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How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  950 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Everything is getting more complex.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information we encounter each day. Whether at work, at school, or in our personal endeavors, there’s a deepening (and inescapable) need for people to work with and understand information.

Information architecture is the way that we arrange the parts of something to make it understandable as
Kindle Edition, 174 pages
Published November 12th 2014 (first published November 4th 2014)
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Peter Morville
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a brilliant introduction to information architecture. It's short and easy to read but covers all the bases. It will make sense and prove valuable to anyone who messes with information. In other words, Abby really has written a book for everybody.
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I came to this book with very high expectations after I heard it called the "Don't Make Me Think" of Information Architecture. Sadly, it didn't live up to that hype. In the hands of a good teacher I have no doubt this would be an excellent textbook to accompany a course, but on its own it's only OK. In trying to write a succinct and versatile primer on IA for anyone, Covert has gone too far in eschewing concrete examples. Many of the self-contained page-length lessons, which would otherwise be ...more
Julia Kulgavchuk
May 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: design
This book is a mess. It's not a book really; I'd call it a pamphlet.

The text gives basic common sense-level knowledge about sorting out "messes". Now this doesn't sound that bad. The book explores some important points, such as "Start with why", "Who matters", "What before how". These considerations are indispensable for information architecture work and design-related work of any kind. Unfortunately the book is in a severe shortage of substance. These points need to be really well understood,
Andy Thornton
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a deceptively thoughtful read, written as a short and snappy layman's guide to information architecture that belies its sophistication. It serves well as a intuitive reminder of the effort and focus necessary to solve sense-making problems effectively.

Abby does a great job of reframing complex concepts in a straightforward manner and the book helps shine a light on the implicit assumptions, biases, shortcuts and oversights often inherent in the work we do when architecting information.

Karen Mardahl
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think this is a great book for getting started with information architecture. I read it in about 100 minutes. I have the great big polar bear book ("Information Architecture for the World Wide Web"), but confess I have never gotten around to reading it. I am not an Information Architect, but I am interested in understanding information architect. Because it is not my job, I have made do with reading articles here and there over the years, but never reading that bigger book.

I regard this book
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
While I enjoyed and appreciated this book for what it was, a high altitude overview of IA, I really hoped the author would get a bit more into the details as they pertain to specific industries such as website design. Maybe a follow-up?
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant book. Possibly my second favorite professional book of the year (after Brave New Work). Essential for anyone doing knowledge work, solving problems, or spending time in new territory. Extremely readable and well-designed, perfect for always being on my desk.
Jordan Jackson
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honesty, this could have been a long form blog post, but never the less an informative read.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, design

This book is so useful as a thought exercise but tough as a practical workbook for approaching information architecture for documentation. Because it lacks specificity, it’s on the reader to take the high-level questions and really sit with them. Not for the faint of heart, but a great read when sitting in the midst of many challenging messes. I took more notes as the book progressed and got slightly more concrete.
Carolina Bento
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent introduction to Information Architecture.
It's a very concise and straight-forward book, focusing on a handful of core topics.
Each topic's examples are were simple and yet were very powerful to summarise the underlying idea of the topic/chapter.
I'm looking forward to explore some of the recommended books from the "Further Reading" section.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome and super helpful! Abby Covert, has done some great work explaining how to organize systems and information in a simple and precise way. Best quote in the book: " Perfection isn't possible, but progress is." I'll be repeating that one 'til I'm dead.
Stacy Taylor
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, work, 2016, design
I didn't care for the format, which was basically like a collection of 100 one minute elevator pitches. It made for a quick read, but it lacks substance and depth. I guess that was kind of the point, but I didn't get as much out of it as I'd hoped to.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for anyone who organizes things and/or works on the web. I was initially disappointed by what felt like a lack of concrete examples, but the carefully crafted thought process and lessons on each page won me over. I would love to read more by this author.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This book will help you do two things:

1. Understand how to break a big hairy problem into smaller steps so that you can approach solving it.
2. Understand some approaches to solving it.

It will give you examples of various activities, tools (i.e. worksheets) and things to understand about problems. It'll do this one page at a time, which is to say each of the 150ish pages covers exactly one topic, and covers it well enough that you'll know how to move forward to the next topic. It also gives
Cristiano Dalbem
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has some great insights on organising information in a very broad sense, and they're all presented in a pleasant way and with a good dose of empathy. I like how she always reminds us that making sense of messes, communicating and acting on them is always hard, but rewarding, which prepares us to the real world challenges of doing that. For that she also provides us a good selection of practical lessons, tools, frameworks and diagrams that are easy to apply and offer a good introduction ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is fundamentally about mental models, which are in vogue right now, but rather than lay out examples of mental models to use in specific contexts, it describes how to create them. The idea is that anything we create or utilize, be it a piece of writing or a commercial product, has some underlying structure to its content that enables its audience to come up with some interpretation of what they’re seeing; as the sense-makers, we need to be deliberate about this structure in order to ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Broad overview

The book is a good broad overview of Information Architectures. For someone just starting out in a career that touches information architecture - which in reality is most of them - this is a great starting point to get down the terminology of IA and some standard methods.

As someone who works with IA all the time in the software development space - I had hoped this book would give me something deeper or connect things in new and interesting ways and was left a little disappointed.
Omar Mizdaq
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 and a half stars. Too vague to be much use when read alone as an introduction to IA. The only scenario I can envision in which this would have much value would be as a design book club choice. I'm sure that in the hands of experienced designers, the abstract, nebulous one-page lessons that comprise the content would serve as jumping off points for many an enlightening discussion. As it stands, though, the lack of concrete examples (beyond facile references to supermarkets etc) mean that you'll ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, z_2019
Def. A good primer for how to approach information architecture in your job...less useful if you're trying to apply it to daily life although not impossible. You'd jus have to skip pieces of the mess is purely personal. It's a sensible book that explains what I've been doing for 9 years. Goes over the main concepts, approaches, and pitfalls. Interested in understanding IA it wanna try it? Would recommend for that.
Omar J
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A short and succinct read on thought processes around designing an Information Architecture. Abby Covert keeps the language simple and tries to keep the topics generic enough so it can be applied to all disciplines. As an experienced designer, it was a helpful reminder of the fundamentals but it felt a bit too dumbed-down. I think it’s geared for beginners but if that’s the case, it’s too generic and lacks thoughtful examples to help a beginner frame these principles.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even though Abby states that this book is beginner friendly, which it definitely is, I’ve read it only after 5 years of practice, and still learned a lot. Her definitions, framings and tools are a very valuable resource for any professional. A fresh look into things we do at work everyday but not necessarily think this with such elegance.
Vytas Ramanauskas
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whoa, this was an extremely well-structured book. Guess why? Because Abby Covert writes about the information architecture. Some easily understandable insights not only for the designers but for all others, too. Also, great points on getting to know your audience and who is going to use your information architecture. I highlighted the most pages of the book.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
For me it was a mediocre book. I guess as a very first introduction to Information Architecture it can be decent, but it failed that test on my colleague who works on SEO of our products. I'm not even sure if he finished the book, but I can't blame it.

It is quite a quick read though and I learned some new things. After reading it I wasn't sure what to do with it though.
Andrew Maier
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This will easily be one of my go to resources to hand to the people I’m working with who are new to information architecture. It’s such an amazing way to prime people into thinking and speaking like information architects (even if they’re just working with one). A brilliant, necessary book.
Rohit Gupta
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great book that might help you look at design practice more critically.

I really like the way the book is structured. It is very palatable and gives great knowledge in very nicely paced and structured way.
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great and very useful book for anyone having to make decisions as a group or design products as a group. Uses easy bullet points and concise writing organized into very small chapters to use-as-you-go.
Robert Bogue
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
When I explain my passion for information architecture to folks, they often wonder what I’m talking about. They understand intuitively that I’m not talking about designing buildings, but how can you design information? A better way of explaining information architecture is to say it is How to Make Sense of Any Mess. Abby Covert nailed the colloquial definition. In her book, she takes a practical tone to an often academic topic and explains how to make sense of our messes.

Click here to read the
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: work, 2018, ux
Nothing here that I didn't already know, and not especially enlightening with regard to how to do information architecture, but it can provide good reinforcement and a bit of cheerleading when one is facing a messy project.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great into on IA
Philipp Muellauer
Apr 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Yeah. This isn't for me. The style is really grating.
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“The only way to know what happens next is to do it.” 3 likes
“Knowing is not enough. Knowing too much can encourage us to procrastinate. There's a certain point when continuing to know at the expense of doing allows the mess to grow further.” 3 likes
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