Redesigning Boxes and Arrows

Written by: Christina Wodtke

“If the devil is in the details, it was very clear that angels live there also.”

For a while we at B&A have been feeling unsatisfied with our software and website. It was perfect when we were young turks, but now that we have a larger body of articles, increasingly richer material, and a growing audience, we realized we need something different, something that will tell the world we are a magazine on the rise. We could have redesigned ourselves, but we felt our community is one of our biggest assets, so we turned to them to help us envision our next generation of the website.

We got many entrants, often fascinating, sometimes surprising, sometimes strange, all intriguing. Some folks ignored our request to not design in the blog mode. We can only assume that this design is so prevalent that it has embedded itself in people’s minds. Others think of us as a blog, because we are on Movable Type’s excellent software. But we are not a blog: we embrace multiple points of view from multiple authors, we are edited, and topical. All we share with blogs, other than software, is chronological organization. And that has led us to the desire to really stand tall with other magazines who put the same editorial love into their bodies of content as we do. And by re-designing we wanted to strongly message “we are a magazine.”

One thing we were deeply surprised by, was how often a design might be overall excellent (or sometimes mediocre), and then would have a tiny corner of extraordinariness. Sometimes it was something as small as the treatment of the swag, or an approach to a navigation scheme, or the text resizing tools. If the devil is in the details, it was very clear that angels live there also. Often we found ourselves wishing we could Chinese menu across multiple designers, because there were so many different lovely moments.

Our judges lent a fascinating insight into the designs as well—an expert on usability would opine on the IA, or an IA remark on beauty. We may specialize, but the gestalt of a design is what we all respond to. We also asked our staff to add their two cents, because the folks who use their precious spare time to make this magazine great, could not be ignored.

So what’s next, now that we’ve got our winners?

Well, none of the designs are perfect in the first shot for our needs. This can’t be surprising to anyone; a great design always comes from conversations between the client and the designer. So we’ll move forward, and ask our winner to work with us to get to the right instantiation of the design, as we continue to evaluate our content management system and publishing engine.

Don’t expect this slow caterpillar to be a butterfly overnight, but do expect a new look in 2005…

So here they are, our winners!

The Winning Entry

The winner! And champion of battle Boxes and Arrows!
by Alex Chang and Matt Titchener from April3rd.com.

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The judges said “This is a clean, light design that works well. Color and type are used to reinforce visual hierarchy in a meaningful way. Screen real estate is allocated in a way to support hierarchy as well.”

“This one uses the structure of the grid and palette to its advantage. It is not very efficient with its use of space. I like the effort at leaving some breathing room on the page”

The first prize winner will receive a set of professional books from the fine publishers at PeachPit Press and software from Adobe!

   

We’ll be contacting the winner to begin work on refining the design to give you a new and exciting Boxes and Arrows!

Runners Up

The silver goes to Sarah Doody

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Judges say “The colors are nice and unique. It’s very differentiable and, at the same time, feels very professional without feeling too academic.”

And finally, the bronze goes to the design team at Behavior Design

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This winner was not in the original final running, because of its blog-based design. However, it was so lovely and well executed, it caught the judges eye and pulled ahead to grab the bronze medal!

And special mentions go to Brandon Satanek
Not only did he submit two entries, but they both were in our top 5 favorites.

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A final honorary “best alternative to lorem ipsum” which had us giggling everytime we reviewed the comps, goes to William Lamson.

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We give this design a special mention because of the clever titles and lead-ins used in the layouts. We felt the judges would enjoy them as much as we did.

Overall Thanks

Most of all we want to thank all the folks who took the time to design a new look for Boxes and Arrows, and who waited patiently while we made our decisions. This was an extremely difficult task. I think we were all surprised at how hard it would be to make a final call.

All were wonderful—check the full set of entries out for yourself!

We especially want to give a special thanks to our judges, who took time out of their busy schedules to help us choose our winner.

Thanks all!

Terrible Twos

Written by: Christina Wodtke

Little Boxia has just turned two! Look how proud she stands, barely wobbling at all! See how she toddles around, smearing food on the walls! So independent, so curious and wait… did she just say “no!”? No, no, no! Here they come… the terrible twos.

As we celebrate Boxes and Arrows’ second birthday with pride, I find myself looking at our profession as well. As a manager of designers and as a member of the community, I am struck time and time again at how timid and uncertain so many designers are. It doesn’t matter if they are information architects, graphic designers, or interaction designers; a pervasive feeling of fraud floats through the air. “What if they don’t believe me,” “I need data,” “What have I got to offer?” Around dear Boxia’s birth, Jesse James Garrett accused the community of dressing up in lab coats to try to pass for a professional. To this day I see designers reaching for data like a thug reaches for a baseball bat before entering a street fight. The research they want to do is not to learn, but to win arguments. This is, of course, bad for design and bad for research.

How do you become confident? How do you stand up in a room with senior vice presidents, directors of marketing and …shudder… engineers and explain why you didn’t color in the napkin-wireframe they drew over lunch, but rather, that you decided to design? You have to make sure you are as professional as the professional you are.

  • Know your shit. Make sure you have the education you need. This is a combination of school learning, keeping up-to-date with periodicals and books on your subject of expertise, and real-world experience. This is probably the toughest for young designers. The solution though, is to read like a crazy person, talk to every senior designer you know about the work you are doing and learn from their experience, and work as much as you can, through freelancing and volunteering.
  • Think it through. If you haven’t thought through every bit of your design, you’ll get a kick-in-the-rear when you present your ideas. It doesn’t mean you have to be hyper-analytical while you design, but it does mean you set aside an hour or two before you present and do a heuristic analysis of your own work (or get a peer to do it). Walk through the entire solution and look for flaws. Categorize them into:
    • “I will fix”
    • “I won’t fix because…”
    • “It could be a bad solution, but I don’t think so because…”
    • “I don’t know”

    Now when these issues are brought up in the presentation, you won’t trip up, you won’t lose your confidence. You’ll calmly explain that “Yes, very perceptive, I have so and so working on it,” “I’d like to, but this is the phase one solution, it’s all we have time for,” “I do see your point, but have you considered this?” and your secret weapon, “You know, I’ve been pondering over that—what do you think?” Why is this the secret weapon? Nothing shows confidence more than the willingness to admit you don’t have all the answers. Admitting you don’t have an answer always trumps bullshit.

    By treating the folks you are presenting to as members of your team—equals with unique insights that match your own—you reach two goals: ending conflict while shoring up your own sense of place in the project and your value therein. You also message that to the other members of the team.

This is my final bit of advice:

  • Psych yourself up. I’m really not an affirmations type of gal, I’m more of a “Let’s go get beer and a pizza and see if there is some brilliant insight that comes from sausage and mushrooms.” Maybe it’s my years in California, but before a really tough meeting, I’ll sit quietly at my desk for five minutes and say to myself “You know your sht, you’ve done your homework, you’ve been doing this long enough, you are a smart cookie, you won’t say anything dumb, you will listen closely, everyone in there is on your side, we all want the same thing, you will be great. You will be great. You will be great.”

Sounds goofy, I know. I hope my family back in Iowa never reads this. But it works. You have to believe in yourself before you can get anyone else to.

At the IA summit I stated in the five-minute madness, “You win more arguments with will than with data” and it’s true. It’s all about giving up the lab coats and showing off our own design raiment.

So what has this got to do with our little Boxia’s birthday?

As a human, you enter your second year of life becoming more confident. Less obedient. More freethinking (as well as freestanding) and you often tell people “no.”

“No” takes some courage to say. It means you have realized your world view is as valid as your parents. And it’s a critically important moment in anyone’s life, be it B&A, the design profession or your own life.

Boxes and Arrows will continue standing tall, fleshing out ideas, not talking down to folks, exploring new approaches—even if unpopular, and saying “no” when saying “no” is the right thing to do.

We recommend you do so too.

*At the summit each year, the conference closes by letting anyone walk up to the microphone speak their mind. It’s called “five minute madness” and this year it included a woman singing “You Light Up My Life”, a man praising his Treo as an example of a future without limits, and another who lambasted the SIGIA list as a blight on the firmament. Madness indeed.

Building a Vision of Design Success

Written by: Christina Wodtke

“Alone, the pain that triggers a redesign is not enough of a guide to build something useful to the company. You have to build a shared vision.”

Vision

In the last year I’ve been at Yahoo!, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in three redesigns. They have all gone rather well, though through conversations with colleagues, I’ve come to understand this is not always common. Redesigns are as often crucibles of group anguish as they are opportunities for invention and rebirth. In the entirety of my career, I’ve definitely seen both. So what is the difference that allows one redesign to work and another to turn into months of tail chasing? Fortunately I’ve been part of several post-mortems as well, and I think the key difference is vision.

A redesign has some built-in advantages over everyday maintenance; the most useful being focus. And focus is the loam that allows a shared vision to grow. A group chooses to redesign typically because the site is no longer working, and the pain of the site not working is greater than the pain of stopping business as usual and entering into an expensive and emotional project. But once committed, you have to move the project from reactive (something is broken) to proactive (we’re going to build something great). Alone, the pain that triggers a redesign is not enough of a guide to build something useful to the company. You have to build a shared vision.

Shared Vision

A common view of vision is that it’s something handed down by a leader to the troops. When a redesign goes awry, the troops complain, “There was no vision.” Sometimes there was a vision, but the leader didn’t communicate it, or more commonly, no one bought into it. Then the leader complains the troops didn’t obey. But the problem goes deeper than either scenario; the problem is that there was no shared vision. A shared vision is born of collaborative conversations, articulated in a form that is digestible and memorable, and then internalized and personalized by every member of the team. The power of the shared vision is that it is shared—it is held within every member of the team (or organization) and thus needs no leader to carry it forward; every action of the team helps make the vision real.

Success, all starts in the way the vision is birthed. A vision can come initially from one of two places: the leader can create it or recognize it. It’s another fallacy that folks think leaders must be the source of all ideas—they don’t. A great leader should be just as capable of recognizing an idea as well as dreaming one up—in fact, more the first, which is more scalable. So: a leader has either come up with an idea (the current site doesn’t allow us to realize a new business model; we need to redo it) or may recognize one (our usage numbers are in decline—marketing says people think we don’t have what they want; user research says it’s hard to find anything on the site, I just read this article on findability—hmm, I wonder if there is something there). This germ of a vision is the proto-vision. To get the proto-vision to a vision, the leader needs to feel comfortable shopping around the proto-vision. When you shop around the proto-vision, you have numerous one-on-one or small-group conversations about the proto-vision with as many people with different viewpoints as is feasible. Again, this is often hard for new leaders, who think they have to be the single resource of all wisdom. More seasoned leaders are eager to do this, as the act of shopping around the vision sets the foundation for a shared vision. It also makes the vision stronger, as it roots out biases arising from a single point of view.

Finally, the initial vocalized reason for the redesign is often not a good vision. Let’s say you redesign because your navigation system isn’t scalable. That’s the pain-point that kicks off the work, but is that a guiding force to lead you to a great product? You’ll need to deconstruct “our navigation isn’t scalable” into “we offer the greatest collection of independent movies in the world, easy to find, easy to watch, easy to share” (for example).

Look both ways

Let’s assume, for whatever reason, you will be shaping the shared vision. Maybe you are the leader, or maybe the leader hasn’t provided enough of a vision to make you confident in your project, and you are going to lend a hand shaping the vision. To shape the proto-vision into a vision, you’ll need to do some interviewing. I usually select the people who will help me shape a vision using a few criteria: domain expertise, intelligence, system thinkers and open-mindedness. I always do these in one-on-one discussions. This avoids group think, and I find I can help people speak more honestly if there isn’t any sort of audience. The conversation covers three topics: looking backward, looking forward, and finally, the protovision.

To look backward, I find it useful to use Peter Senge’s Five Why’s. This is a very simple technique in which you ask why, and when you get a response, you ask why again. It helps you move from specific issues to uncovering larger underlying problems.

For example, let’s say you are the head of user research:
Me: Why do you think we should do a redesign?
You: Because people can’t find anything.
Me: Why can’t they find anything?
You: The navigation isn’t intuitive.
Me: Why isn’t it intuitive?
You: We didn’t do any user research when we designed it, just usability after.
Me: Why is that?
You: Well, our budget was cut…
Me: Oh? (which is what I say when I’m tired of “why”…)
You: Well, the company doesn’t seem to value getting user feedback.

From this short conversation, I’ve learned several things. The user researcher thinks findability is a key problem, and he thinks research would help, and he feels we don’t invest in it. I can return to any of the places where I asked way, and take a different branch to find out more. I could ask “What makes you think the site isn’t intuitive” to learn more about the site problems, I could ask more about “Why you thought that usability wasn’t enough,” or could continue digging out why the company doesn’t think user research is important or I can spend another five whys finding out if user feedback is valuable and why. To be thorough, I’d probably dig through them all.

I’ll finish up the conversation by asking many of the classic pre-design questions, which allows me to look forward: why are we doing this design now? What are the opportunities? What will make this project a success? What would success look like?

Later, when I walk through my notes, I’ll be trying to find the concrete problems and positive aspirations. The concrete problems will go into my redesign plan, the positive aspirations are fuel for the vision. My sets of questions would probably lead me to moments of both: “Our site isn’t easy enough to use—our users say they want to be able to find and rent a movie quickly, because they are often doing it at work.” From here speed and ease arise. “Our users are sick of all the blockbusters they can get at the local store; they want to find movies they’ve never seen before.” From here comprehensiveness or unique collections arise as an aspiration.

As you get to your fifth and sixth conversations, you’ll find you start to have a more defined set of aspirations for your proto-vision which you can use as foil for your discussions:
Me: Do you think we need to offer access to every movie on the net?
You (business leader): No, I think we are positioning ourselves as an alternative to Netflix—it’s more critical to be comprehensive on independent movies.
Me: Hmm—can you tell me more? (another why alternative)
You: It’s an underserved market—we can build our strengths there before trying to get share from the big guys.
Me: What does it take to satisfy this market?
You: Better talk to Sally in research, if I recall right she said it’s going to take 500,000 films to appear useful.
Me: With so many films, how can anyone find anything?
You: Well, that’s your problem…
Me: But it needs solving? You think we need to make sure the site is easy to use?
You: You bet—we’ve got to satisfy this market; they influence others.

I’ve now gotten a more senior individual to voice his belief that a large selection that is easy to access, is a goal critical to the redesign. Even though his original kickoff to the redesign might have been about navigation, he has now revealed and/or bought into the larger vision to provide user satisfaction, built on ease of access and selection.

You may think this technique is a consultant’s tool, but even though I’m in-house, I still go forward asking these questions. Just because I think I know the answers doesn’t mean my answers are right. Let’s say I thought we planned to offer every movie ever made—I’d discover I was wrong. Moreover, these conversations tie us together in our inquiry, giving us an infrastructure of shared knowledge that will lead to shared vision.

These conversations can be quite delicate and require one to have a certain amount of skill in interviewing. It’s critical you do not lead the conversations with your ideas and that when you introduce elements of your proto-vision you are doing so in a way that tests the concepts and builds shared vision, rather than trying to get a quick buy-in (which will bite you in the patootie later). User researchers are excellent in subtle interviewing techniques; if you haven’t got the skills, you may want to go to a researcher for coaching, take a class or read a book (some resources listed below).

Digest, and articulate

At the end of each conversation, you have hopefully noticed some common themes. If you didn’t, you went through your notes and pulled them out. Then you took the themes to the next conversation, as you worked your way across disciplines and up and down the hierarchy. Maybe there have been three conversations, maybe there are ten, maybe they were all a tidy hour, maybe some of them were five minutes in the cafeteria…but you should now have what you need. You have a collection of critical aspirations for the site.

Now take a pass with your user base. In the past, I’ve successfully used a variation of an older technique which involves word-importance. You take a set of 100 words/two word phrases that represent qualities of products you offer and have a larger sample of users pick ten to fifteen of the ones that matter to a (mail, shopping, research) site. For each product, replace some of the words in your standard list with ones that are relevant to the product—in this case, your redesign. For example, a news site might need the word authoritative, a personals site might replace that with warm. Next you ask the users to rank them in order of importance. When you analyze this survey, you should see five words rise to the top—these will become touchstones for your work. You can also later use these words at the end of a usability evaluation (on a scale of 1-5 how authoritative was this site?) or to test visual comps in surveys. At Yahoo!, we print them and hang them in our war rooms to provide focus.

Once you have the words from users, and the interviews, you can see if they don’t match. God help you if they are completely different. Odds are good, though, there will be a fair amount of overlap, and a bit of nudging will ferret out a set of final qualities, valued by business thatusers also aim for. If time is an issue, you can do this at the same time you are still conducting interviews. If you don’t have access to large user numbers, I recommend skipping this exercise and using a different concept testing technique. And shocking as it may be, you may not get to have user input at all—in this case, hold as many interviews, with as many folks as you can, and include a few target users by going to the mall or asking questions on web bulletin boards. Honestly, you may even find you are forced to begin to design with the final vision unformed…it happens. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to push toward a vision: a vision coalesced halfway through a redesign is still better than no vision.

Now take the time to articulate the complex vision made up of proto-vision and the user and business knowledge you are holding in your head into a simple vision—preferably one sentence. This will be hard, it’s almost like creating a mission statement. However, it’s not a vision for a whole company, so don’t kill yourself. Just get to a simple, clear sentence or phrase that is the essence of what you are striving to accomplish. I’ve seen redesigns driven by even the simplest set of words, provided they are the right words. What is critical, is that it captures the essence of what you hope to accomplish, collectively.

Market the vision

Now that you have your vision seed, you are going to do almost the opposite of what you have been doing. So far you’ve taken as many diverse elements as possible and boiled them down to the essence. Now you have to take that essence and make it accessible for the folks who will hear your vision. You have to articulate what that vision means—for example, if fast is a part of the vision, it’s worth it to clearly articulate that you mean, fast loading (for engineers to concentrate on optimizing on the server-side and designers to avoid graphics) , the illusion of fast downloading (for your web developers, so they can look into things like progressive rendering) and fast-to-scan (for your designers, to concentrate on clarity).

Next you need to market this eloquent vision. Some potential forms for this include:

  • PowerPoint presentations: The first sentence of the vision is the first slide, and then you go on to explain what the meaning of the vision is, what the aspects of the vision are, why this is the right vision and what it takes to get to it.
  • Posters: We’ve used posters as a great tool to keep the vision in front of our eyes as we work. The poster consists of a simple strong image capturing the essence of the vision, with words or phrases elaborating the vision around it.

    Simpler than a poster, you can print out the vision statement in a large font and hang it up in every cube, in every meeting room, and in the war room.

  • Memes: These are catchy phrases that hold a single key concept. You use them while reviewing work to hold the work accountable to the vision. If an aspect of the vision is speed, embodied in a fast download, then a meme might be “Every pixel has a job to do.” A catchy phrase is a godsend for keeping everyone focused…if you’ve got someone on your team with a talent for a turn of phrase, use them. If your memes are catchy enough, they’ll be internalized and every act of creation will be in context of these simple instantiations of the vision.

Not only do these techniques communicate the vision to those who did not help create it, but also act as a reminder of a shared vision to those who did. In the hectic day-to-day madness that accompanies any large project, reminders of a shared vision are invaluable.

In praise of vision

In a redesign, a vision can be the difference between a clear, cohesive design and a hodgepodge of various stakeholders’ urges. In the worst case, it can produce a work so inferior to the original that months are lost when the work is scrapped. Or it’s launched and customers flee in droves.

In our working life, there are many things we do without a vision. And we do the work like a zombie, without our heart, or we do it passionately, but at odds with the larger goals of the company. But if we incorporate vision into our work, our work is more targeted, more effective and more meaningful. A status report becomes a tale of getting closer to a dream; a banner ad becomes a promise of delight to a customer that is fulfilled upon a website visit.

This is just a simplified version of the techniques my colleagues and I have used to capture a vision to ensure a successful design process—you are welcome to expand, embellish, reduce and streamline it for your own purposes. Just remember: the vision must be clear, meaningful and shared. A top-down vision that is not owned and internalized by all members of the team is not a vision at all, but a wish.

And if wishes were horses…

Happy Birthday B&A

Written by: Christina Wodtke
“Boxes and Arrows was formed to break that code of silence, “dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of this community, through the sharing of exemplary technique, innovation and informed opinion.” I think we’re making some progress.”Welcome to Boxes and Arrows…wait, is it a year already? Holy cow! Well, happy anniversary! I am incredibly proud and amazed at what this little zine has accomplished in providing a space for information sharing. A quick look around reveals that we’ve got 111 articles, 84 authors, and already over 1,149 comments at the time of this writing. Holy cow, redux.

Moreover, Boxes and Arrows sports an impressive range of articles for beginners to experts, written by some of the best minds in Design today—both known and unknown. When I read the succinctly written introduction to key first principals like Visible Narratives, or learn about an advanced technique never-before shared, like free listing, I get a frisson of joy. (And that’s just last month!)

Sometimes lately in our profession, it seems like we are treading water, reinventing the wheel, going in circles—whoops, there I go. Boxes and Arrows seems to be apart from that (except for an occasional passionate thread in the discussion page). Paula Thornton, interaction design strategist, referred to us as “the community’s water cooler,” where designers gather to discuss what works for them. I believe these discussions are key to our profession’s survival and advancement. In the late nineties, we kept every innovation secret, as if the way we did a wireframe was the key to our companies survival…yet all it resulted in was thrashing—and the secrets eventually got out as people changed companies and shared what they knew with their new groups.

Boxes and Arrows was formed to break that code of silence, “dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of this community, through the sharing of exemplary technique, innovation and informed opinion.” I think we’re making some progress.

Some fun facts about B&A

  • It was originally designed to be a magazine for Information Architecture. I’m glad it’s not just IA.
  • Yes, it was started after a three-dollar bottle of pinot grigio was consumed in the sun.
  • I was going to be happy if it lasted six months.
  • During pre-launch, the staff fought passionately over the definitions of IA, Design and many other topics. Yep, we do it too.
  • Gabe Zentall of Carbon IQ designed our lovely site, and yes, we fought bitterly, changed our minds and vacillated until he was driven to distraction. Yep we did that as well.
  • Hacking Movabletype to use as our CMS was not necessarily the wisest course of action for us, but it seems to be working out. There is a market out there for a CMS for small magazines, I swear…
  • “Publisher” at B&A means you pay the ISP, debug Movabletype every so often and occasionally send hysterical email.
  • “Technologist” means answering a percentage of those hysterical emails. Thanks Jay and Josh.
  • “Editor” means you do almost everything else. The editors of B&A are Boxes and Arrows. Many folks don’t realize what editing does for writing, but let me tell you the reason B&A is more coherent than a collection of blogs is because of these hard working folks.

So, much love to the current editorial staff: Christy, Liz, Lara, Brenda, Ryan, and the queen bee visionary, heroine of a Chief Editor who makes this rag come out twice a month, Erin Malone. If you love this magazine, send them a thank you. They do it for free in their precious off hours.

Also special love to the midwife editor, George Olsen, without whom we probably wouldn’t have gone live in the first place.

And if I’m giving thanks, thanks to all who made this possible, both past staff and current. You did good.

Finally, thanks to the authors past and future who are the very soul of this endeavor.

Writing is painful, sharing your knowledge risky, yet you put yourself out there and I am grateful. You make me look forward to Tuesdays.

p.s. B&A is having a gathering at the IA summit after the events on Saturday (we’ll put up a flyer with the exact details). Meet us in the bar, chat with other readers, authors, the editors and, of course, myself. See you there!

Prognostication Digitalis

Written by: Christina Wodtke

Boxes and Arrows was born in 2002. We came into the world in March like a lion, and swore to write about “what we do” even though we couldn’t agree what that was or what to call it. Like art or porn, we agreed we knew it when we saw it, and that was good enough. As the year unfolded, we discovered “it” was strategy and practice, design and evaluation, and most of all understanding and empathy for users and business. We definitely design, but we design more than just an interface or just a sitemap. We discovered we need a vast variety of skills to do our jobs well. And we need to do our jobs well to survive.

2002 was the year the rubber hit the road. Cutbacks hit companies hard across the world, and everyone struggled to justify their existence. Some new media professions and techniques disappeared almost completely; others became part the standard design practice. 1997 to 2001 was our digital childhood, but now we are clearly in our adolescence—immature, cantankerous, argumentative, but also passionate, hopeful, and determined.

So now we stand poised to dive into 2003. What will this year hold for the profession known as “what we do” and its children, information architecture, usability, interaction design, interface design, and graphic design? What will it hold for our favored media, the digital world? Boxes and Arrows asked our authors to hazard a guess. Here’s what they came up with.

Dan Brown predicts:
Information architecture will be in high demand in the federal government, which faces information-sharing challenges with the Homeland Security “merger,” and information findability challenges as implied in the new e-Government Act of 2002. Information architecture, therefore, will play a prominent role in eGov conferences. The federal government might even recognize an official Information Architecture role in the Office of e-Government.

There will be at least one course on information architecture in every major university in the world.

The number of books specifically on information architecture (a la Polar Bear and Blueprints, et al) will double.

On the other hand: No standard will emerge for information architecture deliverables. The concepts are too varied, the field too dispersed, and the practitioners too spread out to achieve any sort of unity. This prediction won’t come true only if the information architecture community can find a unified voice.

Nate Burgos predicts:
Like the advancement of Internet2, there will be the advancement of Blog2.

More serial narratives, a la comic books and graphic novels, will be established on the Internet as the culture of online literary audiences grows.

Reacting to global causes and conflicts, there will be an increased wave of socially entrepreneurial web presences.

The nomenclature of visual communication will increase.

Earl Morrogh predicts:
I predict that in 2003 the subject of the emerging profession of information architecture will be picked up and reported on by at least one of the major television news networks. The report will include clips from an interview with either Christina Wodtke, Peter Morville, or Louis Rosenfeld.

I also predict that in 2003 there will be at least one newsworthy lawsuit served by a major retailer against a website design agency (or individual information architect) for a site design that fails to meet their return on investment expectations because of performance-related issues.

Scott Berkun predicts:
We’ll realize that the names used to define what we do (UX/IA/UI/design/usabililty) are less important, compared to the impact we have on customers and businesses, and the positive effect we can have helping each other, when we manage to ignore those names and focus on the impact of the work.

Adam Greenfield predicts:
In 2003, some members of our community—which tends to be populated by highly principled and ethical sorts—will be forced to confront their feelings regarding the political uses to which our work can be put. Will they, for example, improve the findability of suspect records in “homeland security” databases, or design simplified interfaces to surveillance systems?

Steve Fleckenstein predicts:
The most awesome IA challenge ever will surface in 2003, and most professionals in the field won’t even hear about it. The people in charge of the Department of Homeland Security’s website will have to contend with a merger of 22 separate agencies, page counts in the millions, hundreds of content owners, hundreds of web developers, dozens of contractors, a multitude of technical environments, and an extremely large and diverse user base (literally, the entire population of the U.S., along with tens of thousands of businesses and government agencies).

Jeff Lash predicts:
2003 will be the year of wireless. Wireless networks in homes, businesses, and public and common spaces will be increasingly popular, and cheaper service plans for mobile phones and PDAs will drive the development of usable and useful wireless-based applications.

The increase in the number of web applications and web services will highlight the need for standards for distributed information architecture.

With more desktop software applications connecting to the Internet to obtain, upload, and share files and information, interaction designers will need to design conceptual models for this new line of “webware” that blurs the line between traditional software and web applications.

David Heller predicts:
Instant Messaging will enter the enterprise as a true collaboration tool, as opposed to a distraction that is stopped at the firewall.

Tablet PCs (especially laptop/tablet hybrids) take more market share from laptops.

The Content Management Systems (CMS) market is going to thin out as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle take bigger chunks of the enterprise market, forcing previous enterprise vendors to find space in the middle tier.

Dan Saffer predicts:
As the word about our discipline(s) continues to spread, more companies, established and startup, will begin hiring in-house IAs.

Transportation systems, military applications, biomedical systems, gaming, PDA/phone/wireless applications, and financial services will be the areas where the most interactive work will occur.

Several IAs will get drunk in Portland.

Elan Freydenson predicts:
Phone companies will realize snapping and emailing photos from cell phones is the next killer mobile data hog.

Flash will still not be the web client of choice for highly interactive applications.

Hopeful: Cell phone manufacturers will finally realize that they need to make hands-free use much more usable, starting all the way from connecting the headset (cordless or otherwise) to redialing a lost connection to dialing with spoken digits (“call 2015553434”).

And I’ll play the game too—Christina Wodtke predicts:
Information architecture as a skillset will become ubiquitous—any company making websites will have people who practice it. Information architects however, will remain relatively rare, and be hired mostly as consultants for major content restructuring. The people in companies doing IA will be visual designers and interaction designers, product managers, database modelers, programmers, webmasters, and editors.

Design teams will start remembering they have to hire writers.

“Findability” will begin to be part of the business vocabulary along with usability and understandability, but not until the end of 2003, where it will be mentioned in a magazine such as CIO or Fast Company.

Knowledge management and information architecture will recognize each other as kin and begin intense collaborative efforts, both informally and formally.

The SIGIA list will either collapse under the weight of annoying squabbling, or become fiercely moderated. Meanwhile, an exciting new interaction design list will pop-up… somewhere…

A company delivering films online will grow popular among the high-bandwidth set for its excellent findability and usability, allowing the film industry to avoid being cannibalized by pirating.

Meanwhile, the music industry will continue to slit their own throats by not figuring out how to deliver music to their users in a satisfying fashion. However, the independent music labels will figure it out.

Somebody will finally write a readable book on controlled vocabularies.

Somebody else will come up with a formula for ROI of Design and Information Architecture.

Somebody else still will start selling prepackaged taxonomies.

…and that is all my Magic 8-Ball will tell me.

Next year, hopefully we can all check in and see how many we got right, and how many we got wrong. And now I dare you: what are your predictions for 2003?