Review by Dennis Schleicher (January 12, 2001)

Practical Information Architecture: A Hands-On Approach to Structuring Successful Websites

Practical Information Architecture is an introductory how-to guide on information architecture. In this book, Reiss demonstrates how to create an information architecture as an underlying structure to your site, which communicates your ideas, promotes your services, and sells your goods.

Although advanced information architects might find it elementary, I think they better take a closer look. Why? Well, not because of any big new ideas (except for some good WAP stuff), but because of how good Reiss is at explaining information architecture.

Reiss uses stories and examples that even my grandmother would understand. Like all good storytellers he gets across many great ideas in few words. His language is clear, concise, conversational and straightforward. We need to be able to write and present information architecture like Reiss does if we want more clients to understand why information architecture is important and necessary.

Reiss' purpose in this book is "not to chart new territory but to help explain the territory that has already been charted." His audience is not experienced web site producers, who Reiss argues are a select minority in this new field. Instead, this book is for someone who is interested in web site production, but who has not yet done any.

Quotes from the Text

On information architecture (p. 3):
"Good information architecture is the key to making sure that people get the best possible value from their visit to your site."

On effective use of metadata & search engines (p. 178):
"An incredible number of site owners still ignore the fact that most external search engines rely on metadata for proper indexing … of course, there are many search engines that steadfastly refuse to index dynamically generated pages."

On the new role of IA, WAP, & NKN (p. 175-6):
"Most of the principles of information architecture are generic: the rules don't change as much as they adapt to embrace new technologies … [On WAP] chunks of information are both small and specific … [and] the job of the information architect will be to identify specific types of "need-to-know-now" information. My acronym for this is NKN "

On the importance of common sense in IA (p. 8):
"The decisions [the information architect] make[s] now are critical since they directly affect your visitors' behavior and ultimately their opinion of your site."

On granularity and limitations of finer levels (p. 13):
" … Sometimes a cracker is better than a handful of crumbs."