Good IA is Good Business

An emerging pattern: recognizing the findability of information as a central business concern. In some cases, it’s trumpeted as a competitive advantage. In others, its absence is recognized as a significant liability. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how classical music streaming service IDAGIO is touting its search features as a competitive differentiator. And just last week, an article in The Verge highlighted the costs of poor metadata.

Following this trend, earlier this week, Apple’s WWDC keynote showcased structural changes to a few of its key apps. The company’s Podcasts app — one of the most popular in the world — is gaining a new feature that allows users to search for keywords in audio content. This represents a major improvement in findability, and the fact it got stage time during a very packed keynote is significant. (I’ve been told Google’ podcasts app has a similar feature.)

Another big change announced during Apple’s keynote was the structural redesign of iTunes on the Mac, which is being broken up into separate apps (as it is on Apple’s other operating systems.) In describing the rationale behind the changes, Apple exec Craig Federighi walked the audience through a history of iTunes, how it accreted features over the years, and how a different approach was now needed. It was a very compelling pitch for rethinking a complex system’s information architecture.

Although none of these examples talk explicitly about IA, they’re all showcasing the importance of digital systems’ structural layers to the businesses that operate them. As such systems become more complex and central to their organizations’ bottom lines, savvy business leaders will inevitably look to improve their information architectures. To paraphrase Thomas Watson, good IA is good business.