By profession, I am a technical writer. Two years ago, I was given the title of “Information Architect,” with a mandate to analyze and better organize the vast horde of information that our company was throwing at our customers. Alas, I kept my existing role as project lead, which prevented me from spending much time on the IA function. That is about to change, and I am now able to spend more time architecting the information.
Information architecture is still in its infancy. If you google “Information Architect,” you get a ton of links that define an IA as someone who designs websites. But there are other definitions that encompass much more than just websites. My role fits in those other definitions — I have nothing to do with our company’s website.
Joshua Porter at Bokardo.com has written an excellent piece on the impending death of information architecture. He argues that the most effective architecture of information focuses not on the information, but on the users of the info — what the user wants, needs, does. He quotes one of his readers who suggests better titles such as “interaction architect” or “experience designer.” Whatever the label, his observation on IA mirrors my own experience in the field of technical writing: the most effective documentation is user-centric, rather than product-centric. Which is another way of saying, never let your R&D engineers write the product documentation. They will document the product to a “tee,” but the poor users won’t have a clue what to do with it.