CIRI blog

New Information Architecture course

Published: Saturday, May 13, 2017 by Virginia Tucker

The School of Information is now offering an information architecture course that prepares students with the skills needed in the knowledge architecture and user-centered design professions. Students design and develop user-centered knowledge structures for the Web environment, and they create project documents developed around specific client requirements, covering the stages of planning, designing, prototyping, and informing stakeholders about a content-rich product. They learn best practices for designing information architecture products, and the course assignments provide real-world experience developing client deliverables from proposal stage through to concept, content inventory, user profiles, and final recommendations.

The new course supports broader School of Information program objectives and career opportunities for graduates, too. As described by iSchool Director Sandy Hirsh, “There’s a huge range of opportunities for someone with a degree in our field, and it’s constantly evolving. There are so many interesting areas—digital asset management, information architecture, virtual reference services, and social media.”1  Information architecture (IA) is a key element in the MLIS program’s career pathway for Web Programming & Information Architecture, covering IA topics and user-centered design principles and their applications, and the pathway for Knowledge Organization. Students in the Post-Master’s Certificate for Web Programming and Information Architecture may choose the new IA course as one to fulfill the certificate requirements as well.

Core topics in the course include: problems addressed by effective information architecture (IA); how to design for both findability and understanding; user research methods and tools; best practices of information architects; methods for organizing, labelling, and structuring navigation systems; and creating client documents and deliverables. The course has three main components: information architecture (IA) fundamentals, Doing IA, and Communicating IA. In fundamentals, the main points of focus are the kinds of problems that IA can address, and how the themes of findability and understanding user information seeking are evident throughout problem solving. Best practices and sets of heuristics for evaluating website IA are covered and applied.  For the Doing IA component, students learn about methods as well as software tools for conducting user research, inventorying content, wireframing, and managing taxonomy.  During the third component, communicating within design teams and to stakeholders are addressed, and students complete both written deliverables and make presentations in small group seminars. The final project encompasses all aspects in the project lifecycle of an IA project.

1. Director Sandra Hirsh Discusses Job Market for Information Professionals (2014). http://ischool.sjsu.edu/about/news/detail/slis-director-sandra-hirsh-discusses-job-market-information-professionals

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