Podcast: A Practical Guide to Information Architecture, with Donna Spencer
Donna Spencer is the author of A Practical Guide to Information Architecture as well as two other books (on card sorting and writing for the web). She's an experienced information architect, based in Australia, who gives regular workshops on information architecture at conferences such as the IA Summit and also runs the UX Australia conference. In this podcast we talk about information architecture, especially in the context of technical communication. Some of the topics we cover include the following:
- What information architecture is, especially in contrast to content strategy and user experience
- Why writers are well suited for information architecture
- Reasons for doing user research prior to building your information architecture
- Determining user terminology (and dangers of choosing the wrong terms, even if people use them)
- Evaluating browse versus search, and the problem of looking for information without knowing the right terms
- Strategies for dealing with overlapping categories and difficult-to-fit topics
- Why organizing content by audience can be tricky
- Using focused entry points to serve different audiences
- Finding what you need when you don't know what you need
- Organizing content by popularity, and other alternative classification schemes
- Scenario driven testing with index cards
- Card sorting strategies, tools, and limits
- Reasons for brainstorming IA off-screen, without your computer.
- Determining the number of top-level navigation options
- Providing navigation through next and related links
- Beginning the information architecture at the content page rather than the home page
- The kind of content to add to your home page
I highly recommend this book as well as learning more about information architecture in general. For more information about Donna Spencer, see her site, Maad Mob. For more information on her book, see A Practical Guide to Information Architecture. You can follow Donna on Twitter @maadonna.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.