Making (useful) information easy to find

Your job, and our job, is to make information easier to find. But is the stuff we're making easier to find worthy of our users' attention?
The infographic below suggests that not finding what you want costs $1,200 per employee per year for UK businesses. While the accuracy of such statistics are debatable, it's inspiring to be reminded that we are helping reduce wastage and save frustration. Information architects can play a pivotal role in reducing "information overload".

Information overload infographic Infographic on information overload

An equally important part of our job description as information architects is also to surface useful information.
We live in exponential times - where a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century, and where technical information doubles in a matter of months. Making it easier to find information is important but it's not enough.
Classical information architecture deals with how we organise and relate information so that it's easier for people to navigate and use information. That's the bulk of what our tools help you with. There has also been a broader movement among information architects to include the design of "experiences". This area seems a bit vague and encompasses many areas, but one obvious area where we can have influence is in the content.
Information architecture can often be associated with librarians. Librarians help you find where the books are, but great librarians are also curators - they help you discover the best books in the library. (They also pick which books get included in the library).
How can information architects be great curators and designers of content? It will probably involve more than giving ourselves a fancy new title.

It involves all the things we're already good at and have an innate appreciation of -

  1. understanding our audience,
  2. designing and testing content strategies (instead of just interfaces),
  3. empathizing with stakeholders and;
  4. developing a deep understanding of the content domain.

Our fields of user experience and information architecture are expanding to keep pace with the exponential times we live in. What our profession offers is a trusted way of finding what's useful and a way to manage the rest. Maybe we are modern day librarians after all.
Our job at Optimal Workshop is to find new ways and new tools to support you as we collectively figure this out.

Published on Jun 29, 2012
  • Sam Ng
  • Sam Ng is one of Optimal Workshop's founders.

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