Annual Report 2008
To view the annual report with financial data, Download a copy of the 2008 Annual Report
March 17, 2009
2008 was a year of further consolidation for the Institute, as we continued to work on creating a firm operational foundation that will allow us to better meet current and future growth. Our challenge has been — and remains — to do so without sacrificing the nimbleness and flexibility required to effectively serve the needs of a rapidly evolving profession.
Some of the year’s highlights:
- Membership increased by over 25%; we ended the year with over 2,100 members in 59 countries. Renewals also improved by almost 15%.
- We hired our first Executive Director to help us organize and manage the Institute’s operations more effectively.
- We hosted our most successful event yet: IDEA 2008, which exceeded our expectations with regards to quality, attendance, and income. We also had a considerable presence at the IA Summit in Miami, and sponsored various other events around the world.
- Our member initiatives continued to flourish. We’ve been working to handle the growth in some of our programs, including our mentoring and translations initiatives.
- We made evolutionary improvements to our communications infrastructure, including the launch of various language-specific websites and the implementation of new communication channels.
We closed the year in a solid position, with a clearer understanding of the challenges and opportunities before us. Over the next year, we look forward to continue improving our offerings and infrastructure to better serve our members and the IA profession. We thank you for being a part of it all, and look forward to keep working with you to help our profession flourish.
Scope of the Report
As of 2007, the Institute’s annual report is in sync with our fiscal and calendar year. This report covers the period from January to December 2008.
Board of Directors
Board elections were held in September 2007. Donna Maurer, Eric Reiss, and Sarah Rice stepped down as directors and joined our Board of Advisors. We want to take this opportunity to thank Donna, Eric, and Sarah for their dedication and contributions to the Institute during their tenures. Christian Crumlish was elected to a second term, and Andrew Hinton, Livia Labate, and Russ Unger were also elected to the Board of Directors. They joined Jorge Arango, Peter Boersma, and Stacy Surla, who are serving the second year of their two-year terms.
The new Board elected Jorge Arango as president, Stacy Surla as secretary, and Christian Crumlish as treasurer.
Four other areas of responsibility were also delegated:
Peter Boersma – Membership/Local groups
Andrew Hinton – Director of Professional Practice
Livia Labate – Infrastructure/Ombudsman
Russ Unger – Marketing/Events
We’d like to call your attention to two new areas of responsibility on this list:
As a response to feedback from our members suggesting the need for more transparency and clearer communications between the membership and the Institute’s leadership, an Ombudsman office will be created following the technical and infrastructure improvements to be made throughout 2009. The Ombudsman will operate independently from the Board of Directors or Institute staff, working directly with Institute members to address their concerns and issues through full resolution.
The Ombudsman office will adhere to international standards of practice, including independence from the governing body to address issues, confidentiality to disassociate the issues from the people involved, neutrality and impartiality of conduct to ensure fair resolution and informality in how it operates to ensure no bureaucratic measures hinder transparency of activities.
Director of Professional Practice
In 2008, the Board established a new role that could focus on evolving the practice of Information Architecture. The Director of Professional Practice works to further develop the practice of IA for meeting new challenges brought by the rapid evolution of technology, design and business. The role also provides guidance to current initiatives involving practitioner education and improvement.
The Institute now has three part-time staffers. Noreen Whysel has been our Operations Manager since September 2005 and Melissa Weaver has served as Membership/Volunteer Coordinator since July 2006. In addition to their day-to-day duties in these roles, Melissa and Noreen have also devoted many unpaid hours to help make the IDEA conference and many other IAI initiatives a success. The fact that we are as robust an organization as we are is due in
no small part to their exceptional efforts.
The third member of our staff is our Executive Director, Paul Goodson. In August 2007, the Board decided the time had come to hire a part-time resource for this role. This led to an extensive search for a highly qualified individual with association credentials, executive leadership experience, and the flexibility to accept a permanent part-time position. After an initial brief engagement with another party in February 2008, we started conversations with Paul Goodson, an executive with more than 15 years of association management experience.
Paul joined the IAI team in July 2008, and has been diligently working since to ensure that the operational aspects of the organization are in order, and the conditions in place to prepare us for future growth. His focus to date has been in the Institute back-office operations, namely improving our fiscal, legal and financial relationships, services and record keeping.
In October the Board of Directors extended invitations to a new group of Advisors, who will serve from October 2008 to September 2009. They are:
Our Advisors help the Board think through and plan its work. We want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the commitment and enthusiasm demonstrated by all of our Advisors – past and present – and thank them for their ongoing support and wise counsel.
In 2008, overall membership increased by 25% and we ended the year with over 2,100 members in 59 countries. Our biggest growth areas were in group subscriptions, which tripled in number from 2007, and professional membership subscriptions, which also increased by 25%. We processed 1,701 membership subscriptions; 1,216 new members joined, and 485 members renewed.
Our rate of renewal also increased from 30% of members renewing in 2007 to 44% of members renewing in 2008. In every month the number of new memberships was substantially higher than the number of renewals. Giving former members reasons to renew and retaining a higher percentage of new members in a priority in 2009. By strengthening our infrastructure and communicating with members in new ways, we hope to encourage member retention.
As expected, our student and international member subscriptions decreased this year as we replaced free memberships with a scholarship program for international students. In previous years, we had not verified student status. As a result, non-students who did not accurately state their location held many student memberships. We now have members in 59 countries, decreasing from 80. Anecdotal conversation with students and international members who chose not to renew say that in this economy even the small IAI membership fee is too expensive for their budgets. We will continue to support translations teams and provide assistance to different language groups so that free resources remain available to those affected by the global economic situation.
As mentioned earlier, one of the key factors that led the board to hire an Executive Director was our desire to ensure that the operational aspects of the organization are in order, and that firm foundations are in place to prepare us for future growth. In his initial findings in the Fall of 2008, Paul brought to the Board’s attention several areas that could be improved:
- Board activities have been very detailed and operational in nature, leaving little time for the Board to provide strategic direction.
- Board succession planning has not been well developed.
- Financial decision-making has often not been fact-based; the Board has not had access to timely financial reports.
- Volunteer resources can be engaged more effectively.
- IT infrastructure for association management is limited.
- The Institute’s financial model can be improved to make it more growth-oriented.
The hiring of the Executive Director to manage operations and provide guidance for further development is a significant step towards ameliorating these, and other, operational issues.
The Institute is guided in its strategic direction by a business plan that was developed during 2007, and is continuously updated by the Board of Directors. This work indentified eight key areas of focus for the Institute over a two-year period:
- Provide a stellar web presence that is influential and represents our expertise in this arena
- Build a strong, stable “back office” that enables a consistent handoff from each Board to the next, supports excellent member communication and volunteer coordination, and allows the Board to be more strategic and less tactical and operational
- Increase the membership base and improve member retention
- Increase activity on all continents
- Achieve more frequent, accurate, and influential media coverage of IA and the IA Institute
- Provide services and products that enable members to acquire outstanding IA skills, validate their practices and knowledge, and achieve a high level of confidence that they're doing good work
- Support IAs becoming leaders within organizations (e.g. as CTO, CIO, or CEO); clarify and promote career paths to leadership
- Gain the ear of the business community, and be viewed by business leaders as thought leaders in the User Experience domain
Technology & Systems
In the end of 2008, a thorough inventory of Institute systems and technology was conducted to assess its current situation. In its first 6 years of existence, The Institute created a substantial number of online services and offers to its membership and the IA community at large. Many volunteer hours were put into installing, editing, adapting and hacking different systems to power the various services we offer through iainstitute.org.
Today we maintain a combination of customized free software (i.e.: 26 different instances of modified versions of Movable Type powering the publishing of blogs in addition to standalone systems for job board, library and others) across 4 different domains in a shared server environment. It is an impressive technical infrastructure in complexity and depth for an organization this size.
There are two key challenges presented by this: the cost of maintaining these existing customized systems and the barriers for building new services on top of the current technology. In the past 18 months these issues have prevented the Institute from responding and meeting membership needs at an adequate speed and at all in some instances.
In order to continue to meet the needs of the IAI membership and focus our resources to address new opportunities and needs, an “infrastructure upgrade” will happen throughout 2009 to equip the Institute with what it needs to operate efficiently.
These improvements will include a unified technical roadmap (and possibly introducing a more flexible platform) so that volunteers know what’s available to them and how to expand on it, a reliable membership system supporting secure authentication, membership levels and built-in reporting tools, and rolling improvements to the existing systems aggressively reducing the complexity of our technical infrastructure.
Given the current economic circumstances, we will be mindful of the cost of change and focused on the long-term value these improvements will provide, over the short-term benefits that could be found by quick upgrades which would reinforce the maintenance and growth challenges we are facing today.
In 2008, volunteers worked with Operations Manager Noreen Whysel, to make several improvements to our website:
- Automated content feeds for various sections of the home page, improving reusability of content across the site.
- Streamlining of Member Services, Learning IA and About Us sub-navigation.
- Addition of Spotlight on People and Spotlight on Partners to the About page, highlighting board, staff and partner profiles.
- With the launch of IDEA 2008, Institute Partners are now distinguished in a separate group from sponsors for our events on our Partners page
- Launched a Network section redesign.
- Addition of Australia-New Zealand and Portuguese-Brazil discussion lists.
- Austin Govella began working on a strategy to improve our website’s CMS.
- Removed PDF documents from all navigation links – all links now go to web pages, and all non-web content now has a graphic indicating which type of file to expect to load.
New channels for member interaction
IAI started a LinkedIn group in 2008 and ended the year with over 1,200 members. In addition, over 850 new people found us through LinkedIn and asked to join our group. Those members were introduced to our free online resources and invited to become IAI members. New discussion threads on LinkedIn offer another way for members to connect outside of our discussion list. We are still looking for ways to reduce the amount of staff time needed to maintain LinkedIn invitations and requests while also increasing conversation and networking through this resource.
In late 2008, tools like Get Satisfaction and Twitter were introduced to test-drive how these technologies can help the Institute. To date, Twitter has shown an impressive response, with a steady growth of active followers (750+ followers between November 2008 and February 2009).
Members discussion list
The Members discussion list had 1,850 subscribers and over 4,000 posts in 2008. That is 750 more members participating than in 2007 and more than double the number of posts. We are amazed to see the list grow so substantially when there are many other lists to choose from in the marketplace. In 2009, we will continue to support this discussion list which is of considerable value to our membership.
There are more than 5,000 subscribers to our monthly newsletter, which highlights IAI news, volunteer opportunities, events from our calendar and news from our sponsors. The newsletter is available free to any subscriber.
In 2008, we started to streamline our newsletter to make it denser and more accessible. In 2009, we plan to improve if further, to ensure that it becomes a more effective communications channel.
Free discussion lists
The IAI also hosts discussion lists that are available to members and non-members. Each list is moderated by an IAI volunteer with support from IAI staff. Lists can be region specific like Australia-New Zealand and Portuguese-Brazil lists. They may be topic specific such as the growing UX management list and the newly created Enterprise IA list. Volunteer Marianne Sweeny continues to provide a job-listing digest to any interested subscribers.
The Information Architecture Institute conducts and participates in events that are established to help further the practice of Information Architecture across the globe. Through these events, we continue to build and strengthen our presence as the leading resource for Information Architecture.
The IDEA Conference
In October the Institute hosted the third edition of IDEA, our yearly conference about the issues that affect designers of complex information spaces. The conference, which was held in Chicago's Harold Washington Library, was our most successful yet: we exceeded IDEA 2007's attendance by more than 50%. We also got very positive feedback from conference attendees.
Apart from being a valuable opportunity to discuss the issues that affect IAs, IDEA is also an important source of income for the Institute. In this regard we were also considerably more successful than last year: profit from was up more than 140% over the 2007 edition.
IDEA 2008 featured a terrific roster of speakers from a wide variety of different fields, including Dave Gray, Jesse James Garrett, Jason Fried, and many others. The conference also featured a sold-out pre-conference workshop organized by David Bishop and Paul Gould of MAYA Design.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped make IDEA 2008 a success, and especially our volunteers and sponsors. 23 people volunteered their time to help plan, organize, advertise and staff this successful event. We thank our volunteers for their countless hours and continued dedication to the IDEA Conference.
The IA Summit
The Summit, which is organized by the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), was held in Miami, Florida in March 2008. Once again, the Institute was highly visible, with a permanent table set up in the foyer where attendees could learn about the IAI. As we’ve done in past years, we also hosted the popular IA Mentoring Booth.
The Institute also organized and presented a preconference workshop at the Summit entitled Becoming A Leader - From IA to Business and Beyond. The workshop had 30 attendees, and was considered a great success. Thanks to Christopher Fahey, Margaret Hanley, Harry Max, Karen McGrane, Josh Rubin, Jorge Arango and all who made the event such a great learning experience.
The Institute will continue to support the IA Summit through sponsorship, leadership workshops and various activities throughout the event. Regional Events During 2008, the IAI sponsored or partnered with a variety of IA-related events including:
- Euro IA in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- IA Summit in Miami Florida
- OZ-IA in Sydney, Australia
- EBAI (Brazilian IA Summit)
- German IA Konferenz in Berlin
The IAI provides financial sponsorship of these events, as well as strategic and marketing assistance. However, they would not be possible without the leadership and hard work of local IA professionals and students. We thank them all, and look forward to helping them develop their local communities and IA-related initiatives during 2009.
IAI Event Promotions
IAI promotes conferences, workshops, and meetings through direct email, our event calendar and newsletter. Free events are posted directly and we greatly increased the number of local groups posting their events to our calendar in 2008. Events with free registration are approved by a board member and offer a discounted registration to IAI members. The activities provide a lot of value to our partners and emphasize our need for a more robust and flexible infrastructure so we can continue to deliver on those expectations. In 2008, the event calendar posted 65 total events.
We would like to thank these event organizers for their continued support. We hope to see a lot from all of you in 2009.
PARTNERSHIPS AND SPONSORSHIPS
Professional Partners include organizations that help the Institute advance its mission. Partnerships may include agreements to exchange resources, interoperate technically, and act together to form a community of people and ideas. Continued relationships with our longstanding partners have brought excellent benefits to IAI members from event discounts to free podcasts to community space in SecondLife.
The IA Institute promotes our partners’ events and web content through our website, newsletter and event calendar.
Current Professional Partners include:
- The American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)
- Boxes and Arrows
- The Interaction Design Association (IxDA)
- New York University
Corporate Sponsors and Partners are commercial entities who provide economic or technical support to the Institute in exchange for promotion on our website and newsletter. Corporate sponsors fund IAI operations and activities. Intuitech continued its sponsorship of IAI in 2008. We would like to thank Intuitech for their continued support. The IDEA conference also enjoyed strong corporate sponsorship in 2008; those companies and organization are listed in the events section.
Corporate partners are organizations or businesses that share benefits with our members. In 2008, our corporate partners were Optimal Sort software and AIIM certificate programs. We thank Optimal Sort and AIIM for allowing our members a discount on their products and services. We would also like to thank Rosenfeld Media for providing us with free books at our IA Summit raffle.
Event Partners include groups who arrange conferences and events focused on IA or closely related to IA interests. The Institute provides two kinds of support to these partners:
- Online promotions, in which the Institute offers promotional assistance for the event.
- Financial support for an event.
In both cases, IAI members receive registration discounts to these events and other benefits. More information is available in the Events section.
Mentoring is one of our key offerings and one of the main ways in which the Institute can help to develop IA practitioners and to differentiate itself in the UX arena. In 2008, we received 223 mentoring applications from prospective protégés and increased our mentor roster to 91. This represents a substantially larger interest in mentoring from previous years.
We have continued to improve the process for meeting the needs of our mentoring participants by refining our application form, providing more regular contact with mentors and protégés, and researching alternative options such as meetups, book groups and other local activities as well as introducing protégé applicants to each other in areas where we do not have mentors.
Protégé applicants are becoming comfortable with the self-selecting nature of the program and are taking the initiative to contact mentors directly or to contact us when they need assistance. We are proud of the mentors we have in our program who have gone beyond the call of duty to mentor two or more protégés at a time or sequentially, and those who have provided input and encouragement for the program. Still, we could do much more if we had dedicated volunteers to manage the program. Chris Chandler, who led the initiative in 2007 stepped down from that position, but continues to serve as a mentor to people in our program. Currently, Noreen Whysel, our Operations Manager, devotes several hours a month of unpaid time to make introductions and walk protégés through the process of finding, interviewing and selecting mentors, in addition to paid hours developing the program and mentoring systems. We continue to struggle with a backlog of protégé applicants and unavailable mentors. We are grateful for the many protégés who have expressed to us their continued gratitude and patience.
The UX-Management list, a discussion list for management level IAs added in 2007, serves as a successful peer-to-peer mentoring forum. Membership increased from 250 in 2007 to over 400 by December 2008. We have begun using the discussion list as a sounding board for improvements to the mentoring program.
In 2009 we would like to continue to expand our available mentors list and provide our members educational and networking experiences that supplement the mentoring program. Through aggressive recruiting of new mentors and a more responsive mechanism for pairing mentors with protégés, we will ensure that our mentoring program becomes everything it should be.
The Translation of Information Architecture initiative (TIA) represents our effort to promote IA internationally by translating key IA documents and our website to several major languages. In 2008, we had translations in 14 languages: Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, German, Hungarian, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.
Translations are available in the IA Library, and websites for each of these languages are either launched or in progress. We now have a volunteer working on Swedish translations as well. (Unfortunately, the Arabic and Hebrew effort launched in 2007 was stalled by a lack of translators available to work on articles.)
We have been slower to develop translated websites for each of these languages than nticipated and decided to formally separate the Translation of Information Architecture articles project from the website translation project to keep technical issues from sidelining core translation efforts. Janette Shew continues to lead the article translation initiative, while Operations Manager, Noreen Whysel, manages the websites. Volunteers have been recruited and are utilizing Basecamp for project management, which has improved team communication immensely.
In September 2008 Peter Boersma represented the IA Institute at the European IA Networking Workshop in Copenhagen. The workshop identified several opportunities for the IAI to promote, review and expand its services. For instance, it was suggested that existing IAI services that can be tailored to support local groups include mentoring, job board, event calendar, and IA Library. Potential new services include identifying existing industry and educational networks for IAs to connect to, IA speaker exchange, applying for grants and sponsorships for international support activities, and annual country reports with SWOT analyses.
Throughout the year the Institute continued to provide support for local groups, including the sponsorship of regional conferences, engagement with the Alliance Research initiative to develop new services through existing industry and educational networks, support of the IA Education initiative, and support of the Translation initiative.
Local Groups and global networking planning activities are continuing into 2009 with the creation of a viable Local Groups and Chapters strategy, a survey of local group leaders, and the initiation of a Local Groups pilot project. The pilot project will engage closely with one or two regional IA organizations that have the institutional readiness to partner with the IAI, and will put bold support structures into place to forge a new platform by which the Institute can foster the development of local, regional, and language-based communities for IAs.
Second Life is a popular online, shared 3-D virtual environment. Beyond its appeal as a platform for socializing and game-playing, Second Life is used for collaboration, training, modeling and simulation, distance learning, service delivery, and e-commerce. In other words, it’s a complex information space with important information architecture challenges.
The IAI’s Second Life initiative seeks to explore and model good IA practices in crafting complex information spaces and shaping the user experience in shared virtual environments; provide the IA Institute and its partner organizations with a virtual presence for promotion, education, and membership development; and use Second Life as a platform for IA-related workshops, events, and collaboration.
Since its launch in 2007, Info Architecture Island (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Info
Architecture/111/102/27) has been used principally for meetings, conference reduxes, and presentations. The IAI renewed its memo of understanding with TechSoup.org in 2008 and maintains a satellite office in Nonprofit Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Plush Nonprofit Commons/149/49/26).
During the 2008 IA Summit the IAI hosted a real-time, simultaneous broadcast of three sessions in Second Life: Jason Hobbs' "Hotel Yeoville," Jared Spool's opening plenary "Journey to the Center of Design," and Andrew Hinton’s closing plenary "Linkosophy."
At the end of 2008 the IAI began to expand engagement on the island through entering into tenancy agreements with affinity organizations. Beginning with the 2009 spring semester, the New York University Digital Communications Program took up residence and is running courses and building multimedia installations.
Annual salary survey
The 2008 IAI Salary Survey was the fifth salary survey conducted since 2003. Members of the IA Institute, UXNet, IxDA and sigia-l were invited to participate. A total of 414 responses were collected. Our 2008 survey revealed that IAs continue to rank among the most highly paid web professionals. 7.3% earned more than US$150,000. The inferred mean average salary is approximately US$96,800 USD, up US$10,800 from the previous year. The gender split continues to be nearly 50%-50%, with female IAs earning slightly more than their male counterparts. Top earning metropolitan areas were San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Sydney, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.
You can find the full survey at: http://iainstitute.org/en/learn/research/salary_survey_2008.php
IA Tools and Library
In 2008, Volunteer Andrea Resmini evaluated the library and tools section of our website with the intention of making changes to this area in 2009. The code which runs the Library is currently not working properly in places and suffers from old age, which means redundant coding, little logic / presentation / content separation, lots of backyard patches, and some security concerns mostly due to variables handling to address. Andrea addressed some of the redundant coding and security issues with the help of his mentoring program protégé, Nicola De Franceschi.
Volunteer Bev Corwin has also been evaluating future directions of these resources and began compiling a list of functional requirements. To date, we have incorporated most of the featured tools into the library and developed some ideas around improving the way the library catalogs and delivers translated resources.
To supplement our library efforts, Andrea Resmini also created an Information Architecture group on anobii.com where IAs can share and discuss books covering topics in information architecture. Join the anobii.com group at
In another promising development, Mario Bourque started a Reading List project in November with a goal to create a list of recommended resources to update the Selected IA Books page on our website.
The Job Board continues to be an important service of the Institute. During the year 667 positions, including 514 full time and 153 contract jobs, were posted. This represents a decrease of 22% from 2007 totals. The Job Board also continued to experience minor difficulties related to unstable PHP code, which required intervention. Our Web Operations volunteer, Austin Govella, continued to make these and other improvements to the job board, allowing us to provide better service to our members.
In 2007 the Board approved opening the job board to the public to address the constraint of an outdated member login system. We were not able to develop a system that could return the job board as an exclusive benefit to members and help to justify the membership dues. Since then, other organizations have added job-posting services to their websites, notably the online magazine, Boxes and Arrows. It has become clear that we must replace our member system with a system that can interface with a private job board if the service is to have perceived value to members.
Hearty thanks are due to volunteers Samantha Bailey, our steadfast job approver, and Marianne Sweeny, our ever witty and refreshing job board newsletter editor.
Progress grants The first of our 2007 Grants was awarded to Drs. Marc Resnick and Amir Abou Baker from Florida International University. Their completed research paper, “The Effect of Scent on User Recall of Web Site Navigation” was made available for download over the web.
Our second 2007 Grant recipient, Andrea Resmini from the University of Bologna, is researching educational opportunities in the field of IA in Europe. To this end, Andrea and his multi-national team have arranged a retreat in Sweden, scheduled for early August. The Progress Grants initiative was suspended for 2008 due to a lack of suitable applications.
We are currently planning changes to the initiative in order to ensure a better strategic fit with our other educational initiatives. We look forward to re-activating this initiative in the future.
Download the 2008 full report with financial data (PDF 180K).
This page was last modified on March 23, 2009 08:19 PM.