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Attention information architects: That IS your job

by Christine Benson on July 9th, 2009

Like many information architects, I come from a design background. That’s why I am very familiar with the tasks and process involved with design. While I have always worked closely with writers throughout my career, I have never been a writer myself.

I know that in past lives I have made a terrible assumption. Working at Brain Traffic I have seen daily proof that I am not the only person to make this mistake. And while I have seen the light, this assumption still runs rampant thorough the industry.  I’m here to set the record straight.

Here it is … ready?

It’s the information architect’s job to find the source content.

Many information architects and designers try to draw a parallel between writing and design. Finding and selecting the colors, fonts, images, etc., is an engaging and exciting part of creating a great visual design. Searching for or creating the source imagery is why many designers get up everyday and go to work. 

Conflicts often arise between information architects and designers when the interface is involved. It’s understandable, then, that the IA might assume that writers don’t want the IA to have anything to do with choosing the source content they’ll use to write a website. Wrong.

The writer loves it when an IA points out the relevant source content so he or she can read it, decipher it, and consolidate it into a clear and useful message. They want to focus on the tone and voice of the content. They want to turn nonsense into plain language, often on a tight timeline.

With all respect to the design process, locating source content for every single page of a site is much more time-intensive than finding source assets for representational pages of visual comps. And, digging into the source content is something that should never be skipped when you’re creating the architecture for a new site. From my experience, it’s the only way to plan for a great site that has meaningful content on all of its pages.

So, make sure you know what source content will be used for every page on your site and document it for your writer. Your writer will thank you for it. Trust me.

 

  • http://www.larsen.com/ D Molanphy

    Completely agree!

    I would also add that the jobs of a writer/ia/designer are not mutually exclusive. The best work gets done when all three work together, each knowing and owning their part of the project, but each bringing new ideas to the table.

  • http://forumone.com/ Matt Humphrey

    Christine – What tips do you have for the documentation piece of your recommendation? We typically use some variation of a spreadsheet for the sourcing and planning, but I find that difficult to wrangle when it comes down to editing content.

  • ChristineBenson

    Matt – We use a tool called page tables. Page tables include information like source content, wireframe/page template ID, primary and secondary messages, additional assets required, publishing considerations and so on. We create the page tables in word, which helps them transition into the content creation process.

    Erin Kissane recently wrote a great post on A List Apart about content templates, which is similar to our page table approach. http://www.alistapart.com/articles/content-temp...

    And to D Molanphy – Thanks for your comment. At Brain Traffic, we're big believers in collaboration, both internally and externally, so I appreciate you adding that to the conversation.

  • http://www.itsawonderfulword.com/ Julie Espinosa

    Amen. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, the final editorial phase is not the time to be scrambling for missing content or tweaking the wording (or at least, it shouldn't be if you do it right). Also, thanks for the tables/templates information.

  • julieespinosa

    Amen. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, the final editorial phase is not the time to be scrambling for missing content or tweaking the wording (or at least, it shouldn't be if you do it right). Also, thanks for the tables/templates information.

  • Anonymous

    I like it when the IA is pointing to the right source, he or she can read, decode, and consolidate a clear and useful.

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  • Anonymous

    We know that writing is an art. There are so many things you should be work on them at the time of writing. Like you work on font style, font colour, background colour, text style and much more. 

  • Anonymous

    We know that writing is an art. There are so many things you should be work on them at the time of writing. Like you work on font style, font colour, background colour, text style and much more. 

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  • Anonymous

    Writers love to relevant content in response to a query, he or she can read the source decoding, consolidate a. Clear and helpful attention to the tone and voice of its contents.

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  • http://www.theuniuni.com/ Payton_vege

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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