Information Ecologies

If there’s one thing that many years of information architecture consulting has taught us, it’s that every situation is unique. We don’t just mean that web sites are different from intranets or that extranets should vary by industry. We mean that, like fingerprints and snowflakes, every information ecology is unique.

The DaimlerChrysler intranet is vastly different from that of Ford or GM. Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab, and Etrade have each created unique online financial service experiences. Despite all the copycatting, benchmarking, and definition of industry best practices that have surged throughout the business world in recent years, each of these information systems has emerged as quite distinctive.

That’s where our model comes in handy. It’s an excellent tool for learning about the specific needs and opportunities presented by a particular web site or intranet. Let’s take a look at how each of our three circles contribute to the emergence of a totally unique information ecology.

Context

All web sites and intranets exist within a particular business or organizational context. Whether explicit or implicit, each organization has a mission, goals, strategy, staff, processes and procedures, physical and technology infrastructure, budget and culture. This collective mix of capabilities, aspirations, and resources is unique to each organization.

Does it then follow that the information architecture of each organization must be unique? After all, companies buy generic ...

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