[Series] Declassified: Information Architecture Edition
04/04/2011 § 10 Comments
Welcome to the inaugural post of our Declassified series. This series will feature two writers laying out the basics of one class that is similar at two different schools. The point is to allow interested students to get a peek into the coursework that the MLIS offers, and also to serve as a checks and balances system for our programs; is your Metadata course the same as mine? Why, or why not? This is one way that we can actually attempt to open up the curriculum of library school and discuss it. Hope you enjoy – feel free to add comments reviewing the featured course at your institution also.
If this is an alt-LIS area that you might be interested in check out this bundle of apps/sites to check out curated by Micah.
Annie and Micah are happy to present “Declassified: Information Architecture Edition”
School: Indiana University-Indianapolis
Course Title: Information Architecture for the Web
Professor: Bill Helling (adjunct)
Textbook(s): Huddleston, Rob. (2008). HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Your visual blueprint for designing effective Web pages. Visual. ISBN: 9780470274361 [AMZN]
Pros/Cons: This class isn’t strictly just Information Architecture. We are being taught info arch within the frame work of web building. The pro’s are that we are learning good skills to have like XHTML and CSS, learning how metadata is used in this setting, understanding how to make a site accessible, learning how to cater to the users, creating and using controlled vocabulary and probably a lot more. Not to mention, we’re working on a final project for a real client, so the pressure is on to make it good!
The con’s would probably be that we don’t explicitly learn about info arch in just a theoretical manner; however the basic ideas about info arch that we learn in this class are applicable beyond the web. Another con is that many people go into this class with varying levels of experience with html and css. Either it’s too basic or it’s too advanced, so the professor has to teach to an in-between level.
- learn current XHTML markup
- develop proficiency in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
- understand basics of web page layout, design, labeling, and navigation
- understand how to make a web site accessible
It’s taught in a computer lab, so the first part of class is lecture. Sometimes we’ll do in class exercises together, or have time in class to work on our projects. It’s really helpful to do class exercises together because the lecture really sinks in. Then when the professor sets us off to work on our own, we’re encouraged to turn to our neighbors to ask for help if needed.
Assignments: We are assigned to build websites that eventually will give us the skills for our final project. The final assignment is designing and making a website for a real client. This semester it’s for a photographer so it should be a good experience working with what the client wants and making it happen.
For our final project we created a blueprint of our site, a list of our controlled vocabulary, and a wire frame. This wire frame is a basic layout, not intended to look pretty yet, it’s just to get the links in place and to establish a directory.
The course objective: Focuses on web site development. Students study information architecture as an approach for site organization and design, and learn about project management for complex web development tasks. In lab sessions, students work with advanced markup languages and scripting and develop sites, typically for real clients.
Comments: I love this class! This class is a pre-requisite for the digital libraries class, so that’s why I am taking it. I didn’t have too much experience with web design beforehand, so I’ve learned a lot about what goes into making a website. There’s much more than just how the site looks and functions. This is where the information architecture comes in. I see information architecture as the way that we build the structure and hierarchies within our information systems. In a website, it’s your directory, how does the user get from point A to B? I feel like learning about it within the framework of web design has helped the theories make sense to me.
Another special thing about this class is that it’s the first class that I didn’t buy the text book for. Someone was crafty enough to find a nice copy online and emailed it as a .pdf to all of us. This is also the first class that I have had with students who were not in the library information science field. We have students in the human computer interaction program who are taking this class as an elective. I’m hoping to take a human computer interaction course next year. This goes to show an overlap between these two disciplines, which I think is really cool.
I want to clarify that there is an Information Architecture class, not for the web, that is taught at the IU Bloomington campus. From looking at the syllabus there, it goes more into detail about the theories of info arch and isn’t as hands on. If someone has taken that class, please correct me if I am wrong. I am partial to my current class because of the hands on aspect, I think it makes the class more fun. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t already started using what I’ve learned in real life.
School: Florida State University
Course Title: Introduction to Information Architecture
Professor: Dr. Lisa Tripp
Textbook(s): Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (Second Edition) – Christina Wodtke and Austin Govella. [Kindle Version AMZN]
Pro/Con: Lots of hands on work building information architecture around a site of your choice or design. Requires some level of technical skills and comfort with software/web apps.
Pre-Reqs: Information Organization (core course); Design and Production of Networked Multimedia (basic HTML and CSS).
Building blocks of Info Architecture:
- defining the user
- implementation and use of metadata for wayfinding/search
- user-centered design
- sitepaths, sitemaps and wireframes
Learning method: The class is taught using Elluminate since our degree is entirely online. The students all log in, typically there is a Q&A or review to open the class, followed by a 30-50 min. lecture with slides (which all students can hear and see through the Elluminate software – the only thing missing is the physical instructor and a classroom surrounding), then breakout sessions for group work where we critique and assist one another on our individual projects (using text chat and speaking like in Skype), and finally a review of any questions, and any upcoming work.
Assignments: Four basic assignments which can be viewed in detail on the syllabus below. The main project is to work through the steps of info architecture (building personas/scenarios, sitepath, sitemap, lo-fi wireframe, hi-fi wireframe and a narrative essay) with a website or mobile app that each student chooses/imagines. Most students make up a fictional site based on their interests.
Syllabus: Dr. Tripp was kind enough to allow me to post the syllabus here [PDF].
Comments: Information architecture is something I was interested in before I heard about this class, so having the opportunity to take it was really exciting for me. Also, I had taken Digital Media Concepts and Production with Dr. Tripp my first semester in the program, and I can honestly say it was because of that class that I am writing this on this blog right now. Really got me started on this digital media LIS path, which, it turns out, I absolutely love.
I chose to design a site called “HackLibSchool.com” and so a lot of my assignments were directly related to my “real life” activities and insights through writing and reading here – I know, super original, huh? I am about 3/4 through the final project and am happy to share it with you all, so you can see the type of work that is expected and done in a class like this at FSU. See links/embeds below.
This course was the first time I was offered the chance to use an e-textbook, so I went ahead and purchased the Kindle version which I access on my iOS devices. I. Freaking. Love. It. I will be totally honest here – this is the first textbook in the history of my MLIS degree that I have actually really read and engaged with and I attribute it entirely to the fact that I am totally comfortable with the e-format and delivery system since I already do 90% of my daily reading (RSS, news, Emails, texts, social media) on a digital device. Also, I think this textbook is actually just a really well-written and easy to follow text, of which you don’t see many in the MLIS.
Overall, I think that learning the principles of conscious design and layout were incredibly helpful to me imagining the web as the different types of social spaces that it is becoming, especially for the future of library, archive and museum webspaces. As I’m about to graduate and am surveying the field/job prospects, I think IA could be one of the “alt-LIS” fields that is a potential non-traditional career path for folks with Master’s in Library and Information Studies. And I want to one of them.
Deliverable 1 and 2 Persona and Scenario
Deliverable 3 – Sitepath
Deliverable 4 – Site Map