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by Jay Fienberg

Idea for an article on information architecture

posted: Apr 13, 2004 8:23:33 PM

Along the lines of something I mentioned once before, I am thinking about writing an article about the information architecture embedded in the templates / processes of web tools / systems (of which blog tools could be one case). Here is what I have sketched-out so far as a kind-of intro / outline:

An information architecture, whether as a concrete system or ad hoc style, gets outputted by many tools and systems that utilize pre-defined templates and procedures to produce websites and web applications. These tools and systems include portal systems, content management systems, and web application modules like shopping carts, surveys, response forms and discussion forums.

This suggests the following questions that seem worthwhile to explore:

1. are the information structures that can be produced by these tools / systems anywhere described by information architectural documents?
2. if not, why?
3. if so, why are these documents not published or made available to customers?
4. what are the strategic risks of evaluating these tools / systems without access to IA documents?
5. what are the tactical implications to using these tools / systems, including integrating them into larger systems / sites?
6. how is this an opportunity for IAs to market (? clarify) their services to tool / system developers?
7. how is this an opportunity for IAs to market (? clarify) their services to enterprise tool / system evaluators?
8. future: where will or will not IA become a critical differentiating feature of tools / systems?

*** some more thoughts ***

As a software analogy, imagine getting a Java web application container or PHP engine and not having access to an object model, built-in function list, or comprehensive syntax guide. All you have is some sample code. So, you can see that these application / engines do something, but you don't have a good way of knowing what it can do and especially what it can do well.

With web content tools / systems, it is common to hear marketing statements like: this tool allows you to create and manage websites. And, generally, you can see that these tools do create websites.

But you don't know exactly what kind (architecturally) of websites these tools can create—in particular, you don't have a good sense of what kind of information architecture features (e.g., navigation systems, zone definitions, etc.) these tools handle optimally and which are harder to create / manage.

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