Want To Get Started As An Information Architect? These Are Last Books You Will Ever Need.

I was asked the question where a new information architect could get started to learn about the field and I explained that there are experiences all around us that enable all of us to learn. It could be anything from buying speakers for your television to how to book an airline ticket: all of us is uniquely qualified to start as one if we’ve used a computer, and all it takes is just observing how users think and use technology to improve what we have today.

After that explanation, during which her eyes glazed over, the response was, “How about just telling me what books to read.”

Here are five books I like a lot.

Note that none of them (well, one) is written by one of the user experience experts that are most often cited in blogs. There are many authors out there that present equally valid points that should get equal time, and I found these books to be extremely useful and valuable. Most of the books describe the patterns and theory of information architecture and user experience, but a couple of them go into detail about the tools we use to communicate, and how we fit into the software development and web design process.

The last five books I would read if I wanted to learn about information architecture

Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping

By Paco Underhill, Why We Buy is a great read on the observational study of why people shop, how they shop, and what they buy. Most importantly, it sets the stage for triggers for the motivations of completing an action, which is the basis of all interactive interactions.

This book is not too scientific, but honestly, you can look other places for that; what we’re seeing through the eyes of Paco is the emotions of browsing and shopping in the real world.

Don’t Make Me Think

Don't Make Me ThinkBy Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think is the cut-and-dry version of information architecture and the best methods of web navigation. Covered in 216 pages are enough screen shots, design patterns and quick points that just about anyone can get started on building their own websites or improving them dramatically.

What I like most about this book is that Steve doesn’t talk down to the reader like some other specialists, he informs the reader in a very comfortable, friendly tone.

Designing Interfaces

By Jenifer Tidwell, Designing Interfaces most importantly shows exactly what is most important about designing software and web sites: that all applications should follow a very well defined set of a patterns so the user interactions follow exactly what the user expects.

Jenifer’s book goes into excruciating detail of what interface widgets to use when, and why the widget should be used, how to use them, and examples of how the widgets were used in other applications.

Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow The Works

By Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler, Web ReDesign works through not only examples of wireframes, site maps, and how to quote projects, but looks at the project management process of web development. What I like best is that the book shows exactly how Information Architects, Web Designers, Programmers and the client fit together in an orchestra of what happens before, during and after a site launch.

Kelly and Emily also do a masterful job of including other expert voices and opinions like Christina Wodtke and Lynda Weinman about what it takes to launch a successful and user-friendly website.

Grids for the Internet & Other Digital Media

By Veruschka Gaitz, Grids is a out-of-print but very valuable publication that goes into amazing detail about the usage of grids for interactive applications (not just the Internet but also for multimedia applications and print design).

The book also covers the lost art of typography, how it should be used in websites, and usage of type on a grid. Even if you aren’t a designer, you’ll appreciate the clear and concise examples displayed in a very modern fashion of this title.