I wrote a piece a while back that there was a "war" of sorts going on between (among?) information achitects (who frequently came out of the library science, writing, or HCI fields), usability experts, and "designers," and by that, I mean makers of pretty pictures and high concepts (frequently designers who came out of a classic design-for-print-ads field). Judging by the posts I've seen on this forum, the job listings (and requirements) in the general field, and, oddly enough, feedback I've gotten from users, "information architects" have lost the field and retired - IMHO to the detriment of the discipline. (And I'm talking here about websites and web apps, kiosks, smart phones, etc., not hand-held devices and products or things like menu structuring for DVD players or car audio systems.)
When I started, there was a phase in the development of any new or revised site or application in which an information architect worked with a client to determine what they needed and wanted to share with their audiences. The result of that work was typically a site structure (or application flow) and wireframes, maybe a prototype. Now, this phase is either skipped (the job going straight to "concepting"), or is handled by designers.
I had a converation with a user this morning that prompted me to write this post and see what kind of reaction it might generate: she was terribly unhappy with the changd interface in an application she was running. She found it difficult to find action options, and even more difficult to discern what was meant by certain icons, particularly as they were grouped. Having suffered the same myself, and heard other complaints from other users about latest-generation software and websites ("I finally found it, but why was it there? It makes no sense!"), I began to wonder if we're not doing a disservice to our users by skipping the information architecture phase of a project.
When I've suggested this to designers, they tend to react with "It's not that difficult, I don't need that done for me," or "I can't design from boxes and arrows, it limits me. I need to work from the entire concept." What I end up translating that to is, "The high concept/design matters more than the user's ability to get what he wants quickly and easily."
So, what's your take? Have we done away with information architecture? Are we now designed more "adlike" websites and applications, as opposed to utilitarian and functional ones? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is there a way to re-integrate the architecture phase so that we don't lose ease of use, logic, and all the information and activity users might need or want, and can still provide creative, interesting, fun concepts (where they're needed)? (I can only say, Amazon doesn't have a very "creative" look, nor does Google, and neither is "high concept," but they're both beloved by users...)