Jen Vetterli asks the right question:
How many of these books really have something new to offer, and just how many re-articulate, remetaphorize, re-tool, etc., the same message?
One of the comments on her site asks why I have “Flash usability” in the same sentence as IA? Very simple, look around how seperate in most organizations are the interaction design, information design, usability and information architecture groups. In my experience, not very! We are talking about the same problems, Flash, HTML, xhtml, dhtml, thick client, thin client, web-based, embedded systems, handhelds, etc. All of these are devices or technologies, information is the medium, users encounter similar problems due to design designs or poor information architecture on each platform.
Jesse James Garrett comes closest to explaining the relationships of the different specializations in the creation of user experiences. (Peter Morville’s Iceberg of IA is also a great description of a model of the relationship between Information Architecture and other disciplines/techniques). Information architecture and usability are closely related. Do Flash applications not have an information architecture? Just because the amount of information displayed on my handheld is less than my desktop, does this mean that the information architecture problems are easier? Or are they made more complex by the role of the usage context plays with the device? Information Architecture isn’t something that is limited to library science, or to the Web. Information architecture is a part of the bigger picture:
How do we build systems that help people accomplish their goals in an efficient manner?
This is a very broad description of the user experience. But it encompasses visual design, interaction design, information design, emotions, play, information architecture, user needs, methodologies, documentation, strategy, etc. The idea is that we as a community need to encourage specialization but we need to see the big picture. How many in our industry can’t see the forest because the trees get in the way?