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Nov 13, 2006: Free information architecture consulting

Does that grab your attention? Because that's what it is: I'm soliciting tough IA questions that I can take a crack at answering, and then open it up to others to comment on. The asker can be anonymous if he or she wishes. I've done this once before ("What would you do #1"), and it seemed to work out quite well.

Hmmm... I solicited questions here on Bloug a week and a half ago, and no one's ponied up. Does this mean that all difficult IA questions have been answered?

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Comment: Rod (Nov 13, 2006)

Hi Lou,

Here's my question:

Do you see an eventual convergence between Information Architecture and "MDA" (Model Driven Architecture) in regards to practices?

I ask this because I've been a Business Analyst, IA, Developer, etc. on a variety of projects and I can see the value-add of an IA (like myself) knowing data modeling, object modeling, etc.

These skill sets have served me well in having a clearer picture of how the information is being organized, stored, processed, etc.

Just wanted to get your thoughts on this.



Comment: RTodd (Nov 13, 2006)

My question would resolve around Return on Investment; How does one accurately measure the short and long term ROI of IA? Before, you jump on the obvious faster, smarter, efficient, and more effective bandwagon, I would like a much deeper analysis and ROI model. Again, it would be easy for us to simply say Balanced Scorecard, AFTF, TVC, Value Explorer, Tobin q, Skandia Navigator, IC-Index, etc. Yes, there are many models to choose from but the bottom line is that IA must create and deliver value within both the short and long term.

My belief and research is that IA must enable knowledge exchange and foster the growth in both content and usage for the environment. If we deliver textbook perfection IA but the long term growth does not materialize then we have failed.

Comment: Cheryl (Nov 13, 2006)

I've seriously thought about getting a PhD (I already have a BA in psychology/biology and an MBA in Software Development) in IA.

And then I stop and ask how the heck does one get an PhD in this field?

Seriously, my question for the experts is how exactly does on get to be an expert? (Setting up your own consultancy is not for the faint of heart.)

Comment: RTodd (Nov 13, 2006)

Many, if not most, Ph.D. programs allow you the freedom and flexibility to expand the body of knowledge in any area you choose. For example, you can select Human Computer Interaction with a focus on IA within an Information Technology program.

Comment: chris (Nov 13, 2006)

A master's in Information Science may also be useful. A Ph.D. focusing on IA would also fit well within the realm of Information Science, particularly if you have the ability to gain an adviser who may be cross-appointed in Comp. Sci (HCI).

Comment: Ravi Mynampaty (Nov 13, 2006)

Hi Lou,

My question is about IA and Miller's Magic Number.

As is well known, this number, i.e., 7 2 is considered key in information processing by humans, and it may have influenced the length of phone numbers, etc. Recently it has been applied to web site design, e.g., using only 7 items in navigation elements, or drop down lists.

I was wondering if there's any new research that might support (or not) applying Miller's findings to web site design. And even if there is no such research, how would Lou approach incorporating the magic number in IA practices for websites?



Comment: brandy (Nov 14, 2006)

Is Usability truly a subset of IA or a totally different job? Sometimes they feel very disconnected in that not all IA's make good Usability people.

How do we better sync up the designer/developer community with IA/Usability so that they are as much a part of one anothers proccess as designers and developers are today.

Comment: Vera Bass (Nov 15, 2006)

Hi Lou,

We're working on a plan that would ideally integrate social networking tools with more traditional indexed text (& image) databases. (I am not a programmer.)
Has anyone yet cross referenced and integrated formal database indexes with user created definitions such as tags?


Comment: Lou (Nov 16, 2006)

Great, great; keep'em coming!

Comment: Jess McMullin (Nov 18, 2006)

So, a three thoughts:
Re: usability - Lou and I took a pass at how different disciplines relate a few years back.

Re: 7 2
Mike Angles blogged about this on iaslash, citing an IEEE paper about the myths of Miller's magical number.

RTodd, I don't have an answer, though I think ROI is often a red herring. Value isn't always dependent on financial return. As you know, doing public sector work in government or education is much more difficult to show hard ROI than on an ecommerce site. That said, Scott Hirsch's work while at Adaptive Path (pay report) is the gold standard for tying value to design, and the second edition of Cost-Justifying Usability has some interesting perspectives, and Aaron Marcus wrote an interesting paper on ROI and User Centered Design.

Comment: Christian Mogensen (Nov 22, 2006)

Here's a nut that we've just struggled with:

How to represent/handle time-zones in diaries (often multiple diaries representing different users) where appointments are meetings, phone-calls, teleconferences with customers who may be located in different timezones.

Remember that time-zone data is variable, and summer-time rules also vary from year to year.

Please show your work. - isn't that what exam questions often ask you to do?

Comment: VeraBass (Nov 26, 2006)

I've been focusing on the subject of my earlier comment/question here, and would like to add to it a more specific question.

Can a collabulary be a semi-organic interface tool integrated into a traditionally structured classification system, so that user tagging both generates a folksonomy tag from the user account and simultaneously is submitted to the collabulary which uses flexible parameters to connect the data fragment to the more rigid primary data structure?

I hope that I've stated this in a way that makes sense.

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