Dan Brown is a brilliant information architect and content management strategist with a forthcoming book called Communicating Design, about producing IA deliverables for websites.
On his blog, Green Onions, he posted a few months ago about an emerging design pattern he’s identified related to managing incoming information.
He describes the object model thusly:
- The People
- The Objects
- The Item
- The Inbox
- The Archive
- The Lifecycle
- The Interactions
- Assigning items to people
- Disposing an item
- Archiving an item
- Distinguishing content
That’s just the bare bones, though. Read his whole entry to get the details.
If we accept that it’s true that these are the “four modes of seeking information”:
Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville are working on a third edition of the “Polar Bear” book, aka Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (O’Reilly), and in preparation for this they have posted a brief survey.
I filled it out:
Question 1: What’s obviously new in IA? Over the past five years, what major trend(s) have emerged in the field of information architecture?
- tagging (duh, except we used to call it metadata or keywords, so I guess I really mean user-created tags)
- a greater emphasis on microcontent (as opposed to pages)
Question 2: What’s new in IA that’s not so obvious? Over the past five years, what’s changed in information architecture that hasn’t received the attention it should?
- a more clear division of labor (i.e., a truce) between IAs and graphic designers in the UX realm
- a subtle shift toward empirical validating and analysis of information architectures (such as via user-acceptance and A/B testing) supplanting the guru-centric intuition-driven approach.
Comments: Anything else you’d like to add or suggest?
IAs should be careful not to define the life out of their discipline and not to take themselves so seriously that they forget that the Web is still an incredibly new medium and that we have a great deal more to learn from it.
I’ve been reading Dan Klyn’s blog, Wildly Appropriate (found it via his signature on an IA mailing list) recently and he’s a great source of valuable links and trenchant insights about user experience, findability, SEO, and related subjects. If I have one complaint about his blog, it’s that his Flash-font-replacement blog entry titles break my tabbed-browsing experience.
His On-Site Search: Still eRetail’s Killer App explains how important local search is for e-commerce sites, and his recent post on consumer generated media startup BazaarVoice relates, indirectly, to the panel I’m moderating at South by Southwest next month (“D.I.Y. Media: Consumer is the Producer”).
Lots of great stuff. I’ll keep reading.
(posted from the Denver airport via wifi)
Following up on the link to Derek Powazek’s article in a List Apart, here’s Keith Robinson has a similar take on the role of a home page in a site’s information architecture:
Part of this problem stems from the idea that items on a Web site can’t live in more than one place within a taxonomy. This, my friends, is unrealistic, unpractical and well… silly. At least in many cases. It might seems obvious, but it can be a real challenge to get stakeholders to see that it’s ok to put things in more than one grouping, even if it’s just via related item linking. Or, maybe a larger and more common issue, to get them to understand that it’s ok to place something into a grouping where it might not fit 100%.
And then there is the Homepage. They want to know what “lives” on the homepage, and often have large internal struggles to get that sorted out. Struggles that can be an ongoing maintenance drain, let alone the effect of an ever-changing home- or hub- page has on users.
They don’t realize that their stuff might get more visibility on internal content pages. And it’s not just internal stakeholders that have a problem with these ideas. For example, it always amazes me that people will pay more for one homepage ad than they will for a load of internal page ads. It’s doesn’t always make sense when you think about it, especially when there is an opportunity to relate the ad to the content on the page ala Google’s AdSense.
In addition, I can safely say that quite often these struggles are next to meaningless when it comes to helping a user find what they’re looking for. The fact that everything is conveniently grouped within a hierarchy and mapped down from a home page doesn’t help everyone (or even most people) coming to the site looking for information. It can be very helpful to those who begin at the homepage and browse through your site. However, as search engines become more accurate, and as Web services and syndication spread content around the Web and, in some cases, away from the Web browser, this type of behavior will become less and less common.