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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) December 21, 2000


This newsletter sponsored by: NetMechanic and BOT 2001 Seminar __________________________________________________________________


NetMechanic Browser Tip: Test Your Site With WebTV

Web developers who routinely test their Web sites in Explorer and Netscape often overlook WebTV because of it's small user base (1 million subscribers). According to WebTV, 40% of its subscribers have made online purchases via their WebTV service. Is your Web site WebTV ready? Find out at: http://www.netmechanic.com/news/vol3/design_no9.htm


http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. TWO CONTESTS: Signup & Win, Submit & Win! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Information Architecture - A New Opportunity 3. NET NEWS: * Check Your Chads! Punch a Piece of History! * Time Warner Wins Against Harry Potter Cybersquatter * Microsoft to Acquire Great Plains * XHTML Basic Becomes a W3C Recommendation * XML as the great peacemaker

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. TWO GREAT CONTESTS: Signup & Win, Submit & Win!

>Signup & Win!

Sign up for the Webreference Update newsletter, and you could win a killer software bundle from BoxTop Software and Insider Software including ProJPEG, SuperGIF, and SpaceAgent. Each week we'll draw new winners from our new subscribers - you could be next. Already a subscriber? Not a problem - just fill out the form, and you'll be automatically entered to win. Tell your friends!


>Submit & Win Macromedia Flash 5 FreeHand 9 Studio!

Submit your article today and you could win Macromedia's powerful Dreamweaver 4 Fireworks 4 Studio software. If your article makes the cut, and we publish it in this newsletter, you win! See the submission page for details:


This week, Angshuman Das introduces us to an emerging field in the Web development world - Information Architecture. Often thrown in under other design job titles, this position is gaining momentum. Read on to find out how you can reap the benefits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Information Architecture - A New Opportunity

Right now, if you want to boost your career, remember the Aesop's fable where one animal takes advantage of the fight between two others. Right now, in the arena of Web design, two parties are quarreling: graphic designers and usability gurus.

On one side, you have information architects led by usability evangelist Jakob Nielsen (http://www.useit.com ), and on the other side graphic designers, like Gene Na of Kioken (http://www.kioken.com ), a company that imparts a distinctive movie-like quality to its work. Both parties are equally vehement in their philosophy: user-centered, simple design vs. media-rich, cinematic web sites.

For a good read on the war, point your browser to:

Usability Experts are from Mars, Graphic Designers are from Venus http://www.alistapart.com/stories/marsvenus/index.html

Who Says Design Should Be Simple? http://www.newmedia.com/default.asp?articleID=2275

However, instead of taking sides in this great debate, pounce upon the opportunity of becoming an information architect, somebody who would tend toward the Nielsen camp, but nevertheless reap rich rewards. If you have the skills and talent, you can claim a lot of respect and a good salary.

Web design consultant Roger C. Parker, of NewEntrepreneur.com, says information architects generally receive at least 30 per cent higher salaries than "pure designers and marketing types because they bring more to the table." You can expect $50,000-100,000. A keyword search for "information architect" on Computerjobs.com yielded 78 jobs, many of them offering $80,000-120,000 a year, with some offering up to $155,000. The same search on Hotjobs.com yielded 95 jobs, with some top companies, like Ogilvy & Mather, looking for information architects or user interface designers.

But what kind of skills and talent do information designers need to have? Lynne Duddy, Director of Information Architecture at Agency.com, says IA specialists should be able to demonstrate how to humanize technology, focusing on people, plus operate with a high degree of intelligence, show an extraordinary empathy with others, make connections and see patterns not evident to many, adapt their communications, as needed, using words and pictures, passion and composure, and maintain an objectivity that allows the true essence of a solution to emerge.

Tall order, isn't it? But, then, information design isn't everybody's cup of tea. How do you know if you have it in you? Do you need to be a creative, right-brained type or a logical, left- brained type?

Duddy says, "Like the nature of their work, IAs are people with an uncanny blend of rational and creative." Parker, on the other hand, says they are "creative, right-brain types." "Rational, left-brained types are too analytical and focused on specific tasks. Creative types are more likely to identify unsatisfied needs and come up with 'out of the blue' solutions to problems," he adds.


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Information design offers a more holistic approach to design than graphic design. "Information architects must possess the ability to comprehend the whole picture rather than a single portion of it," Parker says. "Most designers and business owners are too myopic."

Duddy echoes a similar thought: "Because IAs seek design solutions from an objective point of view within the context of people's needs, the content, the brand and the technology, we can look at the design problems holistically."

Information designers combine the architect's ability to plan, the writer's ability to simplify and the designer's ability to highlight key areas (give selective emphasis). Most information architecture gurus agree on the main functions of an information architect or user interface designer: he/she brings order out of chaos and makes the complex clear. IA specialists, as opposed to graphic designers, are involved in the meaning and context of content, not just the text they are illustrating.

What kind of background is necessary or helpful to do this job? Duddy, of Agency.com, says this has been a point of countless debates. "Even using the title Information Designer would be considered by some to be a point of debate," she says. "Because this is an emerging discipline, a specific background is not necessary at this point. But as time goes by and this discipline becomes established, I am certain we'll see Master and Doctoral level degrees offered."

Currently, there are not many university-level courses available. Duddy knows of only one school - Pacific NW College of Art - that offers a class on Information Architecture and the World Wide Web.

Parker says: "Most schools are too 'Balkanized,' or specialized. Designers are taught to work with color, layout and type, database types know how to set up links to cells and fields, but these are only tasks: the challenge is to relate technology to marketing goals and the tools of perception Web site visitors use to navigate a Web site and understand its message."

However, don't let lack of formal training opportunities deter you. In fact, use it to your advantage. "Until a universally valid information architecture curriculum is developed," Parker says, "generalists with open minds and problem solving skills will be the most in demand." If you have a broad, general education in social sciences (for example, ethnography and human factors), graphic design or journalism, and have the core skills and attributes, you are all set. "Generalists are needed now because we need to rekindle some of the spirit that was born with the Internet," Duddy says.

As technologies, like wireless applications, have become complex, teams have become specialized. Companies need information designers to pull these teams into a cohesive unit and humanize the whole development process.

If you can distill the best of each major you had in college or graduate school, you could be well on your way to becoming an information architect. All you need to have is "the creativity to adapt those tools and techniques to new environments and technologies and the ability to integrate usability into the design process towards viable design solutions," according to Duddy.

Armed with knowledge, jump on the bandwagon. You could be pioneers. "I believe that these people will help shape the direction of IA and how it will be adopted within the industry," Duddy adds.

So, there you go. Don't miss the IA bus. To get up to speed with your IA career, turn to these resources:


Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, Jakob Nielsen, New Riders, $45

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, O'Reilly & Associates, $24.95

Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide, Jared Spool, et al., Morgan Kaufman, $29.95

Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience, Jennifer Fleming, et al., O'Reilly & Associates, $34.95


Argus Center for Information Architecture http://argus-acia.com/

Becoming an Information Architect, Monster.com http://technology.monster.com/articles/infoarchitect/

Information Architecture Tutorial, Webmonkey, http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/98/28/index0a.html?tw=design

Built 2 Order, Publish magazine, http://www.publish.com/features/0007/feature4.htm


WHERE IS THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE ADMINISTRATOR SITE ON THE WEB? Swynk.com - It provides the single largest independent resource for Microsoft-related BackOfficeä and Windows DNA Server Technologies. You'll find information on SQL Servers. Exchange, SMS, Windows 2000 and more. Sign up for FREE newsletters or join a discussion forum. http://www.swynk.com/


About the author:

Angshuman Das is a new-media producer at RS Software. He has a Master of Mass Communication degree from the University of South Carolina and has been a content producer, Web designer and multimedia specialist. He thinks he is essentially a "right-brain, creative type," but still can be an information architect. You can e-mail him at angshumand@rssoftware.co.in

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Check Your Chads! Punch a Piece of History!, Time Warner Wins Against Harry Potter Cybersquatter, Microsoft to Acquire Great Plains, XHTML Basic Becomes a W3C Recommendation, XML as the great peacemaker

>Check Your Chads! Punch a Piece of History!

The ultimate souvenir of the 2000 presidential election is now available for sale. Twenty authentic voting machines used in the election are available in an auction today. Complete with a real presidential ballot, these machines are being auctioned as part of the upgrade process ordered by Wisconsin election officials. http://dc.internet.com/news/article/0,1934,2101_542011,00.html DC.Internet.com, 001221

>Time Warner Wins Against Harry Potter Cybersquatter

Time Warner, which owns the copyright to the blockbuster series of Harry Potter children's books, on Thursday won its case against a California-based cybersquatter, arbitrators announced. A total of 107 Internet addresses - such as harrypotterbooks.org and harrypotterfilm.org - were ordered to be transferred to the media giant. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001221/wr/tech_cybersquatting_dc_1.html Yahoo.com, 001221

>Microsoft to Acquire Great Plains

Microsoft Corp. revealed plans to acquire Great Plains Software Inc. in a deal valued at $1.1 billion. By acquiring the supplier of mid-market business applications, Microsoft expects to bridge the gap between on-premise software and next-generation software and services. http://www.internetnews.com/fina-news/article/0,,5_542121,00.html InternetNews.com, 001221

>XHTML Basic Becomes a W3C Recommendation

XHTML Basic content can be shared across desktop computers, TVs, PDAs, pagers, and mobile phones. Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director, said, "XHTML Basic offers the simplicity and wide interoperability of early versions of HTML and reflects ten years of Web experience, including advances in XML and accessibility." http://www.w3.org/TR/ W3.org, 001219

>XML as the great peacemaker

Extensible Markup Language accomplished the seemingly impossible this year: It brought bitter software enemies together to speak the same tongue. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-4234030.html?dtn.head News.com, 001221

That's it for this week. Happy Holidays!

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

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