I tried to go to Boxes and Arrows the other day. Boxes and Arrows is a venerable (that means it’s been around a long time) information architecture website/journal. I had noticed that I wasn’t getting any articles from it in my news reader and wondered why.
So I typed www.boxesandarrows.com into my browser and this is what I got:
Whoa, what happened to Boxes and Arrows? Did they go out of business (so to speak, I don’t think they are really a business)? Did they get hacked?
I did a google search on ‘boxes and arrows’ and they came up first. Clicking that link, I got this:
Was I going crazy? I checked the URL and saw that the second time I’d gone to boxesandarrows.com (no www). Oh. Hmm, I don’t think that’s working as they intended. I’m hitting some kind of placeholder on www.boxesandarrows.com. But it should just redirect me to boxesandarrows.com.
Down the IA Rabbit Hole
I was relieved to find them still up and running and publishing interesting articles about IA. I updated my news feed link and then thought I would let someone know about the www craziness.
Hmm, scanning the home page. No contact link. Maybe it’s in about.
Well, I don’t see it there. Maybe I’m missing it.
I started to go through each of the sections and felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.
At first I didn’t think there were any ‘you are here’ indicators (if you don’t know what that is, go out and read Don’t Make Me Think by Steven Krug right now). Then I noticed that some pages had one. Do you see it?
Here’s a hint, I was on the Stories page. Man is that subtle and some pages didn’t have a ‘you are here’ on the primary navigation, only on the secondary navigation. And what is that secondary navigation on the home page? It’s the same as the Stories page. Is the home page the Stories page (for me, a big IA no-no). Well, no, the page is different, but we have the same secondary nav there.
And once I go down into a subsection of the stories, it no longer lets me know that I’m in the Stories section.
And don’t get me started about the Jobs page:
Not only didn’t I find any way to contact a system administrator or webmaster, I left more confused than when I started. The nav at the bottom of the page has a Login link (not on the nav at the top of the page). That just dumps me to a generic WordPress login screen. So, can I register myself?
When I looked at the Participation page, it told me that there were different levels of participation (Author, Editor, Copy Editor, etc) but didn’t say how I could become any of those. Do I just assign myself a role when I register?
The whole thing left me feeling sad. I think that the articles are still pretty good, but will have to see as I get them back in my news feed. After all, I have been reading the site since it launched in 2001.
I really can’t recommend the site to my students. A site about information architecture with bad information architecture? Talk about failing to establish credibility and trust.
And count the question marks in this article (I’ll count them for you, there are 10). That’s how many times this site made me think (in the Don’t Make Me Think sense). Not good.
Maybe what I take away from this (and what my students can take away) is that it’s really hard to do information architecture (or experience design or content strategy, choose your term) well.