The Seven Lies (of Information Architecture) in Chicago

Last week at An Event Apart Chicago hosted by Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer, I had the pleasure of meeting a huge number of approachable and impassioned attendees. I heard talks ranging from the high-level-inspiration kind to the get-your-hands-dirty kind that define the event.

For the first time, I gave a talk on The Seven Lies of Information Architecture. I wasn’t sure how it would fare, as I’m an IA myself, and contesting principles is always tricky. I got good feedback from some nice attendees and look forward to refining the ideas, providing more examples, as I develop the Lies. As I described them, they are:

1. Navigation must be consistent.
2. There is a magic number (plus or minus two).
3. Users must get to all parts of the site all of the time.
4. Users must know where they are at all times.
5. The user experience must be seamless.
6. Shorter is better.
7. Information architects must do information architecture.

After the talk, I noticed a pattern in the kinds of questions I got, so I thought I’d post just a few of the answers here:

“I’d like to be an IA, but I’m not sure where to start.”

Information Architecture Institute (IAI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering awareness and practice of information architecture. You have to be a member, but the mailing list is also quite good.

Information Architecture Meetup, a great turnout in New York City, but I’m not sure about others.

Information Architecture Resources, Jesse James Garrett’s ever-growing list.

Interaction Design Association (IxDA), another nonprofit whose focus is on interaction design with lots of good local events. The mailing list is also good.

“If I’m interested in IA, what should I be reading?”

Boxes and Arrows, a magazine for information architects.

Communicating Design, Dan Brown, 2006. Includes stunning and varied examples of all kinds of IA deliverables.

Designing for People, Henry Dreyfuss, 1955. A biography about Dreyfuss and industrial design, but applicable to design practitioners of all shapes and sizes.

Designing for Interaction, Dan Saffer, 2006. One of the most comprehensive and relevant resources for interaction designers.

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 3rd edition, Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, 2006. The IA bible.

“What are some of the design pattern resources you refer to?”

Jennifer Tidwell’s Designing Interfaces

Chris Messina’s flickr Design Patterns

Yahoo! Design Pattern Library

“Where can I find some of the research papers that support the Seven Lies?”

Expertise and the perception of shape in information,” Andrew Dillon, Dille Schaap, 1996.

The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two,” George Miller, 1956.

There are stacks more, but these provide a good place to start.