The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

The book I wish I'd read ten years ago

– June 28th, 2010 –

A few weeks ago, Five Simple Steps - the small, indi publisher I’m a co-founder of - released our second title; A Practical Guide to Information Architecture by Donna Spencer. Derek Featherstone, who wrote a wonderful foreword for Donna, summarised his feelings in one closing sentence:

This is the book that I needed 10 years ago.

I completely agree with him. And here’s why: this book makes you feel like an information architect. It makes you feel empowered with a sense of clarity and purpose that you can bring to your projects. No other IA book I’ve read made me feel like that.

I think I first came across the term IA in about 1999. I’d just started working for Agency.com in London and was partnered with a guy (sorry, I forget his name now), who ‘used to be a designer’, but was now an ‘IA’. I really did learn a lot from him directly. I learnt that Information Architecture can be a slow, tedious practice. It’s often about making hard decisions and arming yourself with the facts before you do. I learnt that it was vital in a project, but perhaps most importantly, I learnt that good IA is not a quest for perfection. It’s about getting in there, making mistakes and then iterating.

Getting your hands dirty

Every year in the UK, there is a horticultural show in Chelsea; the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The BBC, as always, does a stirling job at covering the event over the course of about a week. As you’d expect, there are a bunch of well-known faces presenting the proceedings, my favourite being Christine Walkden - an energetic, passionate gardener with a wonderful turn of phrase. This year - whilst sitting on a park bench, discussing the difference between garden designers and gardeners with Alan Titchmarsh - she said something that will stick with me a long while:

You have to spend some time with grit under your fingernails

This phrase really stuck with me. There really is no substitute for getting stuck in, making mistakes, learning from them and then trying it all again. To get stuck in, you need to have the confidence to do so. And that’s what Donna’s book will give you; the confidence to spend some time with grit under your fingernails.

A Practical Guide to Information Architecture is available to buy now as a downloadable PDF, ePub and preorder paperback from Five Simple Steps from as little as £12.

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