Bulletin, August/September 2011


Practicing Information Architecture – What’s In It For You?

by Thom Haller

As information professionals, we are called upon to develop strategies to help humans find their way through information structure. Our work depends, in large part, on the needs we need to address. As practitioners, our focus may shift depending on the challenge we face. So we need to embrace many strategies for supporting and influencing others. 

As I collected articles for this issue, I considered the exigency underlying the work. I asked, “Why is there a need for the communication?” Or “Why is there a need to implement different/new strategies?” In the workplace we might ask, “How do we help users?” “How do we help our organizations or our clients?” We might also ask, “ How do we help ourselves?” 

That, may also be the reason you look at articles in the Bulletin – helping yourself. You may want to gain practical knowledge about how to get a job done. Or you might want theoretical insight to position yourself in the constantly changing landscape of information practitioners. 

The articles are organized from most practical (step-by-step) to most theoretical. Use the following table as a guide to direct you through this summer’s issue.
 

HALLER / HEFFERNAN
Exigence/
Communication Need: 
Federal Workers need organized content to help them respond to a new law requiring clear writing.  What does it take to build a clear architecture to help them out?
 
WIFM (What's in it for me):   You, too, can follow a user-centered framework to help people get their jobs done.
 

WHALEN
Exigence/
Communication Need: 
Organizations want to incorporate information structure that changes people's attitudes or behaviors.  What principles of influence can we apply?
 
WIFM (What's in it for me):   You want to know how to satisfy your customers.


 
ABEL
Exigence/
Communication Need: 
Customers want "help" information so they can use a product better.  How can we implement social structures to help them out?
 
WIFM (What's in it for me):   You can embrace social strategies for reshaping "help" and improving customer service.
 

SWEENEY
Exigence/
Communication Need: 
Organizations want to achieve better search results.  How can we become more adept at search engine optimization?
 
WIFM (What's in it for me):   You want to help your organization optimize search results for your site.
 

DAVIS
Exigence/
Communication Need: 
Information professionals want to attend to challenges and opportunities that rise from increasing information flow.
 
WIFM (What's in it for me):   You want to step back, think about changes in the information landscape and how you might respond.


Thom Haller serves as the IA editor for the Bulletin and teaches principles of performance-based information architecture and user experience. In Washington, D.C., Thom teaches IA/UX classes at The Graduate School, where he launched one of the initial classes in IA (1998). A writing teacher and believer in clear writing, Thom lead the effort to reshape the plain language site in 2005. He served as director for the Center for Plain Language in 2006/2007. Thom can be reached via email at thom<at>thomhaller.com, or @thomhaller on twitter.