This is the first in a multi-part series I’m doing about finding an information architecture (IA) job. Hope you enjoy.
One of the challenges for people trying to become and IA is how to gain experience so they can find employment and build their skills. It’s the classic “chicken and egg” story — you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience — and can be very frustrating.
While I wish our profession was better at supporting the development of new information architects, it sometimes isn’t feasible to take on new talent (even interns). But I can say that when openings do come up, I want to be able to see how you problem solve, work through issues/challenges and communicate your decision-making and a plain old interview won’t do that.
So how do you get experience, when there are no positions available and you don’t have client work? Simple, just practice. Practice is a great thing as it enables you to do something, fail, learn, while building skills over time.
For example, take the following “practice” scenario:
- Pick your favourite e-Commerce site
- Map a process flow of their existing web shopping cart
- Assess how that cart compares to other site carts (similar and different industries/verticals/services)
- Seek out a best-in-class cart experience and/or example cart interaction patterns
- Show how you would re-design said cart to make it “more usable” — sketch a bunch of ideas, explore options
- Pick an option and make some wireframes using your favourite application
- Walk some friends through a presentation of your idea — take questions afterwards
- Evaluate the cart changes with your friends. See what works and what doesn’t.
- Make changes to your cart idea based on your collected feedback
- Create a blog post on your blog and walk people through the process start to finish, callout the eCommerce site you evaluated (who knows their product/ID/IA manager might read the post)
- Twitter it to all, share with your local IA community — let them see what you can do
What I’d see coming out of this process would be:
- That you can explain flows and complex interactions
- That you understand the importance of research to inform your understanding of problems to develop ideas
- That you can identify problems, evaluate with heuristics and/or usability in-mind
- That you can ideate and think thru options
- That you know how to use a tool to capture your solutions
- That you can communicate your work
- That you understand the importance of user testing (you alone don’t have all the best ideas and approaches)
- That you can effectively integrate feedback into your work
- That you know how to market yourself and network
Add a few of these to your “portfolio” and bring to your next interview. Then I will be able to see what you do and know.
Who knows, I might be hiring sometime soon.