What do information architects do and what training do you need for the job?
In recent years, parson has supported several companies in setting up a new information architecture for technical documentation and product information. Some of our colleagues have specialized in this role. But what does an information architect actually do? In this blog post, we take a look at the tasks and training of information architects.
We also had the opportunity to ask Frank Ralf, information architect at parson, about his current projects and the particular challenges involved in developing information architectures.
What are the responsibilities of information architects?
Developing a sustainable information architecture is an important area of technical communication. Similar to the house architecture that provides the foundation for the construction of a house, information architecture provides the structural foundation for writing technical documentation or information on how to use products and services.
Information architects first define standardized structures for technical documentation. This includes content types such as task descriptions and troubleshooting and their components, such as warnings.
Since technical documentation is typically created in a modular fashion and for multiple product variants from a single source, information architects develop concepts for modularizing and reusing content for different output channels and document types.
In addition, information architects work with metadata and define its structure and types in the information architecture to semantically enrich the content of technical documentation.
Finally, information architects define rules for the consistent linguistic design of content, in particular terminology and writing rules, so that the information is usable and user-friendly.
Information architecture is usually company-specific, although there are established standards and practices that can be used as a basis. These include PI classification, DITA, and topic-based writing. Since many companies use content management systems for technical documentation and the documentation is delivered via various channels, the information architect often implements the developed information architecture into various IT systems.
Why do we need an information architecture?
The work of information architects makes it easier for users of products and services to get the most out of accompanying information such as data sheets, operating instructions, or software documentation. Uniformly structured information types and a consistent linguistic design for all of a company's content make it easier to quickly understand and navigate through large amounts of information. A well-designed information architecture also makes it easier to automate publishing and translation processes, and to reuse content for multiple channels, such as websites, marketing materials, and technical documentation.
What knowledge and skills do information architects need?
Information architects need to have extensive knowledge of standardizing and structuring technical documentation and product information. They must be able to develop metadata models, such as taxonomies or ontologies. In addition to these professional skills, they need technical knowledge, including common documentation formats such as XML, content management systems, and content delivery platforms. At parson, you should enjoy working with clients, as consulting and supporting client-specific projects is part of the job.
How to become an information architect: training and degree
Information architecture is not yet taught as an independent subject. In degree programs such as Content Strategy at the Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Graz, information architecture is part of the curriculum. Graduates of courses such as technical writing or communication, linguistics, computer science or engineering can acquire the know-how to work as an information architect in specializations or advanced training courses. At parson, we train colleagues in the field of information architecture if needed and interested, and have developed an internal program for this purpose.
Where can I find a job as an information architect?
If you are looking for a job as an information architect, you can search for it on major job platforms such as Indeed or Stepstone. However, the term information architecture is also used in web design, so check the detailed job description carefully. parson also regularly posts information architecture jobs.
What salary do information architects get?
Salaries for information architects depend on experience and qualifications. The tekom salary table for employed and self-employed technical communicators can serve as a guide for the German market.
3 questions for Frank Ralf, who works as an information architect at parson
What projects are you currently working on as an information architect at parson?
I am currently involved in several client projects as an information architect. The aim of all projects is to improve the documentation but with many different aspects: What is the most suitable documentation format? What is the best way to structure the documentation? Do texts need to be linguistically revised? What about standardized terminology? Which software is best for creating and managing the documentation? What metadata is required? Which processes are affected, e.g. review and approval or translation? Does content need to be migrated? How can authors be supported in adapting to the new documentation system?
What are the particular challenges when developing an information architecture?
My favorite description of an information architect's job comes from Abby Covert's "How to make sense of any mess." No two projects are alike. And there are always many different aspects to consider. That means you have to be flexible. That's why we generally take an agile approach to these projects: We analyze, make recommendations, try them out, and regularly discuss them with the client. We do this in several iterations until we have a solution that meets the client's needs.
How did you prepare for your role as an information architect?
My background is not in technical communication, but in the humanities (theology, philosophy, communication psychology). I am therefore familiar with carefully analyzing texts and documents. I have also always worked a lot with IT and software, including in a number of open source projects. As an information architect, you need good analytical skills. But you also need to be a good communicator – on the one hand to get specific input, on the other hand to discuss ideas and possible solutions with the client.
parson is an expert in information architecture
Read more about our client projects in information architecture: