The Result of a Search
Let me set the stage. It's 1997. The Web is gaining momentum but still has that frontier feeling. It looks like this and sounds like that. Lou Rosenfeld and I are incredibly excited to be writing a book about IA for O'Reilly & Associates. Apparently, Tim O'Reilly doesn't like the term "information architecture" but we're hoping to change his mind. Of course, most of our time is spent running our 4 person IA consulting business, Argus Associates. The past few years have gone well, but it's a constant struggle to meet payroll. We've never landed a project over $50,000.
One day, we're contacted by a woman who works for AT&T. She found us by entering "information architecture" into AltaVista. She needs our help redesigning an application that's used by 8,000 customer service representatives. We spend the next 6 months working 18 hour days on the information architecture project of our dreams (and nightmares). We earn over $500,000. The income and experience from this project provide a foundation upon which we're able to grow Argus into a 40 person consulting firm that plays a pioneering role in defining and developing the field of information architecture. What an adventure!
Maybe the big impact from that tiny query explains why I'm such a fanatical fan of findability.
For more on the history of information architecture, see:
A Brief History of Information Architecture by Peter Morville
A Brief History of Information Architecture by Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati