When I first started researching my adopted field of Information Architecture I found myself reading through project specifications and wireframe documents a colleague of mine brought back from Europe. She went on a little visit to the greater TBWA network and the guys were keen to share their processes and documentation with her.
I later found a little gem on the O’Reilly website – Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld. It’s brilliant book and should definitely form the part of any aspiring IA’s arsenal.
I’ve had the book for just over a year now and I’m only half way – I keep on reworking chapters’ over-and-over, whenever I get a chance. I even dragged my copy to Malaysia last year when I played in the Asian Paintball World Cup. Needless to say, I brought back my copy stained with orange paint and was forced to cover the book due to the water damage it suffered.
It’s NOT the end-all, be-all of IA but a great foundation. It’s like a real Uni-book in my opinion. You struggle through it at times not knowing how you’d ever apply or even remember some of the chapters but after reading it you find yourself applying the techniques without thinking.
Information from the book formed the foundation of one of our new business acquisitions. We where pitching for the SBL-Unisa web site about a year ago. The SBL (School of Business Leadership) is an off-shoot of one of largest distance learning institutions in Africa. The business school wanted their own separate web identity and we successfully landed the business with the help of insights we gained from my paint-stained book.
The final project itself did not pan out as I hoped – it went live with many good intentions. The driving force behind the project, on the client side, left to pursue another career opportunity leaving the project to stagnate a bit.
It’s a South African thing
South Africa’s online community is definitely trying to keep up with the times. That said, I think some of the core problems we still face on a project-to-project basis is the fact that clients still find it hard to (1) assign proper budgets to the digital offerings and (2) assign dedicated resources to their web identities.
I don’t want to mention brands by name but one of our larger clients is in the process of introducing a new brand of pet food to the market. Hell, what a great opportunity to do something really groundbreaking. I did not spend much time on my initial re-search but the opportunity to disrupt the market and do something really ground-breaking in the digital sphere was obvious. One line in the strategy made me excited – ‘This audience is the internet capable’.
Competitors to the new brand made use of experts and practical guides to “prove” to users that their product really worked. I thought that we could get our friends from Cerebra/Brandsh (our social media experts) to help us set up a Blog and YouTube channel. We could then adopt a malnourished pet, and with the right attention and nutrition restore the animal to its cheerful self. Imagine showing users in real-time how your product works?
Alas, no money and we’re stuck with copying content from the international brand sites. Suggesting something with a little less impact, than my original idea, was also out of the question. Client wasn’t willing to invest resources into the digital and we have a 4 week deadline. We’re going to use the web to generate a large database of names and addresses that they could bombard with electronic marketing messages.
I tried to spark some thought around the marketing initiatives, but to no avail. I’m a little ashamed to say that I managed to extract myself from project – I could not face another arbitrary project.
I hate these new start-ups…
Something else I picked up is the introduction of new technologies and gimmicks to the market. I must disclaim myself a little before I continue. I love new technologies – the mere fact that I overlooked so many of them before they exploded into the main stream has made me very open minded. I’m not against introducing new concepts and ways of getting stuff done.
I have one issue with this though. To quote Jeff Parks (a Canadian IA and Consultant), “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail”.
I’m working on projects were we’ve been forced to work with some database and mobile “experts”. There’s a total disregard for the Big Marketing Idea with some of them – these guys go off and build marketing strategies around their toolbox of technical competencies. The sell client on each and every tool they have and are eager to get business through bullshitting clients with technical jargon. E-mail newsletters, e-zines and Mobile barcodes, MMS and SMS will work for every campaign in their minds – lets bombard the consumer with tons of annoying crap, it will work!
Where’s the disruption and innovation? What happened to offering you client/user a ‘brand’ experience?
* Wow! I started off trying to post some feedback from a recent on-line course I did on Controlled Vocabularies – It just turned into a full-on rant by itself. Check my next update for the short overview on my new thesauri and skillz…