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what's an "information architect?"

That's a good question. Before we go there though, let's look at some of my basics.

You've got a business to run, products, services, or both, to sell. You want to reach as many potential clients as you can, turn them into actual clients, and maximize the return on your investments. You've got a lot of things in the works, some strategic, others more immediate and aligned with those long-term plans. You may or may not have a great deal of time to work out all the details for everything you've got going on, you may even have one or more projects that have fallen behind and need immediate attention. That's where I come in.

Regardless of your situation, whether you're in the set-up, re-group, or move-ahead phase, I can help. I'm a block-builder, an integrator, someone who takes carefully selected pieces of a puzzle, shapes them to fit well, then puts them together to form a functional whole, one that will provide a tangible return. If you're hiring me to be an Information Architect, I'll focus on that which is core to your site's architecture, dissect what you have to share with your customers, re-shape it where required, then piece it all together to maximize the return you're looking for. In essence, I will be an Information Architect first, not a design firm, documentation specialist, nor a web developer. Unless you're hiring me to manage all or some of that other work, of course... || see really important footnote 1smiley

Now let's look at what an Information Architect does.

A lot of Information Architects having some sort of online presence start this task with a few simple definitions:

in·for·ma·tion, n. knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.
ar·chi·tect, n. a person who designs and guides a plan or undertaking.

Okay, I'll buy that. But it goes much deeper than just a couple of definitions pulled out of Webster's, or a pretty set of flow charts. Information Architects must be able to plan how to present certain information. Specifically, your information. To accomplish this, they have to be able to work behind the scenes, taking into account not only the purpose and goals of their clients, but also the best way to articulate those purposes and goals to the target audience. They also have to be able to work with your people, and often, your customers too. That means they need to know how to communicate, in ways that will be understood. And to be understood, they must be able to understand. People, that is. Sound like a vicious circle?

Believe me, it's not. The answers are all in the source.

But rather than focus on taxonomies, personas and perhaps cognitive psychology right now (I have an online glossary in the works for those), let's take a brief look at some of an Information Architect's normal responsibilities. Among other things, an Information Architect:

  • develops thorough, realistic plans that support organizational objectives
  • works with clients to understand their business models and goals
  • helps define strategy, content, and features for the design of their web site, documentation, or both
  • analyzes audiences, especially their information and functional needs
  • defines site or documentation architecture and navigation that serves as a blueprint upon which all other aspects are built
  • creates wireframes, site maps, schematics, process maps, feature lists, mockups, visual specifications, working prototypes and other artifacts to describe the intended user experience
  • does all of the above in preparation for making it easier for your customers to find what they want, buy into it, and take it with them

That's it, in short order fashion. And now that you sort of have a vague idea about what an Information Architect does, about what I do, your next question might be what's next? Well, you might try having a look at some of the other information presented via the Architectural notes menu to the upper left for some clues, or you can contact me to discuss your options. If you choose the latter, we will come up with a plan.

Remember: thinking outside the box is often the key to fitting in.

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Footnotes:

Really important footnote 1:

Naturally, if you would like me to also assist in other areas like web development, graphic design, etc., I'd be more than happy to help. In a prioritized fashion, of course. 

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