The Web's Master Builders

By Minda Zetlin, Computerworld |  Software

Last July, GoTo Auctions was knee-deep in problems. Part of Pasadena, Calif.-based GoTo.com Inc.'s portal site, Raleigh, N.C.-based GoTo Auctions is a "shopbot" for auction sites, allowing users to search hundreds of different auctions for specific items.

GoTo Auctions' flagship application, AuctionManager, had gotten unwieldy. Although it was a powerful program, with terrific functionality, customers weren't using it.

Fortunately, the talent needed to solve the problem was already in-house, in the form of Amber Link, a relatively new employee.

Link had come on board in March, when GoTo acquired start-up AuctionRover.com. As AuctionRover's content director, she had produced its weekly online magazine.

At GoTo, she knew she would need a new role. "Content wasn't really part of their business model," she says.

What GoTo Auctions needed, Link realized, was an information architect.

Information architects design the user's experience as he travels through a Web site. During the first few months after she joined GoTo Auctions, Link had been increasingly involved with information design and user-interface questions. With this user-centric approach, Link knew she could find out why users didn't like AuctionManager and determine what could be done to improve it.

Creating a New Job

At her request, she became GoTo Auction's first information architect. Her first, trial-run assignment: Fix AuctionManager's problems.

"The information architect is responsible for how information is distributed," notes Robert Egert, chief creative officer at Internet consultancy Xpedior Inc. in Chicago. "The goal is to identify the ideal user experience and specify what it will take to create that."

Information architecture is a new profession that's gaining recognition. Like GoTo Auctions, many companies create the title only after someone on staff discovers that an information architect is needed. Others know that's what they need and specifically recruit for that position. Complex e-commerce sites with many different products are especially likely to recognize the value of information architecture.




Just the Facts
Name: Amber Link
Age: 23
Title: Information architect
Employer: GoTo Auctions (part of GoTo.com Inc.)
Reports to: Director of product management

Salaries for information architects range from approximately $50,000 to $120,000, depending on experience and the location of the employer.

A related position called user interface designer or user interaction designer performs a similar function but at a less strategic level.

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