October 2008 Archives

IA as Stone Soup

--- Originally published on the Adaptive Path Blog ---

I've been looking for a metaphor or a model that I could use to describe how the Information Architecture day of UX Intensive is structured. The day is focused on metadata, controlled vocabularies, classification schemes and search. They sort of build on each other, but not in a simple, neatly stacked way. I was thinking about this while in Copenhagen a few weeks ago, when the answer hit me: Stone Soup!

Do you remember the story of Stone Soup? It's a Grimm Brothers' tale about returning soldiers and their guise to get a selfish, starving town to learn the lesson of cooperation and its benefits. They can make soup from their stone, but it will be a more tasty and filling soup if they get the whole town to pitch in and add ingredients.

Information architecture is like Stone Soup. You can make a website without explicitly thinking about the IA. You don't have to use metadata or control your vocabularies or develop thesauri. You don't have to tweak your search engine and play with recall and precision to improve your results.

But it will be better if you do.

Putting structure into your unstructured data allows you to make your site that much better. It's a way to "plus" it. A way to add some "BAM" to your site, to borrow a phrase from Emeril Lagasse. Because it's easier to slice and dice and do interesting things with structured data than it is when your data is a big, undifferentiated mass.

IA from a stone? Fancy that.

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