Information architecture is a fascinating thing. Thinking through a user experience and trying to understand exactly how they interact with a site requires a special kind of thinking. It requires a certain critical detachment: An information architect needs to understand the user in an unbiased way in order to best plan their experience.
It’s exciting to be in a room listening to the questions an information architect asks. They force people to step back from what their doing, start at the beginning and examine their own work in an honest way. Are you doing this for you/client or are you doing it for the user? What are the goals? Why is the user coming to the site? What do they want to get out of their experience? How do you define success? How do they define success? Those are just a few of the many questions that an IA might ask.
Because of the functionality of the internet we’ve accepted the role of the information architect as disrupter. They’re allowed to ask the tough questions without pissing anyone off. It’s a bit harder to do that in other types of projects.
The questioner is the role I like to take. I try not to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and inject my own opinion cloaked as a question. Instead, I try to ask the things that seem most basic. Who? What? When? Where? Why? (How comes later.) Understanding as much of the background as possible before moving to the foreground is very important. That’s what lays the base for a successful project.