New York design firm Giampietro+Smith hits a little information architecture home run with their design for the magazine the revealer, a very interesting web site about media and religion. The problem of how to structure the presentation of breaking news, current-ish articles, and “evergreen” always-interesting material is something information architects face all the time but never seem to get right.
Using only three simple (and neatly alliterative) words, G+S nailed it:
When Behavior was working with the AIGA on the redesign of their Design Forum a few years ago, we at one point pictured an almost identical structure to the revealer‘s, with three columns of content that each had a different “pace”. I imagined the three columns sliding vertically at three different speeds, like Stewart Brand (pictured here at the 2003 IA Summit in an awesome photo by Mike Lee) describing his Clock of the Long Now, in which different types of knowledge and understanding move and evolve at different speeds. We didn’t end up using that design concept, and I wonder if it wasn’t in part because we never quite envisioned it with just the right words for the three columns.
It’s great to see plain old fashioned English used to make information architecture work elegantly. All too often a seemingly-great IA or user interface design strategy falls to peices when you finally get down to nomenclature. Which is why I think it is essential for information architects to be excellent writers with large and strong vocabularies — if you can’t think of a way to take a 15-word button description and reduce it to three, if you can’t think of the one word that succintly describes the twenty types of content in a single section of your site, then you’re missing a critical tool from your UXD utility belt.