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Oct 06, 2002: Questions Information Architects Ask (Part II)

A week ago, I published here on Bloug a list of burning information architecture questions from last June's San Francisco attendees of our Nielsen Norman IA seminars. Later that month, we asked our Sydney attendees for the same thing; their questions appear below. Enjoy!

  • Is it worth having a seminar on "How to translate IA concepts into business cases to sell to senior managers"?
  • What's a good quick way to assess if your colleagues/stakeholders are top-down or bottom-up thinkers?
  • In usability, there is a push for "continuous improvement." IA often seems to be "big bang"—how can we deliver on an ongoing basis?
  • For clients unwilling or unable to spend money on IA studies, what might be the minimum or most effective tools to use for a site re-design?
  • With many of our clients, they operate with legacy systems and infrastructure. When we reorganize the content they start dividing what "we can do" and what "we can't do" which starts destroying the overall impact. At what stage can you convince clients that they have to invest in more flexible infrastructure or they will lose their competitive advantage more and more rapidly as new entrants come in unconstrained. And how?
  • How healthy is the industry in terms of employment? Average salary?
  • Are there guidelines you can suggest for estimating costs for the IA phase? (Estimate for proposal, or tender response, prior to discovery.)
  • Is Metadata on web pages vaporware? Most large search engines don’t recognize it.
  • My question is about encouraging the perception of IA as an "art." Creating art is about expressing one’s unique view or perspective to others and the appreciation of art is a very individual experience. Generally not what successful IA is about. Do we risk damaging the reputation and uptake of IA by promoting it as art; and could we better serve ourselves by promoting the application of skills in language, logic and usability to not only gain greater acceptance, but also develop and ensure best practice by all IA’s?
  • RE: ROT What systems or tools are available for the management of live and redundant content, or what recommendations do you make Data Base?
  • In your experience, what are the top "gotchas" for mis-organizing information?
  • In Tasmania, you cannot call yourself an "information architect" due to rules on using the term "architect" (you must qualify to register as a building architect). Does this happen elsewhere? What are the options? Does your title matter?
  • We offer seven discovery facets (eg. Topic, task, target audience, free text search, etc.) and find our usage is quite spread—is this your experience?
  • When working with a client who doesn't really know or understand IA, how can you build their trust and how much do you need to "educate" them before getting into the tasks and process of IA for the project?
  • Are there any advantages to three-dimensional models for IA?
  • I’ve been considering what the user is looking for. However in many circumstances the user is trying to achieve something, for example, plan for retirement, open an account, etc. Can you address the difference?
  • How to do the techniques fit together (the ones on the inner circle on p. 6 of the booklet)? Time hierarchy?
  • Recommendation in migrating content from org-based structure to user-focused structure, splitting up original business unit intranet sub-sites across major channels?
  • What strategies could you suggest for assisting users find their way to content that is organized by an "organizational" structure, (and often labeled that way too) that a) they don't necessarily know or understand and b) that changes (due to organization changes)? For example a layer over the top to provide entry points into the content silos?
  • How do you deal with people in marketing who want to label navigation by product name rather than subject? How do you win the argument? For example—we have a product called "EasyBiz" when the label should be "Small Business Insurance."
  • There is a large company with hugely political stakeholders—how does one web person (no web team, so to speak) convert them to the principles of user-based IA? Each stakeholder represents an unique user group with 5 or 6 in total.
  • IA vs. Content. In my experience, a site redesign leads to a content revamp or redesign—or the outcome of the IA analysis deems this necessary. How should IA and content "interplay" during the project phases to avoid IA and content clashes?
  • How do I go about getting work as an information architect? How do I convince people I have the skills, if not the title?

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