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Getting IA Done, Part II : Comments

By Joshua Kaufman

August 22, 2005


Brian Reindel

August 23, 2005 9:36 AM

This is some great common sense advice. It not only saves the IA time, but it also saves everyone else down the process pipeline a whole lot of time. However, there is one “trend” that has been trying to creep into the mix lately and I must interject… Tip #6: From Concept to XHTML. Coming from a technical producer’s perspective, this is a big no-no. If duplicity is required in your job title, then I can understand, but overall, I would say the IA should concentrate on deliverables. If you find as an IA that you are being left out of development, then you need to incorporate more time for interaction further down the workflow. Maybe a more formal review process needs to be instituted. However, stepping in to actually do production only makes for one more cook in the development kitchen.

Dave Rogers

August 23, 2005 10:38 AM

Brian, you took the words right out of my mouth! Tip #6 is a departure from the other five that call for a tight focus on the IA task itself—and keeping things simple.

It’s time we expose the idea of the “do everything” IA (who can code, create controlled vocabularies, conduct reliable research, write functional specs, visually design, manage the project et al) as the dangerous myth it is. I’m writing a column on this very topic for the September issue of Kelly Goto’s “gotoreport” at


August 29, 2005 12:03 PM

Since I put in #6 I will respond… Brian, we are not getting rid of a deliverable, we are just working in the workflow. The XHTML and CSS become the wireframe medium not something that has to be redone by another person in the workflow.

The XHTML are just semantically correct containers for the content. The CSS used is simple to turn on the borders of the content buckets and to size and style text. The wireframes look just like any other, but in this case they are directly usable by others in the workflow.

These wireframes can be easily reused and edited by those later in the workflow and saved and reused for other project.

I also print the pages out to PDF, which can then be annotated in PhotoShop or Illustrator.

A few years ago I stumbled on this method and found it save an insane amount of time. It not only saved time but I realized how much time was wasted not doing it things in this manner. IA often suffers from not being an integral part of the workflow process. What we did in the past was outside the workflow and took work to redo what we did as IAs. Working with in budgets for internal projects or for clients having a more efficient IA is greatly helpful. Paying for work to be done twice is not smart business.

You say an architect draws blueprints and does not build? An architect must understand the standards and specifications of their medium and be able to design with those constructs in mind. Web design it is just the same if the IA does not understand the standard medium HTML and CSS along with their properties we can not build or design properly. Learning what is needed takes relatively little time, far less time that the tools we used to design with.

Dave, I agree that a “do everything” IA is a myth, but if the IA is not capable of understanding the medium they are working they are working in the wrong medium. XHTML and CSS are easy to pick-up, in comparison to controlled vocabularies, ethnographic research, etc., but in order to do a web site well, we need understanding of these other elements also. We are professionals and making web sites for money and we should be expanding the tools in our toolbelt to meet the demands of out trade.

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