Saturday, 2 January 2010

Information Architectures

Information Architecture is the art of organising information in a way that makes it easy for people to use it. In a very real sense it is millenia old, that after all is exactly what Librarians have been trying to do since ancient times. The growth of the Web has given that task a new sense of importance and urgency. It has also given it a new name.

The rise of Information Architecture as a profession raises interesting questions for Librarians. It is arguably just Librarianship in an online environment. Why aren't Information Architects called Web Librarians? (They are sometimes but it isn't the most widely accepted label.) What does that suggest about the image that Librarianship has outside of our profession? On the other hand whatever the job title we should be able to convince people that the study of Library Science gives us the skills to create well organised and easy to use Information Architectures.

The name isn't arbitrary. It is a metaphor which says a lot about the goals and self image of the emerging field of Information Architecture. The idea is that a website needs to be planned and carefully designed in the same way that a conventional architect would design a house or an office building.

The needs of the users need to be carefully considered. No one would build a house without thinking about what it would be like to live in it.

In the past websites have often been allowed to grow slightly haphazardly or they have been designed by people who were focused on form rather than function. Information Architects would argue that that is the equivalent of building a house room by room or letting an interior decorator design it.

Moreville and Rosenfeld point out that bad information architecture puts off customers, wastes employee time and and damage's an organisation's brand image or reputation. (Moreville & Rosenfeld, 2007.)

It is very hard to overestimate the importance of Information Architecture, for businesses, public services, and for each one of us .

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