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Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web
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Top customer reviews
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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Concepts such as usability basics, user-centered design, and social web design are explained, and there is even a chapter with a case study on the Boxes & Arrows website. The book is a great addition to any interaction designer's library.
So, overall I'm rating this four stars as a good overview of Information Architecture. They manage to cover a vast and advanced field in a reasonably sized space. They do it pretty well, considering. I don't regret the purchase and I do recommend it for the beginning / intermediate user.
I can't help but see the irony in the presentation. ie ... in covering the subject matter that concerns itself with the science and methods behind classifying information simply and clearly for human consumption?:
The book is all over the map.
Headers for key subjects are not always clear, simple, and consistent at all. Key concepts that are essential to understanding a core subject - are at times buried in colloquial verbiage that serves more to make the subject more confusing that it should. At times I expected the authors to throw in little smiley faces and cute picture of puppy dogs and flowers to make the subject less intimidating and more appealing.
Not necessary - simplicity and clarity are the hallmarks of good IA, and in trying to make the book 'feel' more friendly, they break the rules inherent in what they are trying to teach you to do - and what not to do. In doing so they make it more difficult to learn, and harder to find what you are looking for ... which is exactly what they are trying to teach you not to do!
Like I said: 'Blueprints' is so ironic that it inspired me to take the time to write and post this review. In addition:
The authors are associated with an IA site called 'Boxes and Arrows'. I took a look at the site and my first impression was that it was way more difficult to navigate and understand the hierarchy than it should be: especially for an IA and content management career site.
Then - at one point in the book - they address this. They discuss a redesign of the site that will make it easier for users to find what they are looking for, and get involved with the site.
But the work was never done on the site! It's an IA site, about the field of making information clear and findable, that is not clear and the information is not findable. And they discuss this in the book that they wrote about learning good IA. Then ... they never implemented the fixes they discuss as an illustration in their own book!
Huh?? I am laughing right now because I find irony very funny :) Especially when its so cool and circular like this is. They do seem like nice people and I did get a lot out of the book however. With a bit of tweaking a new edition of the book could be a whole lot more effective (and fix the damn site!!)
With chapter titles like "First Principles: Some rules of thumb, and some thumbing of the rules" and "Gurus and Rules: In which some people like to boss you around, when we know that's my job," the book entertains as it educates, and leaves you with a comrehensive set of steps & guidelines when designing a site from scratch or improving an existing one. Numerous case studies, screen shots and diagrams also break up the monotony of what could otherwise be a boring subject.
If you're new to IA or are looking to expand your knowledge of architecting user interfaces for the web, this book belongs on your bookshelf.
- Design for Wayfinding
- Set expectations and provide feedback
- Design ergonomically
- Be consistent / consider standards
- Provide error support (Prevent, Protect, and Inform)
- Rely on Recognition rather than on recall
- Provide for people of varying skill levels
- Provide contextual help and documentation
While the illustrations that drive home the subject matter can be a little clipart-ish at times, the concepts are presented in a non-technical and non-jargon based way. Each topic is explained clearly using an outline / numbered bullet format to ensure that each section can be clearly understood independently and collectively. Items such as `Who are the users?' may seem trivial at first, but imagine how many interpretations of `who are users' exist with an organization and the problems that arise when the user begins to morph throughout the product lifecycle. Wodtke and Govella decompose several non-obvious items such as persona creation and navigational types (structural, associative, and utility) into chunks that are comprehensible (Hrair Limit). I was genuinely surprised to find a section for Social Architecture which exposed me to topics such as Kurt Lewin's formula for understanding human behavior and the elements of social architecture: identity + elements, relationships + elements, and activity + elements.
The book can be read from cover to cover, if time permits. However, most of the world will probably use this book as a reference guide for completing IA related tasks as they arise. I would strongly recommend that all aspiring and current IAs give the book a once over to spawn new thoughts about the discipline or to renew the interest in keeping things usable and findable.