UIEtips: Four Essential Skills for Information Architects – An Interview with Donna Spencer

Jared Spool

October 22nd, 2009

I recently facilitated several usability tests, watching user after user struggle with our client’s web site. Not one user could find the most valuable content on the site. Every user knew exactly what they wanted and all of the information they were looking for was available — they just had no idea how to find it.

Once they made it to the page with their content, they still struggled. The navigation links and categories were so unclearly written that users weren’t at all sure where to click. They had to work very hard just to figure out what content was available to them on the site.

The content was disorganized, confusing, and lethargic. Fortunately, we knew exactly who to turn to discuss and solve these types of problems, world renowned information architect, Donna Spencer.

Back in August 2008, I interviewed Donna. In our conversation, Donna and I discuss how the best information architects successfully tackle specific content challenges. Donna shares the essential skills separating the best information architects from the rest of the pack. I think you’ll really enjoy her insights.

Read the article – Four Essential Skills for Information Architects: An Interview with Donna Spencer

Last year, Donna presented an outstanding workshop at the User Interface Conference, Information Architecture Essentials. It was ranked so highly, we decided to bring it back for the User Interface 14 conference. It’s a great place to learn what it takes to become a great information architect and I highly suggest you check out the session.

How have you tackled your site content challenges? In your experience, what skills do the best information architects possess? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

One Response to “UIEtips: Four Essential Skills for Information Architects – An Interview with Donna Spencer”

  1. Sarah Richards Says:

    I’ve found that one of the strongest, but often overlooked, skills is editorial. A good IA will only work if the content is rationalized in the very beginning. Architecture hangs from a single premise: the information is worth finding. When an IA works closely with, or is, an editor, I think the usability rockets. All too often, I’ve found clients creating poor content and then they expect an architect to cover all the failings.

    I work on a site with over 3,500 pages of content. We have another estimated 3,700 pages coming in the next 18 months and our audience is wide-ranging. With good search and editorial, our IA problems are just catagorised under ‘nightmare’ instead of ‘dire’ 🙂

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