page elements (or areas of a site) that don’t help to accomplish the goal.
  3. Emphasize (or insert) those links, forms, or other elements that either take users closer to their goal, or finally accomplish it.

I’ve posted additonal personal opinions on this topic elsewhere on my weblog. Peterme discusses Mark’s ideas as well, pointing out that he shouldn’t dismiss the value of wayfinding cues in order to make the point that empasis should be placed on user needs and behaviors supporting those needs. Christina doesn’t see the harm in Mark’s oversimplification and suggests that informational cues such as breadcrumbs put the burden of mental strain on the user. It’s nice that she also suggests alternatives identified in her Widgetopia to helping users identify alternate paths related to their current task, addressing a point that I think is important — “Where can I go” is perhaps more important than “Where am I?”. Manu Sharma adds that both Peter and Mark are probably both right in this debate, but the difference in perspectives is explained by their different experiences.

Book review: Information architecture for designers

ContentPeople has a review of Peter Van Dijck's book "Information architecture for designers".

IA Slam Workshop looks like a blast at Summit preconference

A hypothetical design project brings together small teams of IAs to share thoughts on process and deliverables as they come up with "big ideas" and specific solutions. The fictitious Company X, represented by the moderators, will get input from teams formed from workshop participants. It looks like a great break from the standard PowerPoint drill, and there will even be fabulous prizes...

Because it's shorter (2 hours) the IA Slam is also cheaper than other preconference activities...something to consider if you'll be in Austin on the 26th but don't have $575 for a full day.

The scalability of findability - can IA move beyond web sites?

In the IA community we're fond of findability. It's a simple conceptual hook that lets business grok a key aspect of our work. However, findability also sets some arbitrary boundaries for the practice, and runs into challenges once we move beyond single web sites. Taxonomies and facets just don't scale across the web as a whole, and struggle to be globally relevant in cross-disciplinary enterprises like General Electric.

It makes most IAs cringe to think about automatic categorization tools. However, it's also the inevitable future of large scale findability efforts - no IA superhero can manage billion-document findability from traditional top-down or bottom-up approaches evolved to address site level issues.

Automated classification and semantic analysis is important for people who plan IA careers lasting into the next decade. We don't all need to become Autonomy drones, but it's worth keeping a finger on the pulse. One interesting project that is going to go commercial with Factiva is IBM's WebFountain. WebFountain is also different than many alternatives because the idea is to build a platform for findability - letting other people build modules that tailor the WebFountain base for particular uses. While most of us don't have to deal with enterprise architecture and beyond today, staying relevant in the future will require us to understand the issues at play. Rather than dismissing the advance of machine categorization and semantic analysis, we should be prepared to take advantage of new tools that further findability and ultimately the user experience.

Revisiting the Visual Vocabulary

The Visual Vocabulary Three Years Later: An Interview with Jesse James Garrett - In October 2000, Jesse James Garrett introduced a site architecture documentation standard called the Visual Vocabulary. Since then, it has become widely adopted among information architects and user experience professionals. B&A chats with Jesse about the vocabulary and thoughts on IA standards and tools. [Boxes and Arrows]

Boxes and Arrows for November 25, 2003

Yet another great new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. This time we get a Summary of the 2003 Dublin Core Conference from Madonnalisa Gonzales-Chan and Sarah Rice. Next we have John Zapolski and Jared Braiterman telling us about Designing Customer-Centered Organizations and lastly Alex Kirtland writes about Executive Dashboards.

Three Articles From Boxes & Arrows

Three great new articles up at Boxes & Arrows:

Designing Customer-Centered Organizations by John Zapolski and Jared Braiterman
Even with the present downturn in the economy, more companies, from new media to established banks, have larger usability and design teams than ever before. Should we be content that we have come so far?

We Are All Connected: The Path from Architecture to Information Architecture by Fu-Tien Chiou
We’ve all seen blueprints— formally known as contract documents —which architects produce and builders use to construct. No one person knows all the details of the design; the end result is entirely a product of teamwork. But there is one axiom: architects do not build.

Forgotten Forefather: Paul Otlet by Alex Wright
In 1934, years before Vannevar Bush dreamed of the memex, decades before Ted Nelson coined the term “hypertext,” Paul Otlet envisioned a new kind of scholar's workstation: a mechanical desk that would let users search, read, and write their way through a vast database stored on millions of 3x5 index cards.

W3C releases Metalog beta

Metalog is a next-generation reasoning system for the Semantic Web. Historically, Metalog has been the first system to introduce reasoning within the Semantic Web infrastructure, by adding the query/logical layer on top of RDF.

Metalog lets you do near-natural language queries on documents, acting as a bridge between the user and the RDF.

Experience People recruting firm

Challis Hodge has launched the UX recruiting firm, Experience People, LLC.

Experience People (XP) is a specialty firm with a laser focus on recruiting Experience Design and User Experience professionals for intermediate to senior level executive positions.

XP works across industries matching the best companies with industry leaders in Design Management, Experience Planning, Creative Direction, Interaction Design, Information Architecture, User Research, Interface Design, Graphic Design and Academia.

Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Site

Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Sites by Alison J. Head [via InfoDesign (Peter J. Bogaards)], a good article on personas, showing more than telling, with good example personas and a brief case study using BBCi.

Includes pointers, necessary details, and a tutorial featuring a well-explained example.

Information Architecture: Designing Environments for Purpose

"Information Architecture: Designing Environments for Purpose" edited by Alan Gilchrist and Barry Mahon, available from Amazon. Peter Morville includes his official history (and future) of information architecture (PDF) in the preface to the book.

XML feed