How To Make Sense Of Any Mess

How To Make Sense Of Any Mess by Abby Covert

Good for: Information Architecture and personal development.

The book is not your traditional book about Information Architecture (IA). Most books about IA have several web-examples, however, Covert takes a more overall view on Information Architecture and calls it ‘Mess’. Covert explains that Mess can be anything but the steps you take to sort the Mess are the same.

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Images courtesy of Nicole Fenton

The book is rather short at just 188 pages and is written in very understandable language. The many illustrations throughout the book and printable worksheets further the easy reading style of the book. The audience is foremost people working with IA and secondly a broader range of people wanting to sort any Mess. The book is filled with tips and tools to help you improve IA. I think whether the reader is new to IA or worked in the field for years, both will find the book most useful.

Whereby other books may focus on a particular subject like web-pages as an example, this author has a broad overview of the topics. Covert uses everyday cases to get her points across. The everyday instances makes it suitable for personal development e.g. Covert gives an example of how her techniques can be used to prepare for a speech, know your audience, speak their language and so on.

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Each chapter in the book is built up in the same way. Covert starts each chapter with a short presentation: Why the topic is important, what difficulties lay ahead whether it is people or more abstract obstacles, like the language, and solutions to advise on how to solve the problem. At the end of each chapter, Covert tells a small story about a person using the method described and how it made things easier for them. The chapter ends with a worksheet related to the topic read. The worksheets can be downloaded and filled out according to the headlines. I think the worksheets work a lot better than other worksheets I have come across for two reasons. Firstly, they look very easy to fill out as the text is kept to a minimum and secondly the text looks hand written which gives the impression that they can be filled out quickly and thrown away if you make a mistake.

I enjoyed reading the book mainly because it did not come up with one universal solution but rather encouraged the reader to experiment with the different techniques to find the solution that best suits their problem. I can easily see the book being a hot topic in the future because it explains AI in a very easy way that anybody can understand and relate to in their everyday life.

I would recommend this book first and foremost to people working with IA on a daily basis but also those people working with problem solving that want to shed new light on their field.

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Reviewed by: Thomas Knudsen

thomas_knudsenI work as a freelance UX researcher, based in Manchester North UK. I am crazy about understanding users, their needs and actions. Most of the times I can transform that knowledge into better web and app solutions for my clients.

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