Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Again!

Jet Li, portraying the Monkey King, stares wide-eyed at the reader.
Is an information architect just a wireframe monkey?  No, of course not! But unfortunately, sometimes we're confined by a mindset that thinks IA is a box to check off on a project plan.

We need a framework and shared vocabulary to build the discipline of IA and help us all become better information architects. So... what's missing from whatever we're using now?

In "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: A Language of Critique for Information Architecture," presented at the 2016 IA Summit, I discuss Van Gigch's Meta-Modeling Methodology (M3) and Michel Foucault.  I walk through the M3 model as a tool for distinguishing among 3 key levels of critique: day-to-day practices, IA/UX theories and models, and the paradigms that shape what we can do or can even think about doing.  The goal is to work towards a discipline-level framework and a shared vocabulary for making sense of what we do.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Language of Critique for Information Architecture

A dried maple leaf on a distressed background with lines of barbed wire in the foreground
At the 2014 Language of Critique roundtable, Marsha Haverty said “If we don’t have a way to describe what we do, we’ll be limited to… being wireframe monkeys.”

IA is more than wireframes. But we’re confined by the mindset that thinks IA is a box to check off on a project plan. If you find this a problem, you’ll want a way to change the discourse.

A language of critique is going to help you become a better, more influential UX professional.  We can all use that.

Furthermore, maybe you’re at a stage in your career where you’re elevating the practice. Are you teaching, researching, or publishing? Then you might be interested in the project to shape a language of critique for IA.  In order for us to develop IA as a discipline, we need a framework for evaluating the goodness of information architecture, both as a whole, and in specific cases.

So what’s a language of critique for IA?  And what’s wrong with whatever we’re using now?

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Thoughts about a Discovery Sprint

Tire tracks on a snowy road, diverging straight and to the right
At a recent federal/industry roundtable discussion, Greg Godbout, former director of 18F Consulting, suggested that user experience can be incorporated into agile development through the use of something called a Discovery Sprint. GSA's boutique agile shop provides this service as one of the short-term offerings on its menu. Now called a Design Sprint, following Google Venture's model, its purpose is "…to assess your team's or organization's readiness, understand your customers and their needs, brainstorm ideas, and provide guiding principles and recommendations to move forward."

This advice reflects an understanding that, for all its strengths, one of agile’s downsides is that it’s not a user centered method. Agile scrum is optimized for rapid development and release of working code. It’s not optimized to make products that will get adopted by end users.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Design Doing: Creating a Digital Practice

The environment matters
Researcher puts large paper prototype in front of subject matter experts for testing
The environment we work in matters.  It gives us agency – the ability to affect things with our actions. As user experience professionals, it’s important for us to think about transforming the business – our environment – so Design Doing can happen.

Listen to the podcast at http://library.iasummit.org/podcasts/design-doing-creating-a-digital-practice/ 

Friday, November 21, 2014

User Research: What’s in the Kit?

A small collection of items that can fit in a pocket, including a Field Notes notebook, pen, Leatherman tool, lighter, and wallet
When I prepared for my first anthropological field research in West Africa, I carefully planned and packed all the stuff I was going to carry. My kit had to be portable, and it had to include everything I really needed to do my work (and stay sane). 

In the user researcher’s portable kit of tools, there are a core set of items that let us get the job done.  These essential articles pack very tight, because they’re made up of skills and attitudes.  The following travel pack gives me the confidence to get the job done in any setting – be it a conference room of hostile contractors and distressed clients,  an animated gathering of a rural women’s agricultural cooperative, a dimly-lit coffee shop for guerrilla usability testing, or a well-lit, well-managed usability lab.  

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Research: The Order of Things

Wall and stairway of books with stickers making a nearly solid collage of yellow squares - signifying the concept of a chaotic kind of "order"In the Digital Strategy group at ICF International, my user experience team gets frequent requests for support in planning and carrying out a special kind of inquiry called user research. This practice encompasses usability and a wide range of other investigatory activities that are all aimed at finding out what will work for the people who will use your system.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Dubious Waves of Error

From the customer’s point of view, an error message is a crisis.  When you’re hit by an error on a website, you’re in trouble – by definition.   To make things worse, the message can be so cryptic it stops you dead.  A  poorly-designed error message drives you to a competitor’s site, on the phone with the call center, back to paper-based processes, or just giving up.

Don’t let this happen to your users!  It’ll take work, but make the effort to establish consistent and effective messages and standards for your websites.  The end result should be simple; the error message tells your visitors what went wrong, helps them over any barriers, and lets them get on with their business.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

User Research on the Team

Customers need websites that work. Business owners need projects that deliver on organizational goals. IT developers need to know what to build.  Enter user experience: the profession that bridges the gaps.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

eGovernment Challenges and Information Architecture

Government work provides profound, often deeply frustrating, and generally amazing wide-reaching opportunities to apply our IA/UX powers in the service of millions. But this year’s Information Architecture Summit had no sessions specifically about IA in government settings.

And so I asked... “Shall we lunch?”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Service Design and the Customer’s Journey

Park-Advert. Source: Ti.mo (Flickr)Call it by other names – multi-channel service design, customer relationship management, cross-channel experience design, customer experience. We’re talking about how people interact with a whole system, over time.