Information Architecture, A Global Perspective

Written by: Jeff Parks

Show Time: 35 minutes 20 seconds

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Podcast Summary

On today’s show I had the pleasure to talking with the first Global Director for World Information Architecture Day, Jessica DuVerneay.

Jessica talks about her time helping to organize the first annual World IA Day including how the event came to life, the phenomenal support and experiences at all events, as well as her roles and responsibilities as a Director.

New Global Director for WIAD Needed!

The Information Architecture Institute is seeking a new Gobal Director for World IA Day in February 2013 and we look forward to hearing from those interested in taking on this volunteer position!

If you are interested in hosting an official World IA Day event please send an email to either the general mailbox for World IA Day info@worldiaday.org or Noreen Whysel operations@iainstitute.org

The Past and Future of Boxes and Arrows

Written by: Jeff Parks

Show Time: 21 minutes 06 seconds

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Podcast Summary

In this episode, I had the pleasure of sitting down in New Orleans at the 2012 Information Architecture Summit with Christina Wodtke (@cwodtke), the founder of Boxes and Arrows.com. Christina shares a bit of the history and future of the web magazine that has supported both the people and ideas that have played a key role in the continuing growth and evolution of the IA discipline.

Her key message is that designers need to get their ideas out there.

“You know what really terrifies me? That so few people actually write about what they are doing. There’s so much intelligence lying around out there and not getting out. I just want to find a way to get these folks in front of the people that need to hear them.”

 

Pitch in on B&A

In that spirit, Boxes and Arrows seeks editors and writers. Participate!

Thanks!

Thanks to Vitamin Talent and Morgan Kaufmann’s It’s Our Research for sponsoring this podcast.

And thanks to ASIS&T for their support of the IA Summit and this podcast.

The Stranger’s Long Neck

Written by: Jeff Parks

Show Time: 33 minutes 42 seconds

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iTunes     Del.icio.us     Boxes and Arrows Podcast theme music generously provided by Bumper Tunes

Gerry McGovern has recently published The Stranger's Long Neck - How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want.

Ireland’s Gerry McGovern shares a few of the key ideas in his recent publication The Stranger’s Long Neck – How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want. Mr. McGovern, who will be teaching a Masterclass series in Canada on the importance of task management this November, discusses several of the key findings in his new book, including:

Trading with strangers

– The customer is a stranger. On the Web, the customer isn’t king—they’re dictator. When they come to your website, they have a small set of tasks (long neck) that really matter to them. If they can’t complete these top tasks quickly, they leave.
– There is an existential challenge going on right now between organization-centric and customer-centric thinking. Customer-centric thinking is winning.

From Long Tail to Dead Zone

– The Long Tail theory says that the Web allows you to sell more of less, that we are seeing the decline of the blockbuster and the rise of the niche.
– The Long Tail is often a Dead Zone of extremely low demand and hard to find, poor quality products.

The rise of the Long Neck

– The Web is exploding with quantity but quality is still relatively finite. Quality is the ‘long neck’; the small set of stuff that really matters to the customer.
– Understanding and managing the long neck has never been more important.
– Remember that the customer’s long neck—what really matters to the customer—is rarely the organization’s long neck —what really matters to the organization.

A secret method for understanding your customers

– A unique voting method that identifies your customers’ long neck.
– Developed over 10 years, with over 50,000 customers voting in multiple languages and countries.
– Used by the BBC, Tetra Pak, IKEA, Schlumberger, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Cisco, OECD, Vanguard, Rolls-Royce, US Internal Revenue Service, etc.

Organization thinking versus customer thinking

– Case study that shows how car company managers think differently about how customers buy cars to how customers themselves think.
– Explanation of how to frame the task identification question.

Deliver what customers want—not what you want

– Case study of Microsoft Pinpoint, a website to help businesses find approved Microsoft IT vendors and consultants.
– What’s the top task of US small and medium businesses when it comes to IT? Security.

Measuring success: Back to basics

– Why traditional web metrics such as page views, number of visitors, etc., are often misleading
– Observation-based technique to measure online behaviour.
– The key metrics of task measurement: completion rate, disaster rate, completion time

Carrying out a task measurement

– The benefits of remote measurement
– How to run an actual measurement session

This podcast has been sponsored by:


Publishers of world class content for students, researchers, and practitioners in the UX and HCI fields. To learn more visit http://www.mkp.com/hci


From concepts to rich prototypes and detailed specifications, all in one tool. Get your free 30-day trial at www.axure.com

The design behind the design
Boxes & Arrows: Since 2001, Boxes & Arrows has been a peer-written journal promoting contributors who want to provoke thinking, push limits, and teach a few things along the way.

Contribute as an editor or author, and get your ideas out there. boxesandarrows.com/about/participate

IA Summit 10 – Day 3

Written by: Jeff Parks

IA Summit 2010

This year marks the 11th annual Information Architecture Summit. Our theme is meant to inspire everyone in the community—even those who aren’t presenting or volunteering—to bring their best ideas to the table.

As busy practitioners, we rarely have the chance to step back and think about the future of our field—we’re too busy resolving day-to-day issues. By gathering and sharing practical solutions for everyday challenges, we can create more breathing room to plan for what’s to come.

Subscribe to the Boxes and Arrows Podcast in iTunes or add this page to your Del.icio.us account:

iTunes     Del.icio.us     2010 IA Summit theme music generously provided by Bumper Tunes

Keynotes

| “Day 1 – Dan Roam” | “Day 2 – Richard Saul Wurman” | “Day 3 – Whitney Hess” |

Full Program

| Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |

Additional podcasts will be posted as available over the coming weeks.

Day 3 Presentations

 

Tipping the Scales: Bringing Social Networking within the Enterprise – Manya Kapikian, Kevin Lynch, Michael Patterson

In 2009, a pilot was launched by Raytheon Company to determine the value of social networking. In this session aimed at Information Architects interested in deploying social networking in organizations, Manya Kapikian, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Patterson expose 11 hard lessons learned from the pilot that apply to this relatively undefined territory.


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Sorting Skittles: A User Research Game – Aaron Hursman

In this session, Aaron Hursman introduces introduces a new user research technique that engages research participants in a fun and tactile game format, rather than putting them to sleep with boring questions. Learn how you can use this game approach to produce rich, quantifiable data.


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Testing Content: Early, Often, and Well – Colleen Jones, Kevin O’Connor

In their presentation, Colleen Jones and Kevin O’Connor talk about how testing content is just as important as testing design. Through a website case study, they cover what worked and what didn’t for testing content early in the project—from concepts to prototypes—to inform content strategy and tactics.


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The future of wayfinding – Cennydd Bowles

With boundaries between the abstract digital world and the real physical world becoming blurred, we need new approaches to wayfinding, information scent, and navigation. This session from Cennydd Bowles explains the exciting challenges ahead of us, exploring how we can use information architecture to shape the chaos and design systems for both the digital and physical world that allow users to orientate themselves, understand the choices available, and feel at home.


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Using Beekeeping History to Predict the Future of UX – Aaron Rosenberg

Measurement and prediction can help foster great insight and innovation. Calling upon the history of American beekeeping as a backdrop, Aaron Rosenberg shows how incremental improvement comes from qualitative observation, while giant strides can be achieved through quantitative insight. This calls to the next generation of user researchers to apply quantitative methods to our study of user behavior on the web.


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The Human Interface (or: Why Products are People, Too) – Christopher Fahey

We can no longer ask users to think like machines just to be able to use software. Instead, our systems must act more like people. User experience designers, in turn, need to stop thinking about interfaces as dumb control panels for manipulating machines and data and start thinking about them as human beings.

In this talk, Christopher Fahey explores diverse areas of non-digital human experience in order to frame and showcase some of the most exciting current and emerging user experience design practices, ultimately inspiring designers to humanize their interfaces.


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What they didn’t know they needed – Amy Cueva, Megan Grocki

Although it is a really easy trap to fall into, if you simply ask users about what would make life better, you will rarely get meaningful answers. They are just not good at envisioning revolutionary solutions, and basing your designs on those responses won’t get to a breakthrough in your design. In this presentation, Amy Cueva and Megan Grocki discuss how research inspires design and how reality inspires creativity. They focus on activities such as Laddering, Game play, Storytelling and Triading that can help expose opportunities for radical innovation and designing products that people can’t live without.


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Words #Fail: Collaborating on the Unexplainable – Dan Willis, Dave Gray

In the real world, developing a shared understanding often needs to happen while the team is already in motion, and words can often only vaguely describe people’s ideas. Visual thinkers Dave Gray and Dan Willis decided to explore the murky glory of the unexplainable with an interesting experiment: over the course of a large scale challenge, they collaborated without the benefit of spoken words or written narrative to first identify and define their primary challenge, then create and winnow potential solutions, and finally develop a single solution.

Dan and Dave live in different parts of the US, and before their session had never compared notes on the blow-by-blow details of their experiment. The two discuss their silent, geographically dispersed effort as they meet for the first time in front of the audience, illustrating how visual thinking can feed and support collaboration that results in breakthrough solutions.


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Living Personas – Visually Displaying Brand Insights and Connections to Consumers – Russ Unger, Ross McClean

In this session Russ Unger and Ross McClean examine living personas—an interactive and engaging format that goes beyond flat paper personas we are used to. They discuss how this technique will change your perception of personas, no matter what you think of them now, and how it can showcase how real people are behaving related to your brand, product, or project.


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Design for Emotion and Flow – Trevor van Gorp

Trevor van Gorp’s presentation explores the role emotions play in how we focus attention, learn, process, and use information, and how they are involved in creating a state of flow. You’ll learn about the underlying causes, characteristics and consequences of flow, how flow is related to emotional design, and how to take user goals into consideration when designing for it.


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The Practice of Information Architecture: It takes a village of practitioners to raise a discipline – Nathaniel Davis

In this session, Nathaniel Davis introduces the Organization Role Segmentation (ORS) theory that suggests how to define and chart unique business functions and role types within any organization. He shows how ORS can articulate a distinct information architecture role, shape an IA practice, and show us how to align ourselves and our teams for growth, accountability, and discovery within our discipline.


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Metropolitan Information Architecture: The future of UX, Databases, and the (Information) Architecture of complex, urban environments – Don Turnbull, John Tolva

What does location mean for UX? How does information architecture and design synchronize with urban architecture? How does mobile communication and web culture impact the streetscape? Are we living in facets of the same virtual city or does location still constrain us?

In this session, Don Turnbull and John Tolva look into these and other questions as they discuss research and designs unveiling how our interactions with both digital and physical environments are changing.


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From Here to Experience – Jared Spool

It’s impossible for an organization to flip a switch, turning off their product mindset to start innovating great experiences. Instead, they must embark on a journey where every step, no matter how tiny, gets them closer to their goal of delighting customers.

In this entertaining presentation, Jared Spool shows you the path successful organizations have taken on their journeys. You’ll learn how to create an integrated feedback system. You’ll see the benefits of formulating a solid experience vision. And, you’ll learn why it’s critical to shift your organization’s culture past risk-aversion.


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Presentations – It ain’t all about the PowerPoint – Adam Polansky

We know that people like stories. They also like pictures. By giving you some tips that take advantage of those two facts, Adam Polansky shares how to shift the focus of your presentations to you, the storyteller, rather than living or dying by the content of your slides—and in the process getting your ideas into someone else’s head more effectively.


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5 Minute Madness – Attendees of the 2010 IA Summit

Along with conference speakers, attendees share their thoughts of the IA Summit, its people, ideas explored, or whatever else they want to share… but they only have 5 minutes each to do so.


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These podcasts are sponsored by:

MAD*POW logo
At Mad*Pow, they leverage the disciplines of Human Factors, Psychology, and Visual Design to create engaging experience that maximize customer acquisition, increase attention, and reduce costs.

ASIS&T logo
The American Society of Information Science & Technology: Since 1937, ASIS&T has been THE society for information professionals leading the search for new and better theories, techniques, and technologies to improve access to information.

IA Summit 2010
The IA Summit: the premier gathering place for information architects and other user experience professionals.

The design behind the design
Boxes & Arrows: Since 2001, Boxes & Arrows has been a peer-written journal promoting contributors who want to provoke thinking, push limits, and teach a few things along the way.

Contribute as an editor or author, and get your ideas out there. boxesandarrows.com/about/participate

IA Summit 10 – Day 2

Written by: Jeff Parks

IA Summit 2010

This year marks the 11th annual Information Architecture Summit. Our theme is meant to inspire everyone in the community—even those who aren’t presenting or volunteering—to bring their best ideas to the table.

As busy practitioners, we rarely have the chance to step back and think about the future of our field—we’re too busy resolving day-to-day issues. By gathering and sharing practical solutions for everyday challenges, we can create more breathing room to plan for what’s to come.

Subscribe to the Boxes and Arrows Podcast in iTunes or add this page to your Del.icio.us account:

iTunes     Del.icio.us     2010 IA Summit theme music generously provided by Bumper Tunes

Keynotes

| “Day 1 – Dan Roam“:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-10-dan | “Day 2 – Richard Saul Wurman“:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-10-richard | “Day 3 – Whitney Hess“:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-10-whitney |

Full Program

| Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |

Day 2 Presentations

Closing the gap between people’s online and real life social network – Paul Adams

In the next few years, the most successful social media experiences will be the ones that understand how our offline and online worlds connect and interact. But our tools are still crude. The good news is that despite the complexity involved in understanding human relationships, we can study offline and online communication and create design principles to support what we find. In his presentation, Paul Adams speaks about what he has learned from over two years of research into people’s online and offline relationships.


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Experience strategy: Dealing with a UX mid-life crisis – Richard Dalton, Rob Weening

We make changes to our user experiences based on heuristics, usability testing, and data, but do we really know if we’re improving the overall experience over time and across projects? Richard Dalton and Rob Weening discuss two solutions they’ve developed at Vanguard to address this question.

The first, called a Capability Strategy Template, helps practitioners consistently describe the user tasks and business goals being addressed, the metrics for success, and the rationale behind decisions.

The second, called an Experience Strategy Map, helps managers answer how an overall experience supports user tasks and business goals, assessing if the experience is good and improving, and how to prioritize improvements.


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Designing with Constraints – Debra Levin Gelman

Creating meaningful digital experiences is a complicated business. Fluctuating requirements, unexpected technical limitations, and stringent branding rules can make experience design feel like an exercise in compromise. In this hands-on session, Debra Levin Gelman teaches how to design and negotiate the best user experiences in the face of corporate flux.


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Experiments at the Edges of Experience – Derek Featherstone

In this session, Derek Featherstone takes a look at 10 experimental accessibility concepts and techniques. You’ll learn about tools and techniques you can begin to use right away and the concepts behind the techniques so you can start experimenting on your own. You’ll gain new insight about accessibility as part of user experience. You’ll walk away inspired—and ready to inject accessibility into the web.


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Designing Influence in Organizations – Jess McMullin

Why do projects fail? Sometimes it’s poor methods, poor team members, or the market. But more often, projects fail from poor decisions inside client organizations.

Gaining influence over those decisions is a design problem, and user experience pros already have the skills to increase their influence through understanding business stakeholders and discovering, prototyping, and iterating the factors that develop influence. By designing influence, user experience pros can increase their impact, create better experiences for people, and help their organizations succeed.

In his presentation, Jess McMullin covers the fundamentals and principles of influence, and talks about a three-step approach for cultivating influence inside organizations.


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Eight Principles of Information Architecture – Daniel Brown

Is there any theoretical framework information architects can use to inform their design decisions? Perhaps our field is too young to have a mature theory, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a set of immutable principles that give us a sense of quality in IA. Daniel Brown talks about eight principles that influence the rules and frameworks that govern the experience, why each is important, and why they are immutable. After sharing examples of each principle, he concludes with a rationale for a comprehensive theory of IA, exploring why every designer needs to have their own set of design principles.


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The architecture of piles – Karl Fast

Piles are a fixture of everyday life. They may seem simple, but often have intricate architectures. And yet, what’s important about piles is not the piles themselves, but how they allow people to rapidly externalize information—putting knowledge from their head into the world.

The architecture of piles suggests an intriguing direction for information architecture—into the ad-hoc, fluid, and informal. Digital piles could be powerful tools for helping people learn from, reason with, and make sense of the information they encounter in the world.

In this talk, Karl Fast explores existing research on piles and presents his research findings from a series of studies on how people create piles when they triage documents on an unfamiliar topic.


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Educating, Not Evangelizing: What Comes Next After Your Organization Has Bought Into UX – Craig Kistler

Going from 0 to 6 staff within 3 years, the American Greetings Interactive UX team has grown quickly in an organization that has bought into the value of UX. But the team has learned the hard way what works, and what doesn’t, when educating people across the organization about integrating UX into a a wide range of strategic initiatives. In this session, Craig Kistler covers those lessons learned in working with senior leadership, marketing, design, product management, product management, and development.


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Design Caffeine for Search and Browse UI – Greg Nudelman

In this straightforward, practical session about search and browse interfaces, Greg Nudelman talks about improving the search experience from the customer’s perspective- a perspective on which few resources discussing search focus.


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Principles to Build By – Stephen P. Anderson

Having a shared vision understood by all team members is critical to product design. Design tenets support and extend a core vision. They add character and definition to a vision, providing direction and helping product stay true to a clear vision.

By using examples and sharing tips, Stephen P. Anderson outlines how to identify and articulate design tenets for your project to anchor and inspire the design process.


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For the transcript of this podcast go here.

Rapid-turnaround usability testing: not just a pipedream – Kyle Soucy, Holly Phillips

Looking to get more insight from usability testing more quickly, cheaply, and with fewer people and headaches? Kyle Soucy and Holly Phillips talk about how, with a little planning and a few innovative techniques, you can conduct regular, fast-turnaround usability interviews with a shoestring staff and budget. You can provide timely feedback to designers, uncover surprising problems with your site, and capture rich customer quotes– and do this week after week.


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Innies vs. Outties, a UX Deathmatch – Dan Willis, Margaret Hanley

Is it better to work inside an organization or as an outside consultant? In this session geared towards professionals who’ve spent most of their careers on one side, two veteran UX pros with experience and scar tissue from both sides—Dan Willis and Margaret Hanley—referee action that includes lecture, group discussion, and even a little role playing. Step into the ring, and come out with a deep understanding of the differences and similarities between the ””innies”” and the ””outies””!


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The Future of Search and Discovery – Peter Morville

In this session, Peter Morville defines a pattern language for search that embraces user psychology and behavior, cross-channel information architecture, multisensory interaction, and emerging technology. He explores what’s needed to practice successful search-centered information architecture, how newer means of input and output are reshaping what’s possible, and shares inspiring examples across different types of applications and industries.


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Crowdsourcing Innovation: the role of UX – Johanna Kollmann

Is your organisation trying to engage in open innovation? Can UX get a seat at the strategy table by engaging with the people who build stuff?

In this session Johanna Kollmann encourages UX professionals to participate in open innovation and engage developers. Drawing from her experiences at Vodafone, she shares how to educate non-UX people about human-centred design, participate in hackdays and barcamps, and add value to design competitions and challenges normally aimed at developers.


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Persuasive Design: Encouraging Your Users To Do What You Want Them To! – Andy Budd

So you’ve designed a great product, fixed a stack of usability problems and spent a fortune on marketing. The only problem is, people aren’t using it. In this session Andy Budd shares how to get your users to do what you want them to through good design, human psychology, and a touch of mind control.


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The Mobile Question: Lessons in Design and Strategy for Your Mobile Experience – Jeremy Johnson

Like most projects, strategy, design, and technology all play a pivotal role when deciding on what direction your mobile experiences should take. Finding answers may not be easy, but asking the right questions can lead you in the right direction. In this session Jeremy Johnson focuses on design and device strategy when it’s time to take your experience to the small screen. He provides you with an overall view of the mobile landscape and knowledge to make company-wide recommendations.


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Toss Out that Old Stakeholder Review Process! – Jill Christ

When committees drive design, often a frustrating environment filled with unhappy compromises is the result, ultimately failing to meet users’ needs. In this presentation, Jill Christ informs User Experience Researchers and Designers how to revolutionize the traditional design review process, by grounding projects in user feedback. You’ll learn how to make the users the ultimate stakeholder, replacing the traditional stakeholder review with a user-centred review process.


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Information architecture patterns – Donna Spencer

In this presentation, Donna Spencer introduces a wide range of commonly-used information architecture patterns. She describes the core elements, discusses appropriate uses, and shares real-world examples of each pattern. From this session, you’ll gain an understanding of the patterns and how to select which ones to use for your content.


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These podcasts are sponsored by:

MAD*POW logo
At Mad*Pow, they leverage the disciplines of Human Factors, Psychology, and Visual Design to create engaging experience that maximize customer acquisition, increase attention, and reduce costs.

ASIS&T logo
The American Society of Information Science & Technology: Since 1937, ASIS&T has been THE society for information professionals leading the search for new and better theories, techniques, and technologies to improve access to information.

IA Summit 2010
The IA Summit: the premier gathering place for information architects and other user experience professionals.

The design behind the design
Boxes & Arrows: Since 2001, Boxes & Arrows has been a peer-written journal promoting contributors who want to provoke thinking, push limits, and teach a few things along the way.


Principles to Build By–Stephen P. Anderson from Day 2 of the 2010 IA Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.
[music]
Announcer: Having a shared vision understood by all team members is critical to product design. Design tenets support and extend a core vision. By using examples and sharing tips, Stephen Anderson outlines how to identify and articulate design tenets for your project to anchor and inspire the design process. I hope everyone enjoys the podcast. Cheers.
Stephen Anderson: Can you guys kind of see the cathedral or is it all black on there on the screen? All black. Darn. OK. So much for a watermarked image. There’s a cathedral in the background, trust me.
I want to start off with just a quick story. The story is this, and some of you guys may have heard this in some books you’ve come across. A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, “What are you doing?” The man answered, “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” The man answered, “I am building a wall.” He walked up to the third man who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood up and smiled, “I am building a cathedral.”
I open with this story. This comes one of my favorite books called “The Story Factor.” It’s all about how to use stories to inspire and persuade and motivate folks. I gave it to the CEO of a start-up I joined in 2008. We started using this phrase around the office which is, “Are we building a cathedral?” Was everyone on the team thinking about the cathedral? What we were talking about then was the vision. Is everyone inspired and everyone thinking about the same thing.
So the question I would ask is, “At your company are people laying bricks or building a cathedral?”
There are other words for cathedral that we’ve seen: story, mantra, vision, strategic intent, purpose, clarifying question, the flag in the sand everyone’s marching towards, the rallying cry. I would ask, “What is that vision?”
Here’s an example of a product I came across that has a really clear vision. In fact they’re pretty brave, look what they put here: “Is Write Room the right tool for you? Write Room is designed for distraction-free writing. If you’re looking for a programmer’s text editor or tool to help you manage large writing projects, then there are better choices. If you need syntax highlighting and command line integration, try TextMate. If you to manage large writing projects, try Scrivener. If you just need to block out distractions and write, then I think Write Room is a great choice.”
Here’s a clear product vision. They know what the cathedral is that’s being built. If we were to judge externally, I would say these companies probably also have (at least by all appearances) a clear cathedral that they’re building something in mind.
This presentation is not about cathedrals, though, or not about the vision. There are great other presentations on that. This is really, really about once you have that vision, the “What” that everyone’s working towards, how do you articulate the “How” to make sure that everyone’s in alignment? How do you ensure that there are consistent design choices?
So I’m going to extend this cathedral analogy a bit. What I want to talk about are actually the flying buttresses that support the cathedral. If you look up the definition of a flying buttress or a buttress, it serves to support or reinforce the wall. That’s what I’m going to talk about are principles that reinforce the core vision.
The first thing I’ve got to do is kind of scrub the language. There’s kind of a split in how these are referred to. There are some groups that refer to these as design principles. I think because of things like what Dan is talking about with the IA principles you laid out… Or I’m working on a set of cards called “Mental Notes” which have psychology principles, I’ve actually ditched this word. I call them design tenets. There are actually folks at Microsoft that actually use this phrase, too. Design Tenets. That’s just to avoid confusion. That’s the language I prefer.
Just a quick description of what these are. They are a simple set of unique characteristics that make explicit the product qualities that we value. If you had to write down just two words as I talk in the next ten minutes, think about unique characteristics. That’s what Design Tenets clarify. They describe the experience I’m going to create; how do we want people to feel, or respond to something?
They ensure that as you build things over time and add new features, that everyone stays true to a core vision, and this is key. You might have a great product, a great product launch, but as version 1.5, and 2, and 3, and four go on, pretty soon you lose sight of the core or the essence that made that product great.
These are strategic requirements, so they guide the product strategy long-term. Obviously, they should support the larger vision. If I wanted to use kind of shorthand for you, you can almost think of it like a creative brief, but for the product design.
Real quick clarification, don’t confuse Design Tenets with our image and design patterns, or universal design principles. Also, there are design guidelines. Like you get the style guide and it says, “This color will be the text value, and this typeface will be used.” That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re also not talking about corporate or company values. They should definitely tie back to company values, but they are their own thing.
So, let’s just dive into some examples, and I’ll give you some tips to write these. Here is Goodwill, now these aren’t corporate, company wide values, but since their company is so tied to the product, I thought I would open with these.
You’re probably all familiar with the first one; Focus on People, Their Lives, Their Work, and Their Teams, so that is the number one. They have Every Millisecond Counts. So, this is a really good one, Every Millisecond Counts. That is at the core value of the company, at Google. Everything they build, efficiency and speed is going to be critical.
Then they go on, Simplicity is Powerful, Engage Beginners, and In Fact, Experts. I opened with this example, because I wanted to kind of contrast it with the start-up omission that I worked at. It was a search engine start-up. It was in the search space, but these were are core values. We were kind of creating a very rich, custom tailored search experience. So, here were the six values we headed in the find. We were aligned around this idea company.
Serendipity, we actually valued the idea that you might find something you weren’t looking for. If you didn’t get directly to the information on the first shot, we actually thought that was kind of fun. We wanted to bribe and direct access, that was the key, but if other stuff crept in along the way, we actually thought that was nice.
Elegance and Craftsmanship were another attribute. The essential display of information, and this one we actually had to words mixed a bit, because initially it was like, “Make it look good or visual.” And like, “Well, that’s not quite the same as essential display of information.” Because when you talk about sensuality, it is appealing to all the senses, not just what you see.
So, we had some search experiences that were all text, and in my mind they were very sensual the way we were treating it. They didn’t have to have images. We talk about fun and custom tailored experiences, integrity. So, these were the Design Tenets that we were building our product against. As we would make new decisions or the feature decisions, we would evaluate against these.
Microsoft Surface, here are some of those that they’ve written; Natural, Intuitive, and Conomagical. This one grabbed my attention when I saw it, Social and Together. They’re talking about the values of the surface table, and like where they were wanting to roll it out to, and making it a very social app. It was very key.
They didn’t picture it as necessarily something in the home, but something like out and about, or something that people would congregate around. I think having that type of distinction is really strong. Aware and responsive, premium, authentic, so these are the core tenets, design tenets for Microsoft Surface.
Adaptive Path, it talks a lot about these. In fact, Kate Rutter does a workshop, a two part workshop just on Design Tenets. These are the Design Tenets for the Smart.fm iPhone app, and so you have things like: A Friendly, Social World of Learning. The More It’s Used, the Better It Gets, Good Deals, and Celebrates Progress, and we can go on. So, those are the tenets there.
Google Calendar, they just had four: Fast, Visually Appealing, and Joyous to Use, Drop Dead Simple to Get Information to the Calendar, More Than Boxes On a Screen, and so on.
All of these will be in the slides, and actually I am going to add more for you to refer back to later. I am kind of breezing through these quickly, because I want to show you how to write these.
I do want to point out this. This is the product I am working on right now. It is a tool called, “After the Meeting,” and we’re still in kind of a private beta phase. It is a tool to help people follow through on commitments they make in a meeting. The reason the guy with the idea approached me in the first place is I talk a lot about psychology, and making things fun and playful, and he wanted to create a meeting tool that was very fun and playful.
So, right away, even from the first calls to figure out if there was going to be a relationship here, I knew that playful and game-like was something he valued. So, I scribbled down on a sheet of paper …
Then we had other things like “equalizing.” It’s a tool to people who make commitments. And oftentimes in large organizations, commitments are very hierarchical. So it’s a boss asking someone else to do something and there’s no chance to say, I can’t do it by that date, I just can’t.
One of the tenets of our products is, it should equalize, it should have the right to negotiate and say I can’t do that or I can’t on these terms. So that’s a core value. And then we have other things like “reflective.” It should offer feedback on how I’m doing, there should be a “safety zone.”
I want to jump down to the last one: “pomp and circumstance.” This one actually didn’t make it until our kickoff meeting and everything we talked about initially. But as we were developing the product, one of the comps. I had showed him was very visual, and looked almost like… this is an application, but looked like a custom web conference page.
And that was something that the client really liked. And he thought, that’s neat, here is a meeting and it looks like a graphic artist took hours to prepare this page and I want to do more of that. I want to do more things like that.
So we started spending some time on the aesthetics of how these commitments, these meetings were presented and we started talking about pomp and circumstance. We want to treat everything with some pomp and circumstance. So that emerged through the project.
And there was another one, Charmr. This was the concept product that Adaptive Path did. And I mentioned this one, it’s “Wear it during sex.” That was one of their design tenets. It was the Charmr product, it’s for those who have type I diabetes.
And if you have Type one diabetes, the medical options are pretty slim, and so they wanted to create something that focused on the experience first and kind of galvanized the medical industry. So “Wear it during sex” is one of their tenets. “Make better use of data,” “Easy to use,” “Easy to learn and teach,” “No numbers,” “Less stuff” and you can keep going.
So here’s a quote from Jensen Harris who is from the Microsoft Office User Experience Team. And I thought this was a good, another why do we do these statements, and I thought it was worth reading.
Once we all agree on the design philosophy of the overall house, the design tenets, we can independently go off and design our own room without worrying that the house won’t make sense once all the rooms are done.
The alternative, doing the designs without tenets and in isolation often leads to a situation where you’d either have to do a costly and painful set of cleanups late in the process or more usually, you just ship an incongruous design and leave the users to sort it out. Which I’m sure with we all have experienced.
So tips, how to write these. I’ve got nine tips I will go through very quickly. The first is, skip the obvious. If your design tenets have words like “useful,” “usable,” “desirable,” “human,” “clear” in them, it’s probably not a very good tenet. I don’t think I need to say more about that.
OK. Use concrete, specific evocative language. So if you write “provide a good experience” as one of your design tenets, I would say, let’s try to refine that, make a little better. So maybe you might say “joyous to use.” OK, that’s good luck by the way, that can inspire.
But what do you mean by “joyous to use?” Well, you might mean “serendipitous,” something we’re going to value. That’s what I meant when I said joyous. So try to use concrete, specific and evocative language.
OK. Here’s a little litmus test I found to write good design tenets. And that’s to ask what’s the opposite of this. And usually if it’s a good design tenet, like a good unique characteristic, then the opposite is something else that some other competitor or someone else might embrace.
So for example, the Microsoft “Social and Together” was something they valued. What’s the opposite of social? You’re alone or you’re by yourself. And that would be fine to create an apps for personal use, right.
What’s the opposite of “no numbers?” Numbers, right? And you could see, I think we favor very… displayed numbers and things. What’s the opposite of “easy to use?” “Hard to use.” I don’t think anyone is going to embrace “hard to use” as a design tenet. So that would not be a good one. How about “be the best?” Yeah.
OK. Describe and inspire. Don’t specify. It’s real easy when … it seems silly, at the conference here we’re talking about this, but you go back and start to write these for the clients.
You end up with something like “We value the color blue.” That’s a design tenet. No, it’s not. That’s heading the direction of a guideline or something. But “Open like the sky.” That might be a design tenet. That might something that qualifies, and blue might be something that falls out of that. But be careful not to specify design direction in here.
I can use this word here: schema. Keep your design tenets discreet and parallel to each other. So if you end up with something like this “Fun, thrilling, visual, and social,” people are going to have a hard time remembering “Fun, thrilling, ….” They might throw in the wrong words. What’s the difference? Those are kind of confusing. Make sure everything is discreet and it’s a good list that people remember.
Then, kind of wrapping up. Tip number six: Get buy-in. This is key. It has to be something everything’s aligned around, just like personas where you have to really evangelize personas and get everyone talking about Mary and John and Bob. Same thing here.
You want people talking about these tenets. so when they got into conversation after the meeting client, we’re always talking “Pomp and circumstance”, “Equalizing and playful.” These are words that show up in all our conversations, because these are things that we value a lot. Dan mentioned agreement and internalization. That’s exactly what we’re talking about right here. Everyone needs to agree on these and then internalize these. Everyone needs to walking and talking and breathing these things.
Target four to seven tenets. You want to have something that people can have in their mind. If people are going to talk about these, a lot more than that’s going to be hard to remember. Less than four, there’s not enough to go on. So I’ve found that’s a good number.
Short, one or two word statements. Remember also if you can have a one word phrase followed by a one or two sentence explanation or clarification, that’s great. If your phrases are a little bit longer, they’re going to be harder to remember. So if you can make it a one word or two words phrase, that’s easy for people to internalize and take with them.
Tenets should extend and support the core vision. That goes back to that cathedral. Whatever these buttresses are, they’re supporting that. They should never compete with those or be inconsistent.
With that, there’s two resources I can recommend. Luke Wroblewski has done a presentation on the design part where he talked about this and he actually wrote a post developing design principles where he talks more about this, provides some more examples from Microsoft, HTC, and other companies.
Kate Rutter, as I mentioned earlier, at Adaptive Path has a post she wrote about making design principles stick. She talks a little about getting those adopted inside an organization.
With that, I will take any questions you have.
[silence]
Nothing. I was very clear. All right. Great.
[laughter]
Dan, you’d asked a question on the phone. We were talking about … I’m trying to remember when…. We were talking about preparing for this presentation and you had asked, “Did these ever change, or how did they come about, or did we write them all at the beginning?”
Dan: Was there an evolution over the course of the project?
Stephen P. Anderson: Yeah, was there evolution. And I mentioned that “pomp and circumstance” one came out throughout the process. Another thing that that question provoked was, on that particular project as it’s prone to happen, we got so focused on just getting the project done and working out the kinks and responding to feedback, that we lost sight of a few things.
When we had started the project “Playful” was a big core value or core tenet of the project. There was this moment where we reached, where we stopped and said, “Is this thing playful anymore? Are we having fun using it?” We realized that we’d kind of lost sight of that or diminished that tenet to some point.
So it’s always good to come back to these and make sure that “Yes, do we still agree that these are important?” “Yes, then are we living and acting and breathing these in our product?” “No, then what’s the problem. Let’s get back on track.” So these are kind of like bumper rails to keep you on the straight path, the vision that you agreed to up front.
That vision can change as you learn stuff. But the good thing is it clarifies and unifies the team so everyone knows what is valuable.
All right. With that, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you to Dan.
[applause]
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