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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld

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Talking to the Reactionaries

The “gut reactionaries” aren’t necessarily interested in numbers, and often go with what feels right or is in line with their experience. This approach is excellent if the reactionary has direct experience with information architecture or related issues. Then you can simply draw on that frame of reference as you discuss future plans.

But what if the reactionary has no relevant experience to draw from? In such cases, we’ve found that telling “stories” is often the best way to educate this type of person. Stories put him in the shoes of a peer who faces a comparable situation, and help him see how information architecture helped in that situation. Case studies are also extremely useful, but don’t sufficiently personalize the story by connecting the person you’re telling it to with his peer within the story.

An effective story should provide the listener with both a role and a situation to identify with. The role and the scenario should set up a painful, problematic situation so that the listener feels that pain and can see how investing in information architecture can help make it go away.

Following is an example of a true story that we’ve found useful in communicating both a problem scenario and a set of information architecture-based solutions. It goes like this:

A client who came to us was a mid-level manager of a huge technical support operation for a Fortune 50 company. This person was responsible for the documentation used by thousands of operators ...

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