March 31st, 2010

Information architecture in real life

All it takes is a serious dive into the concept of information architecture – or, for those who aren’t mired in the seemingly over-technical terms used in Web development, the organization and structure of information – to see it everywhere you turn.

It’s in the music I’ve compulsively organized on iTunes, in the lists I periodically release on the world, in the books I’ve threatened to arrange by Dewey decimal system. It’s in the way I create a hierarchy for my to-do lists and in how I take notes.

High Fidelity becomes not so much a film about an independent record store as much as a manifesto in music architecture, with its lists and classifications and rankings creating a structured view of what makes good music (and where you’d find that good music). A trip to the grocery store becomes a test in correct pathways, a real-life walk through the hierarchy not unlike the food section of Amazon.com or Williams-Sonoma.com.

Last night, while searching for a graham cracker pie crust, I found that some grocery stores have a long way to go in this regard. Following convention, I searched the baking aisle. Not finding it there, I searched the frozen pie crust section. Then, the cracker aisle. Only after asking a clerk did I find the crust.

Next to the Mexican food.

Naturally.

If this grocery store had been a Web site, this flaw would have been a crucial failure of IA. His excuse: “Well, it’s next to the pie filling.”

My internal response: “Well, then the pie filling is in the wrong place, too.”

I walked out, convinced that I could have organized the store better – and convinced that I was a few steps from jumping into the deep-end of geekery.


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