Does My Information Architecture Make Me Look Cheap?
Why the easy way might not be as bad as Thoreau made it out to be
In an effort to add legitimacy to my writings I will begin with a couple of quotes that will lay the framework for all of the wisdom I am about to impart. How grand.
“The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.”
-Henry David Thoreau
I’m no literary expert. More like passably literate. But I like to think that Henry put on his best dad voice when he said this line and maybe raised an eyebrow at the end.
For my purposes, he’s saying that if you want to go the easy way, it’s going to be side-stepping and avoiding a lot of trouble which leads to a longer path. Oh, and if you do that too often, you’ll get used to it and be more likely to do everything the easy way, like stealing instead of working. Makes sense. Wise man.
And then there’s Dolly.
“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Anything that seems effortless is likely the result of so much effort. So much. Brilliant woman.
Yes folks, I found a way to bring Henry David Thoreau and Dolly Parton together and I didn’t even have to stop at Kevin Bacon.
While I’m fairly certain that Dolly and Henry were likely not debating the legitimacy of information architecture when they spoke those lines, no one ever proved that they weren’t. So, we’ll just go with it.
By the end of this, I have one point I want to make. It takes a lot of effort from a lot of smart people to make so many of the modern “simple” pleasures we enjoy today. We’ve made it big business to have machines do our heavy lifting, to have high school kids cook our meals, and in the case of information architecture, to have websites organize our thoughts for us.
You’ll notice I didn’t say think for us. We’re still a bunch of opinionated folks with a desire for knowledge.
But I guarantee that given the option, you’re not going to head to the library, shuffle through a card catalog (they might still exist somewhere) only to find a book, look in the index for a word that you think describes the information you want to learn more about, and then find an outdated paragraph that points you to another book…in another library…in another state.
Information Architecture (IA) is one method used to ensure that the information on all those websites we interact with are organized and clear for a smooth, quick, and pleasurable experience for all. It allows each person to interact in their own way without the struggle. And it just keeps getting better.
We’re not dumb, lazy, or crooked for taking advantage of the efforts of others. We’re our own kind of genius for realizing that we can decide where we want to spend our brainpower, and where we want to leverage the brainpower of others.
And there ain’t nothin’ cheap about that!