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on 29 November 2009
I'm currently doing a degree in Web Design and Information Architecture is a 2nd year module. This is the essential book for the module. If covers all the main areas and has helped me do write-ups, giving me the background information for the lectures and tutorials. It is however feeling it's age. There are tools and websites, and new information around now that simply didn't exist in 2006 when this 3rd edition was published. The internet is so fast moving, previous editions have 4 year gaps so I would expect a new 4th edition for 2010. That said this book is the "daddy" and if you need to get the full width and scope of this subject then there is no better book. This is my sixth O'Reilly text book plus I own 4 from their Head First range, so I like them alot. They are all well used and paid for themselves many times over.
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on 24 December 2010
If you're a designer, creator or manager of 'information spaces', and a lot of us are these days, then this is the book for you. That's not to say there aren't other great books available that cover similar ground, there are, but this is the only book that really does have it all in one place. The 3rd edition (2007) covers social classification and tagging which, in the public domain, are growing in importance all the time so it's worth getting this latest edition.

After a beautifully clear and thoroughly readable introduction to information architecture (and don't be put off by the rather grand term `architecture' as you'll soon understand why that particular term is used), the book presents the nuts and bolts of information work; namely: organising, labelling, navigating, searching, naming and categorising. This section is clearly built upon the ideas and work of previous information theorists and practitioners and sets out the core principles of the discipline lucidly and honestly. The text is crystal clear and very enjoyable to read. It's a great example of how all books like this should be written. It's my guess that, even if you're not directly connected to the `industry' but are simply curious about what goes into making a good information system, you'll enjoy reading this.

For me, as a practitioner, the section on process and methodology is essential reading. This section begins with that all important but often overlooked stage of research. How many information projects have failed due to inadequate research? Yet this is a area which is often seen as time consuming and is usually glossed over. But this is an essential part of any information project as it explains the discovery process necessary to create a foundation of understanding. This is followed by a chapter on strategy which defines the direction and scope of the project. The last chapter in this section covers design and documentation and provides some excellent advice on diagramming and blueprinting.

The Practice section provides practical tips and advice for practitioners and includes a short but very useful chapter on the tools of the trade. Ah yes, how many of us have been required to deliver information solutions but given no proper tools to do the job?

The book concludes with two further sections, one covering information in the organisation and addresses making the case for IA and the business strategy. The other documents two case studies which demonstrates information architecture in practice and consolidates the lessons learned.

If you're a practising `info pro', you probably already have this book in your collection of essentials. But if you haven't already got it, get it; you won't be disappointed.

If you're a student studying one of the many information related courses currently available in a number of universities and colleges, you may already have access to it in your libraries and bookstores. If not, demand that it be added because it's a brilliant book which should be on the required reading list in every library school and information studies department on the planet.
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on 19 February 2007
When I first told people I was reviewing this book, there was often a blank look. When I explained what information architecture was, then there was invariably a look of pity that passed across their faces. It appears that many people haven't a clue what information architecture actually is, and when they find out, wish they still didn't.

Well, this book has shown me the light. And I'm here to share it with you. Hallelujah, and so forth.

Information is all around us, and thankfully for much of it we have had plenty of time to work out a sensible way or organising it. When you look at a map, you understand the conventions, you know north is going to be up, you know there will be a scale, and so on. So much so, that when those conventions aren't there, if, for example, you are looking at a mappa mundi, you are completely thrown.

A bigger example is that of libraries. We are all used to some form of organisation in libraries - we know that related subjects will be near each other, that we can look this up and go straight to the shelf we want.

This is all well and good, and librarians, such as the authors of this book, have had many years to improve this system, to impose some sort of order on the chaos of so much information. The problem comes, however, when we consider the new sources of information that have exploded over the last 20 years or so. These electronic systems, and the greatest of these is of course the internet, provide completely new challenges - challenges we can start to try and tackle using principles and lessons learnt from other methods of organisation that have been developed elsewhere, but which will ultimately need to be solved in ways we cannot yet fully grasp.

This is where this book comes in. This third edition gives a novice like myself a good grounding in the philosophy behind information architecture, and proceeds to show how this can help in the design of large web sites. Coming from both a web development and a project management background, I felt a sense of relief that the vague concepts I was trying to use were at least recognised elsewhere, and had been developed far beyond what I had been able to. I suspect anyone who has had to grapple with how to display information to users will get a similar feeling when reading this book.

However, the philosophy and semantics are only part of this book. More important is the techniques it describes to actually implement information architecture - both the process, and the likely pitfalls that will be faced in a commercial environment. The formalised process is a good guide to anyone working in this area. (Mind, I would say that - I'm a project manager, so I think processes are intrinsically beautiful...)

These sections of the book, in addition to the examples at the end, provide anyone interested in how to use information architecture to improve their website with the tools they need. There is, however, more to this book.

Information architecture is a very young field. Part of this book is a primer for anyone interested in information architecture as a career, or part of a career. It sets out what, in the opinion of these authors, is a set of ground rules for how to be an information architect - the ethics, what to learn, what tools to use. It follows this with a set of short essays on how to actually sell the concept of IA, because a young discipline needs to carve out its niche in the world, bit by bit, organisation by organisation. It needs people to become enthused by this book, or by others, to take part in the work of popularising IA, to take part in the ongoing work of defining what IA actually is - as a new area of work, there are still many competing views on what it actually is, how it should work, and this book provides only one view of that.

But more importantly, this book shows us that there is still a lot of work to be done in creating a shared set of tools and techniques for navigating this new, vast information resource that we have created. This isn't about making sure commercial websites will make more money, though it will do that. It's not about making people feel happier about their user experience, though it will do that too. It's about making sure we are not overwhelmed, swamped by the sheer volume of data out there. It's about making sure we can find the information we need, and only the information we need, when we want it. It is, in essence, an expression of egalitarianism, the same egalitarianism that drove the internet in its earliest days. If we want to make as much information as possible available, it is ultimately worthless if only a small, trained few can actually find what they need. We need to build the systems that will ensure everyone is able to get to where they need to be.

In short, we need to make sure that the new generation, those who have grown up with the internet a ubiquitous reality, use the best techniques we have had for handling previous information systems, and combine them with completely new ones to create a truly accessible web, one that enables users to get to where they want to be.

So yes, read this book. Use the techniques it talks about. It will make your websites better. But more excitingly, it will let you take part in defining what the map and compass of the internet will actually look like.
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on 9 July 2009
My approach to this book was perfectly summed up by a quote from the chapter on Information Architecture (IA) Education. "We regularly meet with people who have no interest in becoming information architects but want to learn about information architecture."

As a website designer and someone who works on a large scale website, one of the essential skills I felt I needed to develop was an understanding of information architecture. This book was a great introduction to the various aspects. In general, it was accessible and easy to read. Chapters were kept short enough to easily digest. IA concepts were well explained in plain and understandable language. However, there were a few exceptions. The chapters on Search Systems and Thesauri, Controlled Vocabularies and Metadata were, perhaps unavoidably, heavy and hard going. The book also loses a little focus in the later chapters but even these chapters are still educational and informative.

Overall, the book is a great introduction to the IA field. If, like me, this is all you need then it is worth a read. If you want to become an information architect then it is worth spending a little more time studying the concepts and following up on some of the other sources it references.
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on 14 November 2009
Written from the viewpoint of ex-librarians, this book unravels the complexities of a new discipline - presenting information efficiently and effectively on the web, and the myriad challenges this throws up. For anyone building even the simplest of websites, and certainly for people who start thinking of adding a "search" facility to their sites, there really is no better place to start to get up to speed, and to consider the pitfalls in order to avoid them.

The fascinating thing about information architecture (posh name, simple concept) is that it is a relatively new discipline, with fluid terminology and theories. This book not only gives good weight to theory and academia, but is also packed with practical advice to help you improve your websites immediately.

A weighty, essential read.
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on 13 May 2007
As a, self-taught, one-man-band website owner/designer/coder/developer I was surprised to realise, upon reading the book, that I was not the 'target audience' for it. I think its more for the middle-men and consultants of big organisations who want to plan a project to the nth degree before a big budget is blown on it.

Because of my hands-on experience, I found that this book merely gave me formal names for many of the processes and aspects of Information Architecture (IA) that I had been implementing already. Despite this, however, I learned a lot from this book. It rounded-off aspects of the topic that I had previously overlooked. It filled some holes and inspired me to make many changes to the information structure of my website.

Unfortunately these gems of knowledge were buried within a lot of waffle. Furthermore, the whole of the first section is pure waffle - which is very frustrating for someone who is eager to learn new practices.

THIS IS AN 'OK BOOK' and you can avoid some of the waffle that I suffered by making the following modifications:

(i) Remove Chapter One (you don't need to read these 15 pages that include waffle on "Why Information Architecture Matters" and two & a half pages on "What Isn't Information Archicture" etc.),

(ii) Remove Chapter Two. It, for example, includes a page titled "Do We Need Information Architects?". It then follows on with 4 more,pointless, pages that provide a thorough list of professions and skills that are related IA! This chapter ends with the message "Now it's time to delve into the guts of IA...so, roll up your sleeves and dig in". The next one starts with "...but before we jump into the actual "stuff" of IA..." -AAARGH!

(iii) So rip out chapter 3 or you'll rip out your hair!

(iv) Next, read chapter 9. (It contains key info that is constantly refered-to throughout the earlier chapters).

(v) Then carry on reading from chapter 4 - Where you actually start learning about actual "stuff" of IA.

This book is 'OK'. It would be so much better if they had structured the information within it a bit better and stripped out about two thirds of the content.
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on 24 March 2012
This is invaluable if you:

- know nothing,
- know a little,
- or just want a reference when your working on IA.

It's too wordy for my liking, but that's part of the style. I prefer to be told the main point clearly, without ramblings. Despite needing more bullet points to make the their points (!), this book:

- covers a raft of IA areas
- gives you guidance
- is considered one of the 'must haves' in he field

It is not an easy handy reference when you're practicing IA (I think there may be irony in that..!) but still if you're willing to flick through the book and read a little it is still a reference of sorts.
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on 13 March 2013
Covers the whole subject in huge (but always relevant, readable and useful) detail. This is essential reading for serious information architects.
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on 24 May 2015
Great book for learning the all of the basic concept of IA...
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on 16 January 2017
still need to finish reading it
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