The next time you are in a meeting with someone from account service who put together the information architecture for a Web site ask them who their favorite information architect is. Then ask what their favorite book on information architecture is. Next ask what information architecture blogs they read, what information architecture twitter feeds they get. Some of the time you are going to get a blank stare. Most of the time you will get some magical redirection of the conversation.
You may be thinking if the Web site only costs X amount of dollars, they can’t afford a specialist. Unfortunately, this has happened on sites and applications with budgets from 300K to over a million, where there are qualified architects on staff. It’s bad, but I don’t think it’s intentionally negligent.
To quote someone I used to work with, they don’t know what they don’t know, meaning they may not understand what is really involved or that it is a discipline in and of itself. Most importantly they may not realize what’s at stake when it’s done poorly. If you don’t have a full fledged information architect (by title), you should look to your user experience designer. Programmers are usually astute as well, and in some cases can be the most qualified depending on their background. But, if no one understands what card sorting is, then someone needs to go get a book.
Unfortunately, the thing I have witnessed on a few occasions are proposals from account service that detail some aspect of the user experience (like information architecture) with copy that was directly ripped from Wikipedia or from the number one ranked search listing on that subject. I love Google and I love Wikipedia, but spending 5 minutes on those sites does not make someone an expert. It’s how you start to learn. It might account for one percent of what you should know.
Really, I am making a case for personal education. If you want to do digital you need to study, constantly. And you need heroes. These are the people who are making waves, leaders of their discipline. Sure anyone can research and find decent information on a subject. But the usability heroes and marketing heroes may not be featured on the first page of your search result. Ogilvy is my hero for social media, Jesse James Garrett is my hero for information architecture, and I have plenty more that won’t show up in search under generic terms.
Account service touches on all aspects of a project. They don’t need to be experts, that’s the job of the people doing the work. But it would help if they could understand what the most talented people are doing. Moreover, they should know what they know and know what they don’t know.