This book provides an excellent introduction to Web site concepts and offers insight into what makes Web sites different from other kinds of development. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web helps you to blend aesthetics and mechanics for distinctive, cohesive web sites that work. This book focuses on the framework that holds graphics and the technical issues of a site together.
Review By: Greg Turner
Almost everything about the Web boils down to really good User-Centered Design (UCD); that is the foundation for information architecture for the World Wide Web. As a connoisseur of fine Web usability books, I found that this book takes usability to a completely new level and helps clarify what really is important in the art of Web design. For example, is it really important that one can reach a selected piece of information from a given Web page in five seconds when the logically matching piece of information is only available on a sub-site some twenty steps removed? In reality, no. Marketing aside, there are really only a few things that a site needs to be successful: good information architecture (must have the information the user wants), good usability (doesn't matter if you have it if the user can't find it), and it must work (what's the point of putting all of the effort into something that the user doesn't want to use?).
This book does a fine job of keeping all of this in perspective. Beginning with its discussion of UCD, the book moves into a good treatment of what an information architect should be and who is the logical choice for this role--many companies don't even have a librarian on the payroll. It covers the basics of organizing information and blends good usability theory in its discussion of how to build navigation systems that provide the maximum ROI in terms of audience use as compared to reasonable efforts to build them.
Based on my experiences, I had pretty much assumed that a search engine is a necessity for a large site, and this book confirmed my thoughts. What I hadn't considered is how important the browse features are that accompany a good search engine. So, I would consider the most valuable thing I took away from this book is my improved understanding of this area. Additionally, I learned a great deal about how to integrate my learning into both Web usability and improved requirements modeling.
For years, I have said that building a good Web site requires solid efforts from skilled people in many disciplines, with the first link in the chain being the library scientist. And, although I am not an information architect by trade, the book has reminded me that the plethora of new communication methodologies is demanding that each of us be fairly good at a skill that few of us would have chosen as a career.
Information architecture is focused on the high-level planning of the site, so even though the book was very well written, I found myself struggling to keep interested in reading (again, a library scientist I am not). However, once I finished reading it, I couldn't help but appreciate the number of things that I had learned. It may seem strange that I have rated this book as "highly recommended" and commented on my own personal struggle with the read, but the book has too much value to ignore.
So many sites struggle with the organization of their content. The ones I've worked with are no exception. I've done the Post-it note thing, the white-board thing, the 3x5 card and string thing, but I've never found a methodology (thing) that was just right for creating the architecture in a way that was both efficient and personally rewarding. After reading this book, I know for sure that I'm not a library scientist, but I'm also confident that I have left the experience with a better understanding of how to streamline my architecture planning, and how that planning can be used as the requirements for the requirements.