Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Ed

Authors: Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld Format: Paperback, 526 pages Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 3rd edition (November 27, 2006) ISBN: 0596527349 Note: I wrote this review almost three years ago, but someone who tried to read it at its original location couldn't find the review. I'm posting it here to make it visible again and, after all, it is my blog. Review by James Pyles December 15, 2006 Morville and Rosenfeld's book is a real eye-opener for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of organizing web information at the enterprise-level. This isn't about how to put together a standards-compliant website (well, it is sort of) or how to develop web applications or graphic design for webpages. True, all of those functions are necessary for web development but the (apparently) growing career of Information Architecture (IA) is an entity all its own. Let me backup a minute. Many of us develop websites as individuals. I work with a team of software engineers documenting a wide variety of information for them and their customers. To this end, I administrate the group's Intranet site and it has to be many things to many people. I organize data, try to make it easy to find, try to make it visually appealing and maintain different security levels for different groups. I wear a number of different hats depending on my customers' requirements. Now imagine a team of professionals developing and maintaining a national or multinational corporation's web presence. You probably will have one or more people who specialize in areas such as graphic design, usability, software development, knowledge management, and other disciplines. It's like taking the hats I wear and putting each one of them on separate people or groups. This book describes the role and methods of one of those disciplines or "hats"; Information Architecture. Probably the easiest way to get a basic grasp of what an Information Architect does, is to quote one of the analogies from the beginning of the book: "I'm an information architect. I organize huge amounts of information on big web sites and intranets so that people can actually find what they're looking for. Think of me as an Internet librarian". Of course, it's a lot more involved than that, but then learning the rest is what this book is all about. What makes this text all the more valuable is the lack of organized programs (to the best of my knowledge) that teach IA. You won't find a Bachelor's or Graduate Program in IA in a university catalog. However, the profession of IA touches many other professions; usually those that have to do with the creation, storage, and organization of information. People with backgrounds in library science, computer science, technical writing, and product management (to name a few) can apply those skills to IA. This book was written for them. The authors have a sense of humor and writing style that makes the book relatively easy to read. I say "relatively" because the subject matter is not a simple one so when reading this text, keep that in mind. Information Architecture is an extremely useful book for anyone interested in pursuing IA as a career or anyone who manages a team of professionals including an IA expert. However, unless you are involved in or seriously considering going into this field, you shouldn't buy this text. This book throws a wide net over its target and collects all the necessary information to teach the topic to its audience (and why not, the authors are experienced organizers of information). In the time since the first edition of this book was published in 1998, the need for information architects has grown immensely (as has the web) but the means to become an IA professional has not (at least not in a formal sense). Most of you probably didn't even know IA existed or was a potential career option before reading this review. IA is both a vital necessity in a time when the web is growing exponentially and one of the finest "stealth" career's available. If you are involved in organizing web site data structures on a large-scale or think you might be interested in doing so for a living, Morville and Rosenfeld's Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is just the book for you.