on August 28, 2003
I suppose Wodtke knows everything there is to know about IA, but I not so sure about her book writing skills...
Given that she claims that "yes, it's a short book" (false modesty at 350 pages?) it's surprising to notice the number of digressions - into some pretty lame issues, perspectives and tips:
- How she got the idea of writing a book.
- What the book is not about.
- A 30 page discussion of guidelines she does not support.
- A comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of different ways to draw people, e.g. stick people.
- A note that you need a big notebook or a whiteboard and some markers if you want to do some topic mapping.
- A tip that when receiving guests you might break the ice by asking if it was easy to find the way.
Actually, I learned quite a few things by reading this book, but I call for the editor to wake up and give Wodtke some decent advise if she decides to go for a follow up. Any half decent editor could take a hundred pages out of this book in an hour, ending up with a much better read.
on May 12, 2003
When reading the book I was briefly enthralled by her critical take on the standard (guru) guidelines for good site design - but it should have been a warning on what was to come: a mixing of usability, design and information architecture. Off course the three disciplines mingle in every site development, but in a book called Information Architecture it should dedicate all its pages to that subject - but all too often I find myself halfway through a chapter before realizing that it is mainly about design and usability (or even project management) and only secondly about information architecture.
Another thing that seriously degrades the focus is what I see as a shameless attempt to make the book thicker by including non relevant material. On pages describing the organizing of content she manages to use up half a page with a picture of her husband with the caption "Looks cold, doesn't he?".
She could also have spent more time organizing the book's content. With chapters named "Making It All Up, Writing It All Down", "All Together Now" and "Eat Me, Drink Me, Push Me" it is impossible to navigate in, impossible to look for some kind of principle behind the organizing of the content.
The book should have been called "Site Development: IA, Design and Usability for the newcomer".
on March 15, 2003
While well written and entertaining, the author fails in this book to present a volume with any real depth. If one is in search of a book that explains information architecture and provides some really good guidelines, this is, however, such a book.
The reader is directed to carefully plan the Web site, to commit it to paper first and to do a prototype which should then be shown to others for their input as users.
All this is fine. But she seems to thumb her nose at credible usability experts (while not naming them one senses one is Jakob Nielsen) by attempting to prove that the rules don't really matter all that much.
That would be obvious when you visit her personal Web site, ... You'll find locating links a considerable task.
I am sure she's very professional and very good at what she does. But this book did not speak to my desire to better understand usability and information architecture in a manner that I could adapt to my own work immediately. It was more of a survey of IA.
I much prefer the work and exhaustive studies of Jakob Nielson and others who provide workable ideas that have proven themselves over time. The author of this book doesn't seem to hold with their findings. And indeed, one must know the rules and then set about to improve on them. So I have no argument with her here.
My argument is that she puts no stock in the "rules" yet she fails to offer any alternatives. Had she done so, the book would have been a breakthrough read. It was not.
Susanna K. Hutcheson
Owner and Executive Copy Director
on January 2, 2003
In the previous, I thought information architecture (IA) is just about organizing the content, defining the labels and designing the navigation schemes. After reading this book, I understand IA is much much broader and useful than I can imagine.
This book explains why we need IA and shows us steps and examples of how to do it well.
The first few chapters of the book are about some basic user experience design and usability knowledge. They are useful if you are new to this field.
After that few chapters, the book becomes more and more exciting. The author started to teach us the foundation of many IA techniques including user interviews, card sort exercise, meta data, controlled vocabulary, personas and scenarios, task analysis, web UI design and diagramming.
Personally, I love chapter 9 - "Making It All Up, Writing It All Down" so much. It is about diagramming and documentation. It makes me understand that there are a lot of stuffs I have to prepare before I really build a web site.
The example on re-organizing the Digital Web Magazine in chapter 10 also opens my eyes.
Thank you, Christina!
on December 30, 2002
As a professional Information Architect (IA), I try to read as many design books as I can, and this is one I will recommend again and again, mainly for it's refreshing lack of pretense and it's easy-to-follow style.
For the Non-IA, read this book because it "demystifies" IA on many levels. It explains what an Information Architect does, why you might need one, and does a great job of discussing all of the possible deliverables an IA might produce and why. If you're overwhelmed with design "buzzword bingo", this book explains a lot, and in easy-to-understand terms.
For the IA, read this book for the up-to-the-minute tools and techniques. She doesn't dictate a fixed methodology or hard-and-fast rules, instead, she presents a toolbox and guidelines for using them. I found the chapters on Personas and Taxonomies/Controlled Vocabularies especially helpful. She demonstrates that she's been out there working in the real word when she offers advice on overcoming creative blocks, working with people, and how to get your ideas across to (not always supportive) groups of people.
Many IAs will see themselves in this book ("I've created wireframes that look just like that" or "Yes, I've found that too!"), but the real value here might be recommending this book to your favorite Project Manager or Developer so they can gain a little more insight into what you do and go to bat for you on the next collaborative project.
on December 26, 2002
Written in a clear, informal and humorous style, Christina takes on the challenge of explaining what Information architecture (IA) is all about and walks us step by step through the IA process and is descriptive and instructional instead of theoretical. This book doesn't give reader rigid rules such as "navigation bars should have only seven links" or some fixed methodology or which software to use for developing websites. Instead, this book is focused on the big picture of building a website: the big picture about the business's needs, the end user's needs, and what needs to go into the site and how to present information in a clear, easy to find format. Just like planning a skyscraper, a website needs its blueprint before choosing building materials or worry about the actual construction of the building.
Personally, I find the chapter on "Making it all up, writing it all down" particularly helpful. Christina provides us with a set of tools to try out as part of the IA process. As she stated at the introduction, she didn't give us a set of rules but instead, developed a toolbox with a collection of techniques and principles for readers to pick and choose based on their needs. Tools that will actually make us think, make us work harder on formulating a better site structure rather than applying simple rules to all your problems.
If you are involved in the web development process, regardless your role as the business managers, project planner, web designer, programmer, etc, and you need to buy any book on planning and organizing your website, this should be it.
on November 13, 2002
The ergonomically correct design of a web page is a very difficult task. The placement of information on pages and links to other pages is a very inexact, yet necessary science. However, great strides have been made in understanding how humans follow the flow of web pages, what attracts us and what sends us scurrying away in frustration. Many of the results of this ongoing research are summarized in this book.
Information architecture is a new area and it is defined as the overall structure of a web presence. It starts at the initial idea of what you expect the web page to offer, continues through to the expectations that the user will have, passing through every facet of what the web page presents to the world. If there is one thing that the dot-bomb phenomena should have taught all of us it is that creating high quality web pages that work is a very hard thing to do. Subtle clues such as proximity, a slight difference in a color or font, location on the page from top to bottom and left to right all communicate something to the user. While those messages are very soft-spoken, they are very real and powerful, so it is necessary to learn them to be successful. The expenses of doing a quality job are much higher than almost everyone realized, so anything that can reduce the difficulty is appreciated.
This book will do that for you. It will show you how to start the project by expanding the original idea, how to storyboard the page and how to refine it at the end. It can save you a lot of money and also is an excellent choice as a text for courses in how to design web pages.
on November 8, 2002
Christina's thought provoking guide to the nuances of IA and what it really takes to get beyond site maps, frameworks, and card sorts to start architecting effective information tools for users is a top notch guide for those interested in creating better user interactions.
Full of bold statements like, "On the web, everyone's a woman," and then backing them up with equally provacative insights, this thoughtful book puts the reader on the frontlines of the corporate IA revolution. This book is an easy read with many valuable lessons, both burned and learned.
Christina's no nonsense approaches culled from a rich experience in print and digital media make this book a must read for IA's, and the people that IA's want to influence, to start making them think differently about not making people think at all and inspiring interfaces that allow people to just DO.
The most exciting thing about "Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web" is the way it begins to hint that there may just be life after the web for IAs who still have hope. Thanks for the affirmation that Information Architecture is still very alive and well, and most important, more necessary than ever.
on November 7, 2002
This book is full of that kind of energy that makes it hard to stop reading. You can tell that Christina Wodke takes IA as something very personal, and has placed all that passion into these pages.
She starts by making a solid case for IA, then proceeds to ditch the gurus and their hard rules with braveness and wit. Next, she opens her toolbox, and starts showing you an impressive set of tools which are exhaustively described, with all the secrets you need to use them effectively and great examples. It's the most practical book on Information Architecture that I've read so far.
It doesn't matter if you are new to the discipline or an experienced architect, you'll still learn lots of useful stuff. The traditional subjects of IA are presented in a refreshing point of view, and it explains subjects that nobody before had revealed, with clarity and detail. For example: best practices for developing user research, how to build a good taxonomy, a great chapter on interaction design, and all you need to know about documentation - just to mention sample topics that were particularly relevant to me.
Then she wraps it all up into an exercise project, and as if that wasn't enough the goes on to give you greats bits of advice on how to be a better professional, like how to get out of a creativity block and how to win the respect of the people you work with. Prof. Norman is best as describing it in the back cover: "what else can you ask for?"
Within the first pages she says it's a small book, I'd say that's not quite precise. She also says she's put her whole brain into this book, she surely did. So my recommendation would be: don't waste the chance to feed on a really bright brain.
on November 1, 2002
When I read the following, I knew I'd purchased the right book:
"You are going to do it. You might be the project or product manager, the designer, the engineer, or the marketing guy. You're not really sure why it landed on your desk; heck, you're looking around to see if there is another desk you could slide onto. But as your hope for getting someone else to do it fades, you realize it has to be done. And this is the book I wrote for you."
I am a software engineer (primarily web application development) and I spend most of my time writing "backend" code to query databases, apply business logic and generate server driven web pages (much like the one you are viewing right now).
As these applications grow more sophisticated it becomes more and more important to organize the which, how and what of content. This comes up in many ways: the order in which the user sees information, the navigation from screen to screen, the amount of data being display and so on.
This book begins with a description and basis for information architecture and then introduces a variety of principles that one can employ in creating an information architecture for a web site. Some examples of topics include wayfinding, navigation, organization, interviewing and mapping content.
The author's voice maintains an informal tone - it's obvious the author did not want to sound pedantic. However, the content is rich and well developed so one doesn't feel patronized.
The hidden value of this book is that it gives many examples when a principle is asserted. Just by touring the websites given with these principles in mind will make one a better information architect, be it formal or informal.
So my rating is 5 stars; loved it, loved it, loved it!