why IA? think big when budgets shrink

In an environment of decreased budgets and increased belt-tightening, it is easy to overlook the benefits of sound information architecture. After all, when information architecture is successful, it’s often invisible. Now is the time to remind team members and project stakeholders of the long-term value created by investing in information architecture, and how information architecture benefits the bottom line.

A professional information architect (IA) can add value to an information system development team by putting an emphasis on creating systems that are scalable and flexible. A skilled IA takes future growth into account, saving resources by planning ahead. When changes are necessary, an IA should survey what already exists, and use what is working. According to Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld, project teams often make the mistake of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” during re-design projects (Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, p. 346). IAs can alleviate this problem by researching existing systems, then testing to discover what works, what is broken, and what is missing.

An IA can also add value to an information system team by functioning as a user advocate. By performing user tests and doing user research, an IA can understand the user in ways that business or development team members do not. Bringing this understanding to the design table can change the focus of the project and re-align user and business needs, making sure both are considered. An information architect is interdisciplinary team member who balances user, business, and development requirements.

IAs save businesses time and money by being big-picture thinkers, considering today’s project needs along with past and future needs. IAs can also increase a project’s potential for success by understanding and advocating for users. An investment in information architecture today can pay off in time and cost savings tomorrow.

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