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Good Information Architecture Gets Read & Understood

Oct 15, 2016 | Communicating Effectively

As an information architect, I revel in taking a jumble of written text and formatting it to optimize clarity and readability. It’s not just for fun: In today’s hectic digital world, if you want to be heard and understood, you need to organize information so that people can digest it quickly and easily.

Here’s a practical example….

My daughter and her dad are performing the John Mayer song Waiting for the World to Change at an upcoming music show. Ella needs to memorize the vocals but has been struggling. I reviewed the lyrics printed from the Internet and thought, “no wonder she can’t remember the song lyrics and pattern!”. The very plain format offered no clues. So, I “architected” the song lyrics to emphasize the patterns within them. Now, the sections appear clearly to Ella, making it easy for her to visualize them mentally and memorize each one.

I’ve included the formatted version and the unformatted original below. Which song version could you memorize more easily?

I mean architect as in the creating of systemic, structural, and orderly principles to make something work the thoughtful making of either artifact, or idea, or policy that informs because it is clear.

Richard Saul Wurman

Founder of the Term and Principles of Digital Information Architecture

Photo credit goes to Blue Lightening TV here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqCmlp7a8LE

Tips…

Text Placement:
 

  • Place like items consistently to communicate an association.
  • Separate information into easily scannable chunks.
  • Use bulleted lists liberally.

Font Decoration:
 

  • Format like items consistently to communicate an association.
  • Bold key sections.
  • Use ALL CAPS and italics to further highlight and differentiate.

Formatted Updated Version

Notice that the song clearly has 2 main verses, and 3 choruses.

Waiting-on-the-World-to-Change

Unformatted Original Version

Waiting-on-the-World-to-Change-Unformatted

Now you likely want to listen to the song 😉