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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2007
What this book does is show you how librarians fit into 21st century. The book does very good promotion of IA itself, and shows why it's important.

The first half of the book is somewhat theoretical and hard to read. However, it's really worth reading. It will explain some concepts (thesaurus, categorization,...) librarians have used for a very long time, and how to easily used them while designing web sites.

The second part is where the book gets more practical and actually shows how to use IA in practice, which was, at least for me, the more interesting part. If you are in any way connected to web development, you should read this book.

The entire book is exactly what it says it is - "Designing large-scale web sites". Although some concepts can be applied to smaller sites, you will hardly find resources to make use of some of the things authors talk about.

There are many books on usability out there, but this one is dedicated to findability. If these terms are new to you, I recommend you read Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" and Jakob Nielsen's "Prioritizing Web Usability" before reading this book. It might make it easier to read, and the book will definitely make more sense to you.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2000
The basics of information architecture must be understood by anyone designing a web site. Granted, some people intuitively know these basics, but for the rest of the world, this book will introduce you. Coming to IA from the highly organized world of library science, the authors know the ins and outs of making information available in an easy to use organizational system. Obviously, anyone going into IA should read this book; it's considered a standard. It's not a bad idea to loan it to your content developers and coders, too, though. If they know a little better where you're coming from when you suggest ways to organize information and pages, they may be more receptive to your suggestions. The only drawback is that the sites used for examples are a bit dated now, and there are some innovative things being done currently with navigation that aren't covered here as a result. Get this book now, and if they come out in a year or two with a revised edition, take a look at the new examples.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 20, 2000
I picked up this book because of two reasons: it's an O'Reilly book (which I think are some of the best written books on computing), and because it was thin enough to look inviting!
After reading the first two chapters I was convinced that the authors were on the right track. with web development in its infancy there are no standards for development of web sites that one can go by. This book, while in no way attempting to set or define any standards, attempts to list the principles and approach that an information architect should be taking when starting out on a web design project.
I found the fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters to be the very best. These chapters touch upon Navigation, Labelling, and Searching systems. The chapter on navigation systems was a relevation. Many a time navigations systems make absolutely no sense on even some of the more reputed web sites.
The chapter on Navigation systems is followed by the one on Labeling Systems. The relevation that emerges from this chapter is 'Know your target audience, and be consistent!'.
If I like this book, why don't I give this book 5 stars? Because I feel that because the authors do such a great job of explaing what 'Information Architecture' I was very disappointed by the lack of detailed examples in the book. There is one chapter at the end that deals with a real world example, but that is not enough. Something like the entire layout of a real world web site (or a hypothetical example even) that set out that web site's labelling system, the navigation system, the Searching system, etc.. would have made this book worth its weight in cybergold!
Hence the 4 stars. But still a must read, must have.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2007
This is the book you need for designing large-scale web sites, where a well-planned information architecture is absolutely essential. In building effective large-scale websites, as in programming large computer applications, much work has to be done in the preliminary design stage. The early design effort of the information architecture is valuable not only in the building of the successful large web site, but for the future maintainability and revision of this web site.

This classic primer is written by pioneers in information architecture and shows information architects, designers, and web site developers how to build large-scale web sites that are easy to navigate and appealing to users. To accommodate the many web site display options available today, the book also addresses how to design for multiple platforms and for mobile devices.

The authors first lay the background for introducing and defining information architecture and for presenting the basic requirements to be good information architects. Information is defined as different than data, different than knowledge and information-seeking behaviors are looked into before delving further into the study of information architecture.

The components of information architecture are then defined as organization systems, labeling systems, navigation systems, and searching systems. Organization systems define how we categorize information; labeling systems define how we represent information; navigation systems define how we browse or move through information; and searching systems tell us how we search information. The study of these components in designing the information architecture of our web site comprises a major part of this book.

Conclusion: In designing large-scale web sites, there are a lot of complex relationships between the information involved, the expected users of the web site, the objects involved, the storage of the objects, the search or browse methods involved, and yet many more subjects. This comprehensive book purports to address all (or most all) of the elements and components of information architecture that need to be addressed in designing a large-scale website so that when the web site is completed, it is an appealing and easy to use and navigate web site that users will enjoy, complete their tasks successfully, find their desired information, and return to the site again and again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2007
In "Part I - Intro to IA," obviously the basics are covered, like what exactly is IA? What does an Information Architect do? After reading this title, I would define an Information Architect as a glorified content manager. Someone that occupies the realm between UI designer and DB engineer.

Google is pretty good at finding information for us on the vast Internet, but there is a long way to go. I believe these authors make a valid point that IA will become increasingly relevant. In fact, I wouldn't doubt that in the future you will actually be able to obtain a BS in IA. Nonetheless, IA is around us everyday when we use technology no matter what we want call it.

The elements that make up IA are covered in "Part II - Basic Principles of IA." The basis of IA is the interaction or retrieval of information in terms of organization systems, labeling systems, navigation systems, search systems, thesauri, controlled vocabularies, and metadata. What this basically means is, how do we categorize our data so that it makes sense, is easy to navigate and search, and is relevant or adaptable according to our users' vocabularies.

"Part III - Process and Methodology" helps one plan a path to your IA goals. For instance, developing a research management team to discuss such goals, your target audiences, functionality/deficiencies of your current IA system, and integrating other software, such as your customer management system (CMS).

My favorite topic here is the detailed discussion of "building vocabularies." This is something everybody needs to constantly perfect. An example of this is, two people can search for the same thing using two different criteria. How can can we build a vocabulary system that recognizes that?

Many research tools are discussed. My favorite technique, and it's so simple, is card sorting. Get some blank cards (20-25) and write on them the headings from categories, subcategories, and content within your site. Ask a user to sort this stack of cards into piles that make sense to him and have him label those cards using post-it notes. Make sure to tell them to think-out-loud and be sure to take notes. This will give you an idea of how one would "travel" through your site, what is relevant, and what should not be on your homepage, etc.

The authors take the reader through the process of the IA development cycle, from concept, to getting managers to buy-in, to the implementation and administration of the system; very thorough.

The hands-on aspects of IA are explained in "Part IV - IA in Practice." One thing I found insightful was how one could pursue an official education in the area of IA, albeit there is no such degree. To gain a competitive advantage, the authors suggest obtaining a degree in Library and Information Science (LIS) or Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

At the end of chapter 15, there is a list of position titles making up an ideal IA team.
This list may prove helpful for potential readers to get a better understanding of what IA is comprised of.

1) Strategy Architect - responsible for overall design goals and integration

2) Thesaurus Designer - develops classification schemes, controlled vocabularies, and thesauri

3) Controlled Vocabulary Manager - manages the evolution of controlled vocabularies and coordinates the indexing specialists team

4) Indexing Specialist - tags content and services with controlled vocabulary metadata

5) Interaction Designer - creates navigation schemes and page layouts with a focus on user interaction

6) IA Software Analyst - links the IA and IT teams, focusing on ways to leverage software to create, manage, and drive the user experience

7) IA Usability Engineer - focuses on intersection of usability and IA by conducting studies that isolate IA elements, such as category labels or metadata.

8) Cartographer - converts patterns in content, structure, and usage into maps, guides, indexes, and other useful navigational tools.

9) Search Analyst - leads the design, improvement, and ongoing analysis of search system.

"PART V - IA in the Organization" was a little dry for my tastes and irrelevant to me. May be very helpful for someone in a large bureaucratic organization that wants to implement their IA concepts.

The moral of the story is that "site builders" must employ multiple info retrieval methods and tightly integrate them. Everyone searches, browses, scans, and finds info differently; accommodate them.

This book is very comprehensive and even deals with the politics of IA. To me, the book gets a little long at times, but if your life evolves around information somehow, this is an essential read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This 3rd edition is only 44 pages longer than the second edition, versus the doubling in size that occurred between the first and second editions. I found part one on the introduction to Information Architecture a nice tutorial for the uninitiated. It basically explains what IA is and is not and talks about user needs and behaviors and various models. Part two is great for those interested in concrete methodology. Particularly good were the chapters on navigation systems and on search systems. There's some very practical information on thesauri and metadata included in chapter nine. Likewise, part three was very practical information for practitioners. It covers the phases of research, strategy, design, and documentation in detail with many practical pointers. Parts four and five, on the practice of IA and the use of IA in the organization is not very helpful for professionals - they already have the education, got their foot in the door, know IA's role in the organization, and know how to make the case for IA to management. The one exception to this assessment of sections four and five was the chapter on enterprise IA. I found it full of interesting information. The final section, on case studies, contained two very interesting examples of how IA fits into real organizations versus the fluffier content of the previous two sections. Overall, I would recommend the book in its latest version to IA practitioners, since it takes what could be a very dry subject and makes it interesting and very comprehensible. Just realize that parts of it seem to be written to web designers thinking about transitioning to IA and to students rather than IA's that are already in the trenches. A good companion book for this book is "Ambient Findability". The following is the table of contents:

Part I. Introducing Information Architecture
1. Defining Information Architecture
A Definition; Tablets, Scrolls, Books, and Libraries; Explaining IA to Others; What Isn't Information Architecture?; Why Information Architecture Matters; Bringing Our Work to Life;
2. Practicing Information Architecture
Do We Need Information Architects?; Who's Qualified to Practice Information Architecture?; Information Architecture Specialists; Practicing Information Architecture in the Real World; What Lies Ahead;
3. User Needs and Behaviors
The "Too-Simple" Information Model; Information Needs; Information-Seeking Behaviors; Learning About Information Needs and Information-Seeking Behaviors;

Part II. Basic Principles of Information Architecture
4. The Anatomy of an Information Architecture
Visualizing Information Architecture; Information Architecture Components;
5. Organization Systems
Challenges of Organizing Information; Organizing Web Sites and Intranets; Organization Schemes; Organization Structures; Social Classification; Creating Cohesive Organization Systems;
6. Labeling Systems
Why You Should Care About Labeling; Varieties of Labels; Designing Labels;
7. Navigation Systems
Types of Navigation Systems; Gray Matters; Browser Navigation Features; Building Context; Improving Flexibility; Embedded Navigation Systems; Supplemental Navigation Systems; Advanced Navigation Approaches;
8. Search Systems
Does Your Site Need Search?; Search System Anatomy; Search Is Not an IT Thing; Choosing What to Search; Search Algorithms; Query Builders; Presenting Results; Designing the Search Interface; Where to Learn More;
9. Thesauri, Controlled Vocabularies, and Metadata
Metadata; Controlled Vocabularies; Technical Lingo; A Thesaurus in Action; Types of Thesauri; Thesaurus Standards; Semantic Relationships; Preferred Terms; Polyhierarchy; Faceted Classification;

Part III. Process and Methodology
10. Research
Process Overview; A Research Framework; Context; Content; Users; Participant Definition and Recruiting; User Research Sessions; In Defense of Research;
11. Strategy
What Is an Information Architecture Strategy?; Strategies Under Attack; From Research to Strategy; Developing the Strategy; Work Products and Deliverables; The Strategy Report; The Project Plan; Presentations;
12. Design and Documentation
Guidelines for Diagramming an Information Architecture; Communicating Visually; Blueprints; Wireframes; Content Mapping and Inventory; Content Models; Controlled Vocabularies; Design Collaboration; Putting It All Together: Information Architecture Style Guides;

Part IV. Information Architecture in Practice
13. Education
Transition in Education; A World of Choice; But Do I Need a Degree?; The State of the Field;
14. Ethics
Ethical Considerations; Shaping the Future;
15. Building an Information Architecture Team
Destructive Acts of Creation; Fast and Slow Layers; Project Versus Program; Buy or Rent; Do We Really Need to Hire Professionals?; The Dream Team;
16. Tools and Software
A Time of Change; Categories in Chaos; Questions to Ask;

Part V. Information Architecture in the Organization
17. Making the Case for Information Architecture
You Must Sell; The Two Kinds of People in the World; Running the Numbers; Talking to the Reactionaries; Other Case-Making Techniques; The Information Architecture Value Checklist; A Final Note;
18. Business Strategy
The Origins of Strategy; Defining Business Strategy; Strategic Fit; Exposing Gaps in Business Strategy; One Best Way; Many Good Ways; Understanding Our Elephant; Competitive Advantage;The End of the Beginning
19. Information Architecture for the Enterprise
Information Architecture, Meet the Enterprise ;What's the Goal of EIA?; Designing an Enterprise Information Architecture; EIA Strategy and Operations; Doing the Work and Paying the Bills; Timing Is Everything: A Phased Rollout; A Framework for Moving Forward;

Part VI. Case Studies
20. MSWeb: An Enterprise Intranet
Challenges for the User; Challenges for the Information Architect; We Like Taxonomies, Whatever They Are ;Benefits to Users; What's Next; MSWeb's Achievement;
21. evolt: An Online Community
evolt in a Nutshell; Architecting an Online Community; The Participation Economy; How Information Architecture Fits In; The "Un-Information Architecture";
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2007
This is a perfectly good resource, if you're looking for the theoretical underpinnings of how IA should work. I was, however, looking for more specifically technical information, along the lines of algorithms and integration techniques. For this I ended up going with Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications, which is more geared in that direction. Again, if IA is your whole intention, then this is a great resource, but if you're looking for technical detail, look elsewhere.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2000
The other reviews of this book left me wondering what to expect - useful info or lightweight nonsense - which would it be? Well, it's the former (mostly). There *are* problems here - it's a tad out of date, there's rather too much low-end padding and there's little in the way of practical advice. That said, when the authors do occasionally risk dumbing up their arguments the results are worthwhile - I certainly learnt a thing or two. Read this in conjunction with Jakob Nielsen's Web Useability, Donald Normans' The Design of Everyday Things and the useit web site for extra impact. But I still think the killer IA book has yet to be written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 1999
I found this book to be a fairly good introduction to the concepts needed for designing a web site. The discussions about navigation, labelling and searching systems may be common knowledge but they are not easily available in a concise and readable form. This book serves to put together the available information in a coherent and well-thought out format.
I also liked the chapters on the process of creating an architecture for a website and then designing and developing it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 1999
I know that the Lynch and Horton (Web Style Guide) book is slightly different in it's thrust, but I think it's better at the overall delivery of information architecture and web design theory and practice. It's highly professional and stands out from all the fluff-guides to web design. Then again, Rosenfeld and Morville do take a unique library science perspective that is one of a kind (if not a bit chatty). Guess it's good to own both books.
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