November 30, 2006

Information Architecture 3.0

Ok, I know any post that has something with the format "xxxxxxx n.0" makes us all want to poke our eyes out with dull spoon, but bear with me on this one.

Peter Morville, librarian, information architect and co-author of the classic Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, has an interesting article, Information Architecture 3.0, at his Semantic Studios site where he makes a plea of sorts for web designers to pay more attention to design considerations when they cobble together their shiny new 2.0 web sites.

[T]his future is self-evident in the undisciplined, unbalanced quest for sexy Ajaxian interaction at the expense of usability, findability, accessibility, and other qualities of the user experience.

Of course, user hostile web sites are only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface lurk multitudes of Web 2.0 startups and Ajaxian mashups that are way behind schedule and horribly over budget. Apparently, nobody told the entrepreneurs about the step change in design and development cost between pages and applications.

Followed by an interesting definition of Information Architecture:
Perhaps we should take a moment, before proceeding, to review the definition of information architecture:
  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within web sites and intranets.
  3. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability.
  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

He goes on to explore the discipline of IA, the role that information architects play and the community of practice they belong to.
Over the past decade, information architecture has matured as a role, discipline, and community. Inevitably, we’ve traded some of that newborn sparkle for institutional stability and a substantive body of knowledge. It’s for this reason that some of the pioneers feel restless. And, while I applaud their courage and entrepreneurial zeal, as they step beyond the role and the discipline, I hope (for their sake and ours) that they stay connected to the information architecture community.

For those of us who continue to embrace the role and discipline, there’s so much going on already, and the world of Information Architecture 3.0 will only bring more challenges, more opportunities, and more work.
The post has attracted a number of comments which Morville addresses very directly and honestly. Good stuff.

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