How to Do Information Architecture

Abby Covert of Abby the IA

Abby Covert, author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess, teaches us about information architecture, a subject she strongly feels is a core life skill. She's seen people get fired over language and informs us that – quite obviously in hindsight – architecture is less expensive than design.

  • Here's what to listen for:
  • 00:44 What is information architecture?
  • 01:52 How is information architecture used specifically in building software?
  • 04:25 Is information architecture synonymous with customer development?
  • 04:52 Is information architecture as a practice pervasive and can it be used in multiple contexts?
  • 06:28 How do we make sure everybody's on the same page?
  • 10:24 What does deciding what language to use entail?
  • 13:27 How do you get started with information architecture?
  • 15:06 Does everybody on the team need to be involved in the information architecture/design process?
  • 17:49 Are there a range of emotions/feelings about people's involvement in architecture design?
  • 19:34 What is meant by a “mess”?
  • 20:53 How do you get customers involved in the information architecture process?
  • 24:01 Why should you consider architecture before design?
  • 25:18 How can we make sure we're going about naming things properly?

"I think that information architecture is a core life skill."

"If you're trying to understand your customers you're absolutely doing information architecture work."

"Information as a material is not something that exists without people interpreting it."

"The key to practicing information architecture responsibly is to understand you can't make information"

"Understand what are the differences of language and mental model between users and stakeholders."

"I've seen people quit or get fired over language before and I think that's kind of sad."

"I have key stakeholders generate all the nouns and all the verbs that they use in their organization."

"I recently worked with a client. The reason they called me is bc they had 14 words for the word video."

"Nobody sits down and says, 'Let's think of 14 words for the word video.; Nobody ever does that."

"They didn’t just have 14 labels for the same object. They thought they had 14 different objects."

"People go through all the normal stages of grief when dealing with a mess."

"A mess is something that while inherently negative is also colloquial enough to not be scary."

"Often, the language that our users use is very, very different than the language we use internally."

"Humor and puns and cuteness can get you in a lot of trouble when it comes to clarity."

"Architecture is less expensive than design. It can be done w/ Post-its and maps. Design takes pixels."

"Frank L. Wright 'You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site'"

"You can’t have a label inside your software and then a different label for the button on the interface"

"Primarily in design you deal with objects and actions, which translates to nouns and verbs."

"Talking about one single thing, as opposed to several different things, can be the difference of scope"