Is Information Architecture for me? Some exploring…

A recent topic in my LIS masters studies introduced me to Information Architecture. It’s not that I didn’t know it existed, but finally a name (other than appearing out of place to my colleagues with the “librarian” label) to an information practice I could potentially do in the corporate information environment.  Or more to the point, is information architecture a good fit to my career aspirations, qualifications and professional interests? I explored the concept and practice a little further, here’s what I found out….

According to the Information Architecture Institute, ‘Information Architecture’ is defined as

“the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organising and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability, and a practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape”

….And as stated by the Queensland Government

“is the means of providing a structured description of an enterprise’s information, the relationship of this information to business requirements and processes, applications and technology, and the processes and rules which govern it”

From here, I went on to discover a couple of professional associations for Information Architects.

  • Information Architecture Institute – a multi-national organisation that “supports individuals and organizations specialising in the design and construction of shared information environments”.

I’ve already subscribed to the e-newsletter, the job board e-newsletter and the Aus/NZ events e-newsletter. The website has some great resources to begin exploring with recommended reading lists, notes on tools used and information about courses.

  • Information Architecture Institute Australia – founded in 2008 to support information architects working in Australia and “to further the profession in Australia”. The website also has tools and resources to check out.

On recommendation by the guest lecturer, I’ve started to follow leaders in the profession on Twitter, such as Donna Spencer, Louis Resenfeld and Jared Spool.

So, what do Information Architects do? I found a few job descriptions and have compiled a list of common tasks and responsibilities: –

  • Awareness of the latest tools, techniques and proceedings in the field of User Experience and use and implement them where appropriate
  • Participate in user studies to understand user behaviors/preferences and build, from this understanding, informed user interface solutions
  • Organise and lead workshops and reviews with stakeholders and project members
  • Interpret user requirements, business requirements and technical enablers and constraints and translate these into functional specifications and User Experience solutions
  • Create and manage detailed wireframes, site maps, schematics, process maps, feature lists, visual specification, data flows and other artifacts to describe the intended user experience.
  • Lead or participate in immersive user research, concept testing, and usability testing
  • Work with Quality Assurance to ensure that delivered features match IA-specified system functionality
  • Content analysis and modelling
  • Develop thorough, realistic plans that support organisational objectives
  • Work with customers to understand their business models and goals and help define strategy, content, and features for design of their web site
  • Define site architecture and navigation that serves as a blueprint of the site upon which all other aspects are built

So now I’m thinking, okay, how do I become an Information Architect? Again, from job descriptions, below is a list of common requirements: –

  • Qualifications in Graphic/Visual Arts, Library and Information Science, Computer Science, Marketing
  • Strong knowledge and mastery of principles in web design
  • Strong knowledge of user interface design processes and methodology
  • Communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Knowledge of related software such as Illustrator, Visio, Photoshop, SQL Server, Dreamweaver
  • Ability to conduct user profiling and user needs analysis
  • Keep up to date on emerging technology and usability research
  • Tagging, taxonomies, metadata frameworks
  • 5 + years experience

Final words….

I’ve enjoyed exploring the practice of information architecture and wish to do so further by collecting job advertisements which may help inform my professional development planning and activities; learn and play with common tools and software used by an information architect, and keep myself informed of current practices and trends by casting my personal learning environment a little wider.

I’ll leave you with some resources (in addition to those linked throughout) – what I’ve used for this post as well as some recommended by me for some background reading.

Michigan State University. Careers – Digital and Technical.
User Intelligence.
guardian.co.uk. What is Information Architecture.
UxBooth. Complete Beginners Guide to Information Architecture.
Information Architecture Institute Job Board

To be continued….

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