Updated: 26/11/2002; 01:06:33 PM.
Reviews and news of books, especially books on New Media.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Flash MX Designer’s ActionScript Reference by Sham Bhangal et al, published by Friends of ED. So many specialist Flash books on the FoED list!
1:02:05 PM    Add a comment.

Monday, 18 November 2002

Web Editor would have been another reasonable choice of job title, instead of Information Architect, perhaps, but I only saw one vacancy for that job. That was for someone to do writing and copyediting for a New Zealand government web site.
      Come to think of it, vacancies for web writers have been hard to find, even in the heyday or bubble days of the Web. There is not enough awareness of how very different web writing is to other forms.
      As the Hot Text guys state,
“Writing for the Web transforms our old ideas of audience, structure, and style. When we immerse ourselves in the Internet, we see concepts that we have inherited from years of writing on paper begin to dissolve.”

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Waste of that kind, and so many missed opportunities, is why I was so excited when the first edition of IAWWW appeared in 1997. Someone had been thinking about the same things, and what is more had put a name to it!
      Also compelling was the fact that, as someone with experience of magazine editorial and film and advertising production, the concept of IA overlapped with many of the most essential roles in those spheres.
      Having worked on a few web sites by then, I saw that someone must assume the editorial role. It was obvious that research, strategy, planning, scoping, storytelling, structure, and so on, were just not being carried out right under the old designer + programmer paradigm.
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On page 320 of IAWWW, second edition, by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld, under the subheader Do We Really Need to Hire Professionals?, is this:
We are continually amazed by the scale of business blunders caused by the false assumption that anyone can do this work. In our consulting experience with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, we have seen several situations where literally millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars have been wasted by web and intranet development teams that lack even a single professional information architect.
… and they go on to discuss how various common corporate policies have failed to address the problem, in their opinion.
      Cause to stop and think. Millions, for firms that could, possibly, have afforded to take these kinds of losses. What about the smaller guys who cannot take big hits?
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Thanks to the kind folks at O’Reilly & Associates, three new books on the Web have arrived: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference and HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide.
      Have just quickly skimmed through Information Architecture, and it looks like this is the one of the three recently arrived IA books that is most oriented more towards the professional than lay people.
11:46:35 AM    Add a comment.

Friday, 15 November 2002

Title: Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web
Author: Christina Wodtke
Publisher: New Riders Publishing
Published: 2002
Pages: 348
Illustrations: Monochrome
ISBN: 0735712506
Rating: 5

When a client looks at a web site, they only see the visible 10%—the interface. The 90% of the site that makes the thing work is invisible.
      When a client comes to you believing all you need to do is come up with a terrific user interface design, the situation is not unlike that of the Titanic and the iceberg.
      To avoid that fate, far too common in web projects still, you must somehow convince them that there is an unseen 90% that must be done before pixel hits screen. Even more importantly, you must persuade them to pay for it.
      How often though have you begun talking about strategy, scope, structure and that terribly misunderstood thing called content, only to be interrupted with the words that one of their people will take care of all that stuff? Then when it comes to the crunch, and nothing has been done by their people, the client comes by and dumps a stack of company brochures or product catalogs on your desk and tells you to just get on with it?
      All this research, thinking and planning that is needed before opening your copy of Photoshop or Dreamweaver has found a name—Information Architecture (IA). The job has been given a title—Information Architect (also IA). The profession is now fighting for recognition, and the books are being published, at an accelerating pace.
      Christina Wodtke founded Information Architecture web site Boxes and Arrows and is a partner at a San Francisco user experience agency. As she admits in her inside cover note, she really loves the web and really hates bad web sites.
      A conversation about those issues with Jeffrey Veen resulted in this book. And now we have another tool in the arsenal both for learning from, and to use in teaching our clients. This is the second recent book on Information Architecture I have encountered—the first was Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience—and both are general introductions rather than in-depth reference books for practicing IAs.
      Both books are well suited as recommended reading for insightful clients. Both are also good reads for IAs to remind themselves of how to do it better. But Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (IABW) contains more of the how-tos and examples that are still in short supply elsewhere. This is the kind of material I learn best from—things other people have done, good and bad.
      Christina Wodtke’s aim is for her readers to learn rocket science in a day without being blown up. She does that, with enough real life examples to get you started, without imposing a method or setting strict procedures. The perfect in-depth IA book still does not exist yet, but IABW is a damned good beginning. I read it in a day, and dip into it again and again when thinking.
      I am still hungry for more, but Wodtke has given me enough in her book to think about for the time being. I have taken to carrying Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web around in my backpack, along with The Elements of User Experience, and that is not something I do with every book I take a liking to.
12:46:03 PM    Add a comment.

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

If at all interested in Information Architecture and Information Design, or in simply being a good designer, you must not pass by Edward Tufte’s superb books.
      I used to read them all the spare time I had at an ad agency where they were in the collection of a copywriter. I could never find copies locally, but one day I will track them down and buy them all. They are priceless. They are expensive because they are self-published in hardcover by the American author.
      The books’ samizdat status probably explains where they are so hard to find in bookstores. But now Edward Tufte has a website.
10:27:14 AM    Add a comment.

Monday, 11 November 2002

Copies of Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web and Building Accessible Websites have just arrived. Reviews soon, here and at Amazon.
2:32:59 PM    Add a comment.

I have just come across a new book about to be published in the US, on the subject of eLearning, named eLearning with Dreamweaver MX. A copy should be arriving soon. I have not seen any such books here yet, but I guess the trickle is about to start. Do a search on Amazon.com on the word eLearning and a few titles turn up.
      Both Flash MX and Dreamweaver MX come with eLearning extensions, or libraries, or you can download them from the relevant Extensions page at the Macromedia web site. I have, but it was pretty obvious that a good reference book on what to do with these extensions was absolutely necessary before you could use them well.
      I will be pleased whan Amazon finally sets up an Australian store! Far too few books make it through here. And far too many other kinds of products that you can get even in the east fail to make it to Perth. Luckily Amazon’s current product range just keeps on growing.
10:24:14 AM    Add a comment.

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

While wondering what has happened with the long-awaited second edition of famous first IA book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, I came across an interview with them on IA website Boxes and Arrows.
      Here is their definition of Information Architecture.
  1. The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within an information system.
  2. The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content.
  3. The art and science of structuring and classifying web sites and intranets to help people find and manage information.
  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
No, I am not unaware that the second edition was published earlier this year in the United States. It is just that I have not seen a copy in any of the local bookstores on any of my regular sorties since publication in August. In fact very, very few O'Reilly & Associates books turn up here at all. I wonder why? They do some fantastic books on essential subjects.
4:54:06 PM    Add a comment.

Wednesday, 30 October 2002

Jeffrey Zeldman is writing a list of his favourite web design books, and amongst the first three is Joe Clark’s Building Accessible Websites. Also on this list is Hillman Curtis’ MTIV: Process, Inspiration, and Practice for the New Media Designer.
      Clark’s book is due here any day now. I am looking forward to it even more now.
10:23:26 AM    Add a comment.

© Copyright 2002 Karl-Peter Gottschalk.
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