Being Information Developers, we occasionally hear how clients refer to us as “Information Architects”. Most people reckon that an Information Architect and an Information Developer are interchangeable job titles and there is no difference between them in terms of duties. But is it right? Let’s dig deeper and find out more about who is who.
Information architecture (IA) is the practice of structuring information. Correspondingly, Information Architects are the people who create a structure for a website, application, or other project, helping users easily understand where they are and how to find the information they need.
Daily tasks of an Information Architect include:
- Conducting user research and analysis to understand what people will do with an application, how they will use information provided by the application, and what mental models the users have when they use the application.
- Creating navigation and hierarchy to determine how information across a website or application will be displayed and accessed.
- Designing a wireframe to depict the page layout or arrangement of the website content, including interface elements and navigational systems, and how they work together.
- Working on labeling systems to ensure a relationship between users and content through appropriately titled navigation and hierarchy.
- Producing a taxonomy to decide how information will be grouped, classified, and labeled within a shared information environment.
- Data modeling to determine how the site will accommodate change and growth over time.
So, Information Architects are responsible for organizing a website so that users have a better online experience.
Information Developers help users understand how a product, service, or process works. For this purpose, they create guides, help systems, diagrams, e-learnings, and other deliverables which present complex and technical information in an easy-to-understand way.
Daily tasks of an Information Developer include:
- Conducting user research and requirements analysis to understand the target audience and documentation scope.
- Creating templates and information design which encompasses creating a document outline as well as a Documentation Style Guide if there is not any.
- Developing a deliverable with certain content (illustrations, voiceover scripts, table of contents, glossary, index, cross-references, and so on).
- Reviewing, editing, proofreading, and testing the document to ensure its correctness and usability.
- Integrating the document into application (if necessary).
- Maintaining the existing documentation.
This list is not exhaustive since sometimes the responsibilities of Information Developers extend to cover translating the documentation, writing proposals, SEO web content, articles, blogs, forum posts, and so on.
However, the main goal of Information Developers is to produce high-quality and clear documentation for the intended audience.
From the descriptions above, we can see that information architecture and information development overlap when it comes to structuring information. While Information Architects care about the structure of a website, Information Developers endeavor to create a proper structure of their documentation. The representatives of both professions aim at making the user journey as smooth and successful as possible via creating deliverables with easily findable and interrelated content. Besides, in larger companies, Information Architects frequently work alongside Information Developers to help create templates for deliverables and determine what content in what deliverable goes.
However, despite these similarities, the job titles ‘Information Architect’ and ‘Information Developer’ cannot be used interchangeably. Although information architecture deals with information development, it is rather applied to web development and presents a higher level of expertise and complexity.
To find out more about the trade of Information Architects, you can read the book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld.
Hope this article was of use and if you have something to add, your comments are always welcome.