IA vs. Site navigation #webWednesday

Once upon a time, I freelanced for a digital agency and there was a minor incident that has been bugging me since then.

At some point during my short tenure there, I was roped into a client’s meeting to go through some of the evaluations and recommendations the agency has made for the client’s work. It was all documented in a thick stack of papers.

I was told that we would go through the document and discuss the pointers with the clients accordingly, therefore I didn’t have to really prepare anything. Plus, I was told it should be a short meeting of roughly an hour.

Looking at the thick stack of paper, I could not barely imagine how we could cover all the points within a hour of meeting. Perhaps my agency folks were a little too ambitious.

Given that I had some down time then, I took it at my own effort to compile a list of recommendations indicated in the document. Basically, I picked up points in a Word document and listed them out in an Excel sheet. Simple as that.

There came the meeting.

I was praised for the awesome list I drawn out. To this day, I am still amazed how a simply house-cleaning action could have got me so much attention. But that’s not the point of this post.

Among more than 10 pointers of how to improve the work, we’ve got 2 particular points:

  • Improve the information architecture
  • Improve the site navigation

So the client asked: What is IA so different from site navigation? Can’t we combine these?

The next thing I knew, everybody was trying to chime in.

Account Director: Oh yea, what’s so different?
Planner: I would think as much.
Client: Architecture is navigation and vice versa right?
Account Director: Ah right. Don’t worry about it. ‘IA’ is just another flash word of Jenny’s.

At that very moment, I felt literally lost, couldn’t comprehend why I was sitting among ‘digital’ folks who could simply laugh through ‘IA is navigation and navigation is IA‘ without a second doubt.

I would have already spoken up if not the topic wasn’t immediately overshadowed by the next point in the list.

Frankly speaking, I wasn’t so much turned off by lack of knowledge or however more nicely one would put it. Neither was I totally disappointed by at the fact that the situation became me Jenny showing off ‘flash words’. It was exactly the ignorance of people who consider themselves ‘digital experts’, who could write endlessly about Advanced Digital everywhere on the Interwebs, yet couldn’t grasp the difference between IA and Navigation. Seriously, guys?! That was totally uncool.

So to put this on record, Information Architecture is different from Site Navigation.

Let us all get our shit together, shan’t we?

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Disclaimer: My ex-colleagues then were super nice people. And I had zero personal or work-related conflicts towards them prior to this event, which may or may not result in this post. All views were mine alone. Happy to discuss the topic further if you please.

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