Object Orientation: Skills for Information Architects
Object Orientation: Skills for Information Architects In Information Architecture - A New Opportunity, which appeared in the 12/21/00 WebReference newsletter (http://www.webreference.com/new/001221.html), Angshuman Das' discussed the ongoing debate between user-centered, simple design vs. media-rich, cinematic Web sites. Das suggested designers capitalize on becoming Information Architects by combining both methods. "With some skill and talent we can expect a good salary and respect," said Das.
That got my attention! Information Architecture, here I come! Well okay, let's back up a minute; the article did mention we need talent and skills. Talent can be natural or an acquired ability, so working on the skills part while trusting the talent part seems the best solution.
Remember, Information Architects remove the mystery of technology for users, making the technology a byproduct of the total experience rather than a monster to frustrate, fight and possibly overcome. Information Architects master communication with users using various methods. They visualize connections between patterns, connecting the dots and thereby develop possible solutions not seen by the average developer.
We've all seen those high tech Flash sites, digital movies, panoramas and talking (audio) Web sites. We've all seen technology over done and with little purpose other than demonstration, leaving us users wondering, "why did I have to wait for this?"
So, let's morph our design skills into that of an Information Architect by using the programming technique of object orientation. Object Orientation requires:
- the project as moving and breathing with flexible plans and goals, recognizing and expecting changes, working as a team toward solutions that complement the desired outcome of the entire project, realizing that the "right" way might not always be the workable solution;
- an understanding of the design to the rest of the team, selecting several methods (textual, visual, diagrammatical) for relaying the design concept to team members, making these explanations chock full of information and explanations, helping each team member conceptualize the more troublesome parts of the project;
- problems into workable solutions, expecting and dealing with problems by working out more complicated, risky parts of the project first, understanding that the team as a whole should work for the success of the entire project, not the bits and pieces for which each individual may be responsible;
- the training and knowledge needed for project members to communicate effectively to the end user, obtaining user feedback at each step in the process, sharing this information with all team members with the goal of better understanding why the eventual solution best solves each identified problem and making sure to benchmark each user test phase.
Discovering the Project Objects
Following the object orientation model, a project should be broken up into stand-alone modules. Laying out the entire project as a roadmap and then dividing into its individual, bite-sized pieces, or objects, is usually a good way to start. Ensuring project team members see the relationship between their parts of the entire project is of paramount importance.
Detecting the more complicated, problematic and interrelated parts of the project is the hallmark of a skilled Information Architect. Accomplishing these tasks comes first, since their outcome affects the relationships of other, less complicated, but dependent tasks. Should the entire project prove unviable, this method allows for earlier failure detection. Hence, in the case of failure, less money will have been wasted.
Revised: January 25, 2001