Crossing Boundaries: 2005 IA Summit Wrapup: Saturday

Written by: B&A Staff

Session Summaries and Reviews

Saturday, March 5

Opening Plenary
BJ Fogg

“Did the designer who assigned the CTRL-Z function think of this outcome?”In his opening plenary, BJ Fogg asked us to consider the ramifications of our actions as designers: that we are designing rituals and thereby changing culture. A relatively small group of people, through their designs and products, are changing the the world, and fairly quickly, too. We may also want to change the world, however we may not think about all of the side-affects. For instance, Fogg pointed out that in a serious car crash, he did not see his life flash before his eyes, but he thought “CTRL-Z.” Did the designer who assigned the CTRL-Z function think of this outcome? Well, the ritual was ingrained in Fogg, just as people around the world are changed by the technology around them.

captologydecisiongrid_dr.gifFogg’s primary area of interest is in the overlapping areas of technology and persuasion, which he calls captology. He points out that captology can be both good and bad: allowing people freedom of choice or limiting it. He says the techniques used for persuasions in one-time interactions are different than required for ongoing relationships, and Fogg points out that we may see too many one-time persuasions.

In order to prioritize how we expend our captology energy (designing for impact/persuasion), Fogg suggests we brainstorm a bunch of sticky notes about target outcomes (user behavior), then place the notes on a decision grid that ranks for importance and feasibility. For the best punch, select target outcomes in the high-easy area (important and feasible).

Fogg pointed out that video games are excellent at affecting user behavior since they provide quick feedback on your increasing competency. This type of feedback is especially important for certain groups, such as teen boys. While this is scary in some ways, such as the amount of time players are rehearsing violent behavior, the powerfully persuasive use of technology can be harnessed for other purposes. It’s a good example of Fogg’s observation that you increase your credibility by knowing what your audience responds to most favorably.

In conclusion, Fogg offered up some guiding words to help designers who want to have a positive impact via persuasive technology:

  1. Specialize: Find your niche. The more specialized, the broader the impact you have.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Appreciate (a healthy emotion).
  4. Rebound: We all fail; now get back up and keep going.
  5. Find your “true north. ”

Weston Thompson

For me, an opening plenary needs be inspiring, entertaining, somewhat practical and credible. BJ Fogg’s plenary was all of those, and is easily one of the best plenaries I have heard for a long time.

As we expected, the presentation covered many aspects of persuasion. BJ discussed how the tools we use change us; examined some of the common persuasive (and nagging) techniques that are currently being used, and elaborated on persuasive strategies that have the most powerful impact.

BJ reminded us that we are creating things that are used by people, and that we are in the position where so few of us can change so many others. We need to ensure that the way we affect those people is planned, not unplanned. This, along with the ethics of persuasion and design, are key issues for us to consider further.
Donna Maurer

Sorting Out Social Classification
Peter Merholz, Peter Morville, Thomas Vander Wal, Gene Smith
Conference Description

This was a very well-structured and interesting panel. Gene Smith started the discussion with a good overview of folksonomy/social classification, explaining that a folksonomy/social classification schema is one where the participants in the content creation are also the ones creating the classification.

Gene also showed examples from key sites such as del.icio.us and flickr (these demonstrations need to be shown in real time before people ‘get it,’ but this wasn’t practical in this instance) and walked through the very short history with a series of provocative quotes.

Taking a conservative approach, Peter Morville reminded us that context is important, and that folksonomy doesn’t suit all (or many) contexts. He also noted that, as interesting as the concept of folksonomy is, hierarchies are not going away.

Thomas Vander Wal compared metadata and tagging, highlighting the problems that we have all had with managing metadata. He suggested that, in some circumstances, tagging is easier and can be generated as a by-product of tasks that users are already doing.

Peter Merholz discussed three key problems with current tagging implementations: a lack of synonyms, multiple meanings for a tag and incorrect tagging. He also briefly discussed the idea of discoverability, not findability.

All together, this was a good panel – it introduced the folksonomy concept, explained the current opinions and provided ideas for the future. It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming year.
Donna Maurer

Thinking Navigation (or Navigation on Vanguard.com Pt.2)
David Fiorito
Conference Description

At last year’s IA Summit, one of the most popular presentations was “Creating a Consistent Enterprise Web Navigation Solution,” where David Fiorito and Richard Dalton of Vanguard discussed the process for creating consistent navigational patterns across enterprise websites. At the time of the presentation, the new navigation system had not yet been implemented, so this year’s follow-up presentation reviewed the system and discussed the process of applying it to the various websites.

One of the major lessons learned was how to present the design before the rollout. Senior executives and managers benefited from a high-level overview with fewer details, while those implementing the design needed more details and background, both to aid in buy-in as well as to ensure the proper execution.

They created a detailed, web-based documentation site, and conducted several rounds of usability testing on the site to ensure those implementing the navigation system would be able to find the relevant details. There is nothing on the site that explains the system to end users, but the goal was to make the navigation clear to users, and usability testing has shown that the new navigation is effective.
Jeff Lash

The Confidence Game: The Influence of IA on Users’ Confidence
Jared Spool
Conference description

5 Look at this!This was the first “Spool” lecture I’ve ever attended, and it was pretty good. Spool himself is quite a character, with an animated–albeit clownish–persona that kept the audience engaged and the talk moving rapidly. Looking at the issue of “influencing” user behaviors, Spool discussed how content presented at different levels of the information architecture of a website can have an impact on a user’s decision-making process. He discussed the purchase of hi-tech items–such as digital cameras–using sites like Amazon, WalMart.com, and Target.com as a reference. It was an interesting study, and it raised intriguing issues about the value of brand and the need to understand users’ goals or “outcomes of use”. (Hmm, calling Alan Cooper?) While not as intellectually rigorous as a CHI or UPA case study, Spool’s presentation raised worthwhile issues for the IA community to debate.
Uday Gajendar

Spool presented findings from a recent UIE study of people who purchased laptop computers and other electronics online. He found that sites should give the purchase confidence, because confidence results in purchasing enthusiasm. (Of course, you must find the threshold point of confidence, and I’m not sure that Spool clearly addressed that point.)

Test subjects were given a stipend, and Spool found that they spent 250% of it at Crutchfield, vs. only 42% of at J&R. Wow! People were confident at Crutchfield–enough so to spend a good deal of their own money in addition to their stipend. Shoppers at J&R, on the other hand, didn’t even spend their entire stipend.

Spool identified three stages in the ecommerce decision-making process:

  1. Winnow
    • Department page: presents collections of likely product candidates.
    • Group items usefully and describe them carefully.
    • Do not present featured products at this stage; it is too early in the process.
    • Are you using facets? Be sure they are the right ones, and that they match the user’s mental model (i.e., “shoots 8×10 photos,” not “4 Megapixel”).
    • Good example: Lands End’s swimsuit page.
  2. Select
    • Gallery page: shows selected details about each product in the department.
    • Display a small logical group: understand the threshold of “too many” (though Spool did not specify what this threshold is).
  3. Validate
    • Product page: deliver the right information so the purchaser can feel confident that it is the right product.
    • Example: Crutchfield employs good descriptions written in the purchaser’s terms.

A related tidbit that Spool shared: “Worried about cluttered pages? Remember that the page is only cluttered if the information is not relevant to you. If it’s relevant, than it’s useful, not cluttered.”
Weston Thompson

What makes users decide to purchase? And conversely, what makes them return empty handed? Jared Spool spoke to a packed room about the benefits of giving users confidence in your site to allow them to make important decisions.

In a recent study, users were given $1,000 dollars to spend on electronics at various shopping sites. The resulting spends as a proportion of the original stipend varied enormously: on crutchfield.com, users spent 237% of the stipend, on amazon.com just over 90%, and in others as little as 50%. Spool examined why test subjects did not have the confidence to spend their stipend on some sites, even though the purchases were free to them. He proposed that a good IA supports the three stages of shopping: winnowing (seeing a large selection of products and picking the correct range), selecting (picking the product to buy), and validating (checking that the selected choice is correct). Department pages (e.g. cameras), gallery pages (e.g. cameras under $150), and content pages (e.g. Kodak EasyShare Model 123) support these respective stages, and Spool gave specific recommendations for designing these pages.

The big surprise is that users don’t use content pages to make decisions: they are made at the selection stage, on gallery pages. Content pages are then used to validate these choices. As a result, the most successful shopping sites are designed to support funneling: users are given enough information at the gallery / selecting stage to have confidence that they are looking at the correct item by the time they view its content page. Less successful sites, on the other hand, are designed for ‘pogosticking’: users go back and forth between content pages and gallery pages. At the end of the presentation, Spool thanked an enthused audience for encouraging his behavior.
— Helen Leech

Evangelism 101
Dan Willis
Conference Description

Dan’s presentation was energetic and interesting. He outlined the key aspects of an evangelist, what they do and how to identify one. He presented his “8 random rules of evangelism,” which included “be shameless,” “be fuzzy,” “be tactile,” and “incite the riot.” He continued with a good explanation of ways that different people evangelize and how to work with evangelists.

Doesn’t sound much like IA? Dan connected evangelism and IA neatly-many of us are involved in selling what we do and what IA is about, and any help doing this is always appreciated.
Donna Maurer

Yet another dynamic, lively, engaging speaker, Dan Willis described the perils and joys of IA evangelism within a company, offering advice and tips. The key takeaway for me was that different kinds of evangelists-pirates and poets-each have certain personality traits and thus need to be nurtured differently in an organization. Timing, patience, and persistence seemed to be the top criteria for any evangelist pursuing positive change.
Uday Gajendar

Content Genres – The Hidden Workhorse of Information Architecture
Peter Merholz
Conference Description

PeterPeter Merholz presented an extended look at a rather simple idea: document genres. He started with the notion that IAs usually look at metadata in terms of author, title, and other descriptive aspects. But he countered that people approaching a task or goal seek custom tools; they need to know the genre of the document. Is it a guidebook, a map, or a weekly independent newspaper? Merholz emphasized that knowing the genre helps set expectations. Genres are often known by visual cues and affordances, but they are harder to convey online.

Merholz pointed out that we can find ways to use the notion of genre to help organize unwieldy content inventories, such as large intranets. Genres serve as trigger words for users, which help them move through these large document sets. Merholz acknowledged that this is similar to the notion of content type, but that content type often connotes format. Additionally, content type is jargon in the header of most markup schemes.

Merholz pointed out an example use of genre on the Trend Micro web site that helps it stand out from its competitor Symantec. Trend uses genre effectively on product pages to tie in Features, System Requirements, and White Papers. These links help users self-select without forcing them to segment out at the start of the information-seeking process. Merholz also showed mockups of how Clusty and Google could use genre to help people understand and filter their result sets. In his mock-up, his search for “information architecture ” on Clusty resulted in a set of genre types such as tutorials, weblogs, books, and essays, instead of what Clusty gives you now: a mixed-up list of related topics, sub-topics, keywords, and proper nouns.

Tying this into the popular world of content management systems, Merholz noted that genre relies on presentation/layout, so the CMS goal of separating those can be counterproductive. As a quick example, he showed a menu: well, we know it’s a menu because it looks like one, even though the actual content is pure gibberish. Likewise, he showed actual menu content set up like an essay, thereby obscuring its actual nature. Merholz stresses that presentation sets expectations of what the content is and what purpose it serves, how to use it. But Merholz found a way to bring the two together: He looked at the content delivery method (i.e., PC vs. PDA) as a genre. Then he analyzed sub-tasks to find which content delivery methods were best suited to the sub-task.

Merholz’s final thoughts were that genre will help us with information architecture, especially in large spaces, and that genre reminds us that IA is really about the content the fact that people are using it.
Weston Thompson

I profess to having an interest in this subject, and attended the session to primarily see what Peter Merholz was up to with thinking about genres and how we can leverage them in our designs.

Peter explained the basics of content genres– that we frequently know which ‘type’ of document or resource to use based on our previous experience with information. For example, when determining where to eat we might use a local free newspaper to find out about restaurants, then a map to get there. The physical content genres we use are not always used in the online world, and there are additional genres there that we do use.

Genres are not the same as templates. Peter discussed situations where a genre will use a particular template to reinforce the genre (and to provide recognizable shape); noting that in other cases many genres will use the same template.

Overall, this was a good summary. I’d be interested in seeing what happens when put to practical use, and whether genre identification really helps people to find and understand information. An IA research project perhaps…
Donna Maurer

The 2005 Information Architecture Slam: The Second Annual “Workshop with a Winner”
Lynn Boyden, Chris Chandler, Matthew Fetchko, Eric Reiss
Conference Description

The IA Slam involves teams of eight people working for 45 minutes to design a solution to an IA problem, with each team having 10 minutes to present the design. This year’s problem was ‘The Merger from Hell’ in which the teams had to design a new floor plan for the recently merged Bal-Mart and Fordstrom while maintaining the individual brand identities.

Not an IA problem? Of course it was. In coming up with this solution, we used many of the same skills we use when working on a website–managing team politics, identifying the problem, thinking about the customer experience, brainstorming and designing solutions, communicating our designs.

The winning team was announced at lunch next day, after a long and tiring evening of judging!

This was easily the highlight of the Summit for me. Thanks to team green for being the ‘most congenial’, and thanks to the organizers (who played their parts amazingly well) for once again running it.
Donna Maurer

Design Patterns in Enterprise UI Architectures
Karl Mochel
Conference description

This was a well-delivered (and much-needed) talk regarding the evolution of enterprise software UI architectures. While I don’t think Mochel spoke of design patterns in the true (Christopher Alexander) sense, he did a nice job distinguishing enterprise systems with specific qualifiers (transactional, frequent data entry, cross-functional dependencies, etc.), thereby presenting to the audience of IAs a different problem space than the one usually seen in CMS or intranets.

The presentation touched on a variety of ways to organize web-based enterprise functionality (persistent tab, tabless, and contextual tab)–each with its own benefits–derived from an understanding of the user’s questions and goals. Mochel also carefully pointed out the advantages of re-organizing functionality to correspond to the user’s goals, even while keeping the same pages in different locations. This concept was nicely demonstrated with a multi-step animation that showed a Marketing application morphing from one type of architecture to another, resulting in a slimmer structure overall. I think the audience found this animation most helpful in grokking the abstract concept of “enterprise architecture.”

Finally, Mochel described his interest in interactive visualizations and their connection to enterprise architectures, thereby enabling ways of “viewing into” complex datasets. As a next step, it would be great to see screenshots or an actual demo of an enterprise UI featuring examples of decision-making scenarios enabled by such interfaces and architectures. The foundation for exploration in this area has certainly been set with this talk.
Uday Gajendar

IA For the Personal Information Cloud
Thomas Vander Wal
Conference Description

The core idea that Thomas presented here is that, just like the Internet itself is a publishing cloud that we enter to find information, there is a personal cloud that is wholly within our purview, or within our perceived purview. What makes the personal information cloud so important to us as designers and architects of information spaces is that we need to be considering (beyond our current target zone) findability and initial-use. Once information is found and consumed, it will invariably need to be re-used, controlled, shared, and otherwise manipulated. What this means is that information will be structured and re-presented outside our control. No one is really thinking about this issue when they create their information spaces today. Issues of intellectual property, privacy, and brand all become huge concerns moving forward for people thinking about such spaces.

The portable nature of information brings up both concerns and challenges about the personal information cloud. Having information be contextualized to location, task, relationships, etc. means that we need to have a much better handle on how our information can be used way beyond how it will be found.
David Heller

Interface Design for Database-Intensive Web Applications
Jessica Jackson & Rick Omanson
Conference description

This presentation examined the fundamentals of interface design when applied to large, database-driven sites such as catalogs and libraries. Scalability and transactionality were offered as the driving influences that can impact the interface design in these sites, and Jackson cited various examples, including CDW and the Library of Congress, with its millions of items. Some key issues included the familiar problems of orientation, navigation, and operations within a large-scale site. The typical questions of “how to organize the content” and “how to help the user find an item” were also examined, along with a summation of some options, including multilevel navigation and breadcrumbs. Predictably, a lively discussion ensued over the value of breadcrumbs: should they show history or architecture, their location and usage, etc.

I think what emerged from this talk was a set of basic heuristics and issues–not completely novel or profound–for designers of large inventory sites to consider. It would have been more compelling to examine the challenges of emerging technologies (Flash, wikis/blogs) and the increasing need for search/find/remember functionality within large sites: What are their interactions and how should the architectures respond to them, given the live database connection? There may also have been a missed opportunity to deeply explore what “live-ness” means to interfaces and the supporting IA, and how it can make them very dynamic and configurable.
Uday Gajendar

Overview & Pre-sessions | Saturday Sessions | Sunday & Monday Sessions

Crossing Boundaries: 2005 IA Summit Wrapup: Sunday, Monday

Written by: B&A Staff

Session Summaries and Reviews

Sunday March 6

The Information Architecture of Things – Part I: What If a Button Really Is a Button?
Bill DeRouchey
Conference Description

In the first of two IA of Things sessions, Bill DeRouchey looked at the need for IA in physical product design, a growing area as products begin to incorporate more complex information spaces. The IA principles we are used to from web projects still apply to physical objects, but the details of deliverables and documentation don’t always carry over. DeRouchey notes that a basic starting point is changed in product design. On the web, the action is (almost) always “screen1–click–screen2,” allowing designers to assume that action in most documentation and planning. For physical objects, designers have to specify the action, meaning there must be more physical detail.

In his experience, DeRouchey has found that the sitemap morphs into a functional map, inventorying all possible flows and detailing the sequence of events in a user interaction. The functional map starts at the top with the “at rest” state, then branches out into the sequences of actions and events, finally returning to the “at rest” state. Similarly, the wireframe is replaced by wireflows. In combination with scenarios, wireflows show the sequence of events screen by screen.

interactionmatrix.gifDeRouchey shared one of his most important lessons: due to the continuous rapid prototyping of the object, the physical layout of the controls is too fluid to document and the actions are also in flux throughout the design cycle. Interestingly, the fact that the object hasa physicality that must be accounted for in the functional maps and wireflows, means that designers also need more abstraction in the documentation. Instead of specifying the exact controls and actions in the documents, DeRouchey calls for the use of an interaction matrix that lists all functions and relates them to actions (i.e., use of controls). The interaction matrix also helps ensure that designers account for all possible states/action. By abstracting to this level, designers need only update the interaction matrix–not all other documents–as the physical object changes.

For the prototyping stage, DeRouchey suggested using Flash, since it lends itself to showing the actions.
Weston Thompson

This presentation is a great example of the mislabeling of “information architecture,” when what is really meant is either “user experience” or in this case “interaction design.” The presentation that Bill gave was excellent and of tremendous value to anyone who is working on information systems that have a physical device component. The content of the presentation excellently presented the differences in solution and in methods used to derive a designed solution when moving from a purely virtual (Bill focused on the web side of virtual solutions) to solutions that are a hybrid of virtual and physical interactions. The most important two components of these differences are 1) the level of complex modality that exists within most physical devices; and 2) because the behaviors within these solutions are so transitional in nature, using our conventional methods of storyboarding/wireframing are inefficient or ineffective.

My one complaint here, which I feel I must present, is that much if not all of what Bill presented could be equally attributed to most software products. If we think beyond the web into more rich software solutions such as games, productivity software, even collaboration tools, we will find much more rich modality between the software and the existing physical I/O devices that make up the PC. Again, this presentation really discusses the importance of understanding interaction design in order for us to be better at creating interfaces for any information system that is beyond the simple web.
David Heller

The Information Architecture of Things – Part 2: Twenty Years of Lessons Learned
James Leftwich
Conference Description

This was an amazing retrospective of the influences, work, methods, and artifacts of a designer who has been working with and exploring spaces where virtual and physical meet for over 20 years. During this time, he discovered a path that took him through the creation and use of information spaces. He was an early convert to the use of metadata to help with the management and particularly the visualization of information. He had two dyads worth exploring. The first was metaverse versus myverse, where a “metaverse” is a singular structure meant to be visited and consumed and a “myverse” where the structure is dynamic dependent on use, context, and relationships. The other was the use of the term “cyberspace”-that this space is visited and there is a sense of a “downtown” where more things seem to happen. He broke down the myth that there is too much information by acknowledging that the entire universe is nothing but information, and claims that through using better visual tools we can succeed at taming it.
David Heller

A Foray across Boundaries: Applying IA to Business Strategy and Planning
Richard Dalton, Rob Weening
Conference Description

During this practical case study Richard and Rob explained how they had applied the skills they developed as IAs to two different business problems. The first was to discover the features and interest in a potential new service; the second was to identify “broken things” in an existing service.

During these projects, they used many of the techniques we use in IA projects: data collection, analysis, organizing and labeling. They used an analysis method similar to Adaptive Path’s mental model technique to analyze client and staff comments and to identify capabilities that matched both. They thought hard about different ways to communicate with management and stakeholders-all skills that we use frequently.
Donna Maurer

This presentation was a case study of information architects becoming involved in the strategic planning process. Vanguard’s IAs had three goals for their involvement: to make better use of client/user research; to make better use of data to drive decision-making; to create visual analysis tools for business decision makers. One project undertaken focused on discovering new business opportunities, while the other focused on identifying broken business processes and recommending improvements.

For the “discover new” project, IAs worked with members of the user research group who conducted interviews with internal and external users and stakeholders. Relevant quotes from the interviews were extracted and grouped like a combination of affinity diagrams and card sorting exercises. The final deliverable was a large poster that presented a visualization of the expressed (and often unmet) needs of users. This poster was pored over by business stakeholders and influenced the strategy and budgetary spending for 2005.

For the “identify broken” project, the initial process was much the same, starting with interviews and continuing with the extraction of relevant details. A spreadsheet was created to list the high-level tasks, and associated “points of pain,” with ratings being added by SMEs to indicate severity. Graphs attempted to tie efficiency problems to quality issues, but it was a challenge to determine how to present the graphs to business stakeholders. Ultimately, the scope of the project changed, making the project less successful for reasons outside the control of the IA group.

This foray into business planning was successful but challenging. The Vanguard team recommends patience when introducing organizational and process change, and notes you will likely encounter skepticism (from groups who wonder why “web design” people are involved in strategic planning). Working as a group allowed the project to gain perspectives from multiple IAs, which was especially beneficial as the process and deliverables were “invented” along the way.
Jeff Lash

Change, Influence and IA at the BBC
Margaret Hanley
Conference Description
I was pleased to see a number of presentations at the IA Summit that addressed the issue of internal politics. Margaret’s presentation was one of these.

This case study outlined how Margaret had managed to implement a project involving detailed IA and metadata, selling it to staff and management with different backgrounds and priorities. She noted that there were significant changes needed to systems, people and content; and that incremental change, connecting with people and using networks were the key success factors in this project.
Donna Maurer

Rich Internet Applications (panel)
Dennis Schleicher, Jennifer King, Tara Diachenko, Pat Callow, Gene Smith, Livia Labate, Todd Warfel

The panel was started with an introduction to some basic concepts as best understood by this panel about RIAs: that there is a change in focus from the page to transitions and flows. This is a change from single scene or screen focus to one where solutions now have more of a sense of story with a narrative, plot, climax, and even character development. Current uses for RIAs are in the areas of guided selling and banking.

Dennis then outlined how users experience RIAs differently from more conventional frameworks. Transitions are modally specific, you rest less between change states, and change is more gradual. Then Jennifer and Tara demonstrated two examples of RIAs (one for White Castle and one for Ford Vehicles). Both were good explanations of why the RIA added value to the experience of the user. The White Castle example in particular demonstrated this well by showing competitive solutions that didn’t meet the full user expectation due to the limitations of either the framework being used in the presentation of the solution, or the way that the design did not free itself from convention (of the page metaphor) even though it was using an RIA framework.

What was missing from both of these examples was the clear demonstration of who preparing the metadata for the content objects was a core contributor to why these RIAs were able to exist and create the behaviors they had. Gene then tried to explore the problem that RIAs is trying to solve and what remaining problems it has to still overcome. He also broke down where RIAs might be more useful in the immediate need. Livia brought out the issue of behavior tracking and metrics and that metrics are more than possible in an RIA, but we need to design metrics into the equation intentionally. Todd closed by breaking down the different platform options for: Flash, Java, AJ+X (ajax), others. Then touched on why current deliverables from the IA are not good enough. Like Bill DeRouchey’s presentation, which had a similar look at the failing of “wireframes,” I have to say that I was disappointed that people didn’t look beyond the IA community for these answers.

This has a very lively question and answer period. People challenged the user-benefit of RIAs and whether or not we really are moving away from “the page” metaphor, or whether or not we are ready to even make this leap if it is one at all. My contribution to this discussion was one of encouraging us to take risks, fail admirably and succeed deliciously. We have been stagnant for far too long and we are starting to see the effects of that stagnation on our space.
David Heller

Practical Global IA
Peter Van Dijck, Jorge Arango, Livia Labate>
Conference Description

Peter Van Dijck, Jorge Arango, and Livia Labate led an informal session on the practical aspects of global IA. They briefly presented some starting points and then opened the floor for discussion. To begin discussions they pointed out that there is a lot of globalization (i.e., in business and marketing), but very little shared or documented about IA in the global setting. They also noted that headquarters (or clients) may assume that you can build something in the US and then roll it out worldwide with no heed given to differences in how different cultures approach the information. The panelists suggested that some content is more suited to this type of approach, such as factual, static, non-marketing content, but that branding and marketing might not fare as well.

Some of the more interesting observations from the audience:

  • You can count on some things carrying over and others not, so isolate those that don’t. It will be easier to alter the taxonomy to accommodate the changes if you start that way.
  • For internal resources it is more acceptable to make the IA the same across countries. Even so, it is best to test, since people may be making workarounds to cope with differences that they don’t consider problems or that you don’t recognize.
  • Company culture may override local culture.
  • Domain knowledge/culture may override local culture. Examples were academics, physicists, and physicians.
  • People may say “we’re different ” than other people (based on geographical or political differences, but tests may reveal that they are not different.
  • Cultural myths: we need data to understand the reality, not the myths.
  • Geert Hofstede’s “Cultural Dimensions ” can be good for what it is, but can be abused/misused. Use it as a recognition framework not a development framework.
  • Research techniques do not always work across cultures due to basic differences (i.e., norms of deference and ability to speak honestly about product).
  • Important to have cross-cultural, bilingual person for testing.
  • Each person belongs to many cultures. Internet culture is an important one.

Weston Thompson

Implementing a Pattern Library in the Real World: A Yahoo! Case Study
Erin Malone, Matt Leacock, Chanel Wheeler
Conference Description

This was one of the most practical sessions I attended. The Yahoo team identified a need for increased consistency and stronger brand in their websites (haven’t we all) and a need to leverage collective knowledge about design strategies. A pattern library seemed to be just the answer.

The project involved the selection of a content management system, the development of the library and substantial change and communications.

The messages I took away include:

  • Don’t let technology decide process
  • Patterns don’t need to be exhaustive
  • Consider the way the content needs to be used – design it to be read in a hurry, and provide deeper background information
  • The content must be credible

The case study has been written up as a paper, which is much more useful than this review. You can find it at http://leacock.com/patterns/.
Donna Maurer

Leading a team of IAs: The Manager’s Perspective
Victor Lombardi, Liz Danzico, Neil Wehrle, Karen McGrane
Conference Description

This panel provided more information on how to manage one’s own career than to manage other IAs, but the tips and insight provided were pertinent and useful to beginner / intermediate IAs and those looking to get into the field.

Neil Wehrle covered “Getting Hired,” with attention paid to how to develop a portfolio, have a successful interview, and handle the offer negotiation process.

Victor Lombardi discussed “Developing Your Skill Set,” providing details for IAs on “what you won’t learn in school or books.” Research, experimentation, collaboration, and invention were noted as the main areas to focus on, along with applying IA skills to other areas.

Karen McGrane focused on “Managing Your Performance,” described as how information architects form a relationship with their manager and employer. The presentation covered goal setting, annual reviews, salary reviews, and performance problems, areas that are not specific to IA, but presented as general HR information with an IA slant.

Liz Danzico talked about “Next Steps,” offering tips on how to grow in your career within the IA discipline, or across disciplines. Building task forces, attending in-house training, pursuing continuing education, crossing discipline boundaries, networking internally and externally, moving locations, and entering management were all discussed.
Jeff Lash

The Practice of Enterprise IA: 10 Giant Mistakes I Made This Year
Lorelei Brown
Conference Description

Lorelei presented a refreshingly honest look at a project that involved selecting and implementing a CMS, mapping the site, creating new navigation, labeling & visual design, migrating all content, and tagging with metadata–all in 18 months.

I won’t list out the mistakes, as the lessons learned are more useful than the actual mistakes. Lorelei encouraged the audience to remember that other people don’t want to know how everything works, they just want the outcome; that it is incredibly important not to oversell the project; and that you should be willing to take risks.
Donna Maurer

Information Architecture and Alzheimer’s Disease: Using IA to Improve the Lives of Those with Impaired Cognition
D. Grant Campbell
Conference Description

For me, this was the most interesting session of the conference, and I’m pleased that I didn’t miss it (I had planned to go to a different session as I didn’t read my schedule right).

Grant Campbell has spent a lot of time since last year’s summit examining literature from a number of fields, learning about what happens to people’s ability to categorize during early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

For a complex topic, he presented it in a very approachable manner. He explained the different memory types and what happens to memory in early Alzheimer’s–semantic memory degenerates which affects the way people categorize. The literature indicates that people extend names to familiar items, lose the detailed levels of categorization and retain the superordinate categories. He provided some implications for the way we might categorize information for people with early Alzheimer’s disease, but indicated that much research would need to be done before we could be confident in supplying solutions.
Donna Maurer

StUX: Integrating IA Deliverables in a Web Application Development Methodology
Peter Boersma
Conference Description

In this session, Peter Boersma presented a look at how his company approached user-centered design methodology. The company had adopted IBM’s Rational Unified Process (RUP) as its software development methodology and tool. A fine tool, said Boersma, except that it does not model the user-centered design aspects. To be most effective, his team developed a complete model that fits onto the RUP. They call it Standards for User Experience or StUX.

Boersma said that his team brainstormed to document their process and deliverables, including how they relate to those of other units in the company. Then they structured the results in a diagram that mapped deliverables to phases in the process. The diagram showed RUP streams on one axis (input, inception, elaboration, construction) and UX streams on the other (system analysis, IA and Interaction Design, Usability and Accessibility Testing, Content Design, Visual Design and Information Design). The diagram led to recognition of overlap in artifacts (deliverables and documentation), so they reviewed those and described them in structured templates. Over several months, the team refined the workflow and the deliverables. As possible, they used standard IT terminology for the UX aspects.

Boersma said that using StUX led to consistent terminology and practices within the UX team. That, in turn, led to other teams understanding the UX parts better, expecting certain things, recognizing things, and calling them by right name. He stressed importance of developing your own methodology that matches your company, your team, and your needs. Boersma said that simply importing somebody else’s methodology misses most of the benefits.

Boersma likened StUX to having a cupboard full of all possible ingredients that you use in your kitchen: you don’t use all each time you cook, but you have some consistency and great familiarity with how they all work and come together. He said you may call it a framework, if that helps you see it as not limiting or too daunting. In closing, Boersma emphasized that even if you cannot follow your methodology as closely as desired, it helps to have a document to hand over to other teams to explain what you do, how it fits into the big picture, and that you are serious.
Weston Thompson

A Context for Interaction Design
David Heller
Conference Description

David Heller’s session presented his look at the relationship between IA, interaction design (IxD), and user experience (UX). Heller said that the Web has had a big role in bringing UX out as a domain, since it brought together disparate groups that didn’t mix much in the past (software engineering, library science, gaming, graphic design, marketing). For his talk, Heller focused on digital product design, not the biggest picture of experience design (that would encompasses call centers and such).

Heller looked at existing models for explaining and relating the UX areas: Shedroff (All the Skills), Morville (All the Goals), Garrett (Tasks for a Project), Hodge (All the Disciplines), and Knemeyer. Then he took on the task himself. His goal was to represent the relationships while minimizing jargon and clarifying big versus little. Interestingly, Heller started with the solution and broke down what leads to it, starting with the concept, then the form, until he reached the “disciplines ” that make up the aspects of the solution. Heller said that there are many disciplines in our toolkit (i.e., IA, I design, interaction design, etc.,) and that in our work we are crossing boundaries, regardless of our title. He then mapped of those disciplines to the various aspects of the solution (i.e., validation is Usability Engineering; structure is IA; behavior is IxD).

In the second part of his talk, Heller focused on interaction design and its relationship to IA–a couple made in heaven. He sees IA covering findability and metadata, while IxD covers search/browse and wayfinding. In closing, Heller asked us to remember that our questions may have answers in other disciplines.
Weston Thompson

Overview & Pre-sessions | Saturday Sessions | Sunday & Monday Sessions

Monday March 7

Inspire Designers, Persuade Stakeholders: The Twin Goals of Customer Research
Rashmi Sinha
Conference Description

Rashmi Sinha started her session with these words: Art of War. Before fully explaining the war, she graded IAs in two categories:

  • Inspiring Design: A
  • Impacting business: D

As Don Norman said, “the action is with the people who decide what product to build in the first place. ” Sinha proposes that we use strategic customer research to help define business strategy.

First, Sinha said we must understand marketing, since marketing has a big place at the corporate table. It’s important for us to understand the definition of market research and its goals: establishing what product, what place, what price, and what promotion. Marketing uses the term segmentation scheme, or simply segmentation, for how they define the customers that are central to their organization or product. They will judge our personas based on that segmentation scheme. For more information, see the Handbook of Marketing (2000). In her research, Sinha found a 1993 quote on card sorts in the marketing literature. She asks why IAs don’t know or recognize this background in our work.

Then Sinha brought back her Art of War analogy, saying that we need to practice the three aspects of the art: co-opt, pre-empt, and combat. She focused on co-opting marketing. Sinha provided a personal example of how she did joint research with a marketing department. It went well, and she won their acceptance on other findings and recommendations.

In closing, Sinha offered a series of tips, including:

  • Be flexible about methods. Be willing to use marketing’s methods and terminology.
  • Use two different sets of deliverables: one for marketing/business, and one for design/development.
  • Don’t lose your core IA strengths along the way.

Weston Thompson

Making the Most of Controlled Vocabularies in Search Interfaces
Chris Farnum
Conference Session

Chris Farnum started with the point that if you put time into indexing content, you should make sure to leverage it in the search interface. An important aspect is training people to go beyond the “Google-style approach” — that is, just typing in a keyword or two and hoping for the best. Instead, we should encourage our users to browse the controlled vocabulary and we should place opportunities to use and learn about metadata in the users’s path, without requiring its usage.

For real-world examples, Farnum looked at a typical ProQuest article that has metadata galore. ProQuest leverages metadata in their search interface in five ways:

  1. More Like This or Berry-picking. Find one hit that’s good and then find others like it (i.e., based on the subject). Farnum showed how to do this by letting the user see the metadata with sideways links like Google’s “similar pages.” He also pointed out that this is a good way to support bottom-up searching.
  2. Browsing. Have the user browse the controlled vocabulary instead of searching. Epicurious uses editorially-controlled taxonomy for browsing, based on their thesaurus, offering a way for novices to explore easily. Farnum suggested trying to make this approach data-driven.
  3. Field Indexes. Let your interface help users select terms for each search field from your controlled vocabularies. Farnum stressed that this should be simple and optional.
  4. Thesaurus. If you have a thesaurus, show it off! Farnum said that is especially for useful for expert searchers.
  5. Search Term Suggestions. Farnum pointed out that users take more time on a results page than on the search page, so it is a golden opportunity to help them refine with their search. This is where you should suggest topics, searches, narrowing filters, and other approaches.

In closing, Farnum stressed that these are models for inspiration, not templates, and that you should (of course), choose and adapt based on your audience. The point is to take full advantage of the controlled vocabularies you invest in.
Weston Thompson

Talking the Talk: Helping IAs Speak the Language of Business
Scott Hirsch, Jim Leftwich, Harry Max, Jess McMullin, Dave Robertson

Jess McMullin moderated this panel, which focused on “how IAs can talk with business leaders to have greater impact and influence with their clients or organizations.” The key is in understanding the language of business, rather than in expecting business leaders to learn our language, and being able to “speak to the needs of business in the terms that they would use if they were talking about it themselves.”

Scott Hirsch, who comes from a business background, discussed the seducible moment, which is the optimal time to influence a decision. For management, three points of pain can be brought up to create a seducible moment: technology being broken; the company missing an opportunity to make money or reduce costs; or, some combination of the first two. By defining the problem in language they can understand and describing value in terms of pain, you can then describe why the design or research work being proposed will help alleviate that problem.

Jim Leftwich described his organic process where he learned more and more over the course of his design career. Instead of talking about usability and interfaces, he talks about opportunities in the marketplace, the competitive landscape, and creating advantages through patent protection. He noted that the biggest devaluer of design could be the designers themselves, and that charging lower rates than other professional services (e.g., legal) implies that design services aren’t as valuable.

Dave Robertson noted how, in addition to talking in different language to different internal stakeholders, each business has its own language, and the basic circular UCD process of research/plan/test can be used to understand businesses.

Harry Max said that the basic idea of user-centered design is flawed, because we are focusing on the user rather than the value we can bring to an organization. In speaking with different stakeholders in an organization, that value needs to be presented differently. For example, an executive should focus on the current situation, articulate the vision, the quantifiable impact of the solution, and then, if time is left, talk about the plan. However, with a manager or individual contributor, the order is the exact opposite, starting with the plan, then the solution, the impact, the vision, etc.
Jeff Lash

Beyond the Page
Gene Smith
Conference Description

Gene Smith started his session by looking back at some conversations from the AIfIA retreat of October 2004. He heard participants questioning the continued relevancy of certain traditional IA tools and conceits. Those discussions inspired him to looked at the page metaphor and how it is breaking:

From To
Page is basic presentation unit Screens, panels, containers
Page is basic organization unit Multiple, arbitrary units, (e.g. posts)
Web is consumed as pages Web is a platform
Stuff is assembled into pages Stuff is delivered outside the browser

Smith pointed out how it extends to our notation systems like flow diagrams (the Visual Vocabulary), site maps, and wire frames, which need to be supplanted with a new generation of documents and deliverables. Smith says this change comes about from disruptive trends like RIAs, RSS/Atom/XML content, and the blurring boundaries between desktop and web. He felt that RIAs played the biggest role in this change, especially due to the transparent transitions that are not page-based. Smith suggested that documenting those transitions might be accomplished with a flows–from a Start State Wireframe to an End State Wireframe–with callouts that explain specific page items. As the page paradigm gives way, Smith said we will see a move toward interaction design, a move from content to software, and a bigger focus on metrics.

Smith then looked at RSS/XML. RSS’s flexible content model allows the user to choose how to consume and display content. Smith pointed out that this may lead to things like algorithmic IA, personal interface (architecture) definitions, and device-dependent architecture.

Smith found that the blurring boundaries between web/desktop are another factor in this beyond the page trend, such as Web 2.0 and its Internet-enabled desktop applications. But, simultaneously, he described a divergence due to multiple synchable, sharable devices. Thus, we need an abstraction of IA – making it less tied to the physical device. Smith said soon we may have more emphasis on content re-use and content modeling, less emphasis on taxonomy or structure.

After a quick tour through some sample deliverables and artifacts, Smith concluded that the page is not dead: it is still valuable, but the metaphor is aging. During the Q&A period, Jesse James Garrett commented that he had used the Visual Vocabulary on an Ajax project recently, and that it had worked well, except it started to break down in representing transitions via wireframes.
Weston Thompson

Machines of Loving Grace: User experience for ubiquitous computing environments
Mike Kuniavsky
Conference Description

In this presentation, Mike first outlined the fundamentals and history of ubiquitous computing. He then provided a number of examples of recent ubiquitous devices and discussed the implications for user interface design (e.g. that we might not be designing a display and input methods are entirely different). He also discussed the different ways that we use ubiquitous computing–rather than a computer in an office–ubiquitous devices can become very intimate items that are highly embedded in our personal spaces.

He wrapped up with some discussion about ethics and how easy it is to create technologies that have a bad impact on our society, referencing Adam Greenfield’s article All watched over by machines of loving grace: Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings for more information on this aspect.
Donna Maurer

Why Amazon is Not Enough
Brett Lider
Conference Description

Brett Lider presented an intriguing look at what Amazon is not doing in its CRM efforts and opportunities that he sees for expanding this arena in the age of Web 2.0. Lider started out by saying he was only picking on Amazon because they are an industry leader, and that they need a challenge now and then.

Lider quickly explained that Amazon is doing a lot with social networks, good algorithms, and providing APIs for external services to reach in—but they are doing precious little to go out after data sources that could help them serve customers better. He described this situation as common one in an age of e-commerce bound by “siloed technical platforms”).

So how can Amazon move beyond this? Lider sees the answer in Web 2.0. He presented the Wikipedia definition of Web 2.0, but found it focused only on the technical aspects. Lider provided his own sense of what Web 2.0 really means: social networks, desktop information, browser history, tastes and preferences, and analog information. But it is the bringing together of these areas that Lider sees as the exciting potential of Web 2.0.

Lider presented some examples of low-hanging fruit ready for the taking: Evite could partner with LinkedIn so that users don’t have to recreate social networks for Evite; the iTunes store could use a person’s iTunes player history file from the desktop to personalize the store front. From here, Lider launched into a look at a suite of Web 2.0 tools used for C2B (customer to business) relationships.

Lider noted that the Harvard Business Review had just run an article on customer-managed interactions (CMI) that matches his notion of C2B, and he sees the coming C2B as a place for proactive IAs to have a serious impact.
Weston Thompson

Overview & Pre-sessions | Saturday Sessions | Sunday & Monday Sessions

Goodbye 2004, Hello to Another Good Year

Written by: B&A Staff
“I’m so very grateful to you, dear readers and writers, because day after day you make me smarter.”–Christina Wodtke”At the end of 2004, we are all looking back at the year and taking stock of where things are, how the year has passed and what we made of it. I am thankful for this past year–I changed jobs (moved to Yahoo!) and am happier than I have been over the past three years, I have expanded my photography explorations, I trained for and completed my first century cycle race and through it all Boxes and Arrows has been a constant.

Boxes and Arrows has gone through some ups and downs this year as well. Christina and I decided to ask our readers to help us redesign, and we had a lot of fun reviewing submissions from around the world. Look for a redesign in mid-2005. We have also been researching a new CMS system, looking for something that is geared towards periodical publishing with editors and multiple levels of administration and publishing. If you have ideas, we would love to hear them.

The end of this year also sees Brenda Janish retiring as editor. Brenda, who started as a copyeditor at the very beginning before we launched and evolved into a full editor soon after, helped me carry the editorial load for about a year before our other great editors joined us. Brenda is still going to be copyediting, but we will miss her editorial vision. Thanks for everything Brenda.

With Brenda’s retirement, we would like to announce the addition of Molly Wright Steenson as a new editor on our staff. Welcome Molly.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our other editors, Liz Danzico and Dorelle Rabinowitz–both of whom also changed jobs this year–as did Christina. As you can tell, it has been a bit tumultuous for the staff this year and through it all we still continue to publish. Thanks go out as well to our copyeditors who help support the editorial staff and our great technical guru, Kirk Franklin.

Most of all, I want to thank all of our authors–for your patience, for your continued interest in writing for us, even when we get busy and take forever to respond. Thanks for the great things I continue to learn and for keeping us honest.

A final thanks goes to you, the reader, without whom we would not exist. You keep us going.

Erin Malone
Editor in chief

Time for reflection, new beginnings, and giving thanks

Ah the holidays. Time for reflection, new beginnings and giving thanks. Since I recently made a fresh new career move, and in the process moved far away from most of my family and friends, I’ve been thinking lately about what’s important to me and what I’m thankful for–and Boxes and Arrows is up there on my list. Not just because of the thought-provoking, career-helping, and all-around interesting content, but also because it’s given me the chance to serve as an editor.

So first of all, thanks to Boxes and Arrows for letting me come on board. I wanted the chance to give back to this community–but instead I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

I’ve been an editor now for over a year, and I’ve had the chance to work with many remarkable people–some have shared my passion for user experience design and some have shared their unique points of views, and I’ve learned from them all. Another common trait is their patience–sometimes trying to fit B&A into my overwhelming works schedule leaves many author’s articles in my to-do pile too long. Thanks to each of you.

At each industry event I’ve attended someone recognizes my name from B&A and I’ve been able to have another conversion about Information Architecture or Interaction design or Big IA vs Little IA. Thanks to those folks.

Since my world is one big six-degrees of separation game, I wouldn’t be at Yahoo! without B&A either. I’m thankful to all the Yahoos who welcomed me as if they knew me, especially to my UED team, and to those people who said nice things about me so I could come here.

I’m grateful and impressed by all the people who entered the redesign contest, coming up with ideas to improve something we all care so much about.

Remembering why I made the choice to devote my time to this “peer-written journal” and all the benefits I’ve received from that choice make me extremely thankful. Are there any other wannabe volunteers out there who’d like to get back much more then they put in?

Dorelle Rabinowitz
Editor

Authors + context = happiness

Reflecting back on my work with Boxes and Arrows in 2004, I must admit that I’m most thankful for the exchage of ideas I get to have with the authors. Exchanging ideas on big-picture IA concepts, reader needs, as well as the best way to hypenate a title: I look forward to it all with every first draft I receive.

I suppose that I’m most thankful, then, to be part of the context-making. Boxes and Arrow’s shiny and sometimes controversial outside and the messy and industrious inside–to me, this wholeness is the real context of the article. Further, helping to publish an issue of Boxes and Arrows is about creating context for our readers. We work to create meaningful combinations through the juxtaposition of articles. And I like to get involved in the working insides where the author-editor context is (Not to be overlooked is the discussion section of the site where authors, readers, editors, and other surprise guests create their own new contexts.).

So thanks to all the authors I’ve worked with in 2004. I’ve been flattered to be on the inside as part of your process: Nancy Broden, Jeff English, Alex Kirtland, Brian Krause, Marisa Gallagher, Victor Lombardi, Max Lord, Laura Quinn, Tanya Rabourn, Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo, Chris Ricci, Jason Withrow, Jonathan Woytek, Liam Friedman (not yet published), Maggie Law (not yet published), John Rhodes (not yet published), Andrea Streight (not yet published).

Liz Danzico
Editor

Have Yourself a Merry Little Fourth Quarter

Here we are again, at the end of another year. This is the time of year when Erin likes to remind me when we started our little magazine, I said I would be happy if it lasted sixth months. Well, I would have been, so you can imagine my delight that we are entering our fourth year of publishing articles for the professional designer.

Cooper chartWhen we started B&A, all the magazines I could find were either full of beginner articles on design, or academic articles, accessible only by experts. I had Inmates Are Running the Asylum open on my desk as I contemplated this phenomenon, and saw the chart where Cooper illustrates how designers design for beginners and experts, but the vast majority of users are actually intermediates. It struck me that that was true of my experience as a reader, and I set out with many of my friends to try to create a magazine we would want to read. Since then a number of other websites have begun providing more advanced discussions of design, but B&A has managed to continue to attract smart people who both write articles and then enrich them further with smart commentary. I’m amazed and delighted every other week when I see what the Boxes and Arrows community (along with its caretakers, the editors) have brought into the world.

I’m so very grateful to you, dear readers and writers, because day after day you make me smarter. When I think a realm is done and buried, you surprise me with something new–a perspective, a technique, a persuasive argument–I hadn’t thought of, and once again I feel the pleasant sensation of the cogs in my head turning. I consider my small work of sending out updates, paying for hosting, and dusting out the comment spam as a miniscule price to pay for the intelligence shown here on these pages. As publisher I feel humble, because I know all I did was open a door to all the insight that was already there.

And so I thank you all, and hope you will stay with us as we embark on our biggest adventure yet–taking B&A to the next level with a new platform, a new architecture, and a new design.

I hug you all.

Christina Wodtke
Publisher
Boxes and Arrows

Boxes and Arrows Redesign

Written by: B&A Staff

UPDATED This just in: Hillman Curtis joins the panel of judges. The entry deadline has been extended until August 15th, 2004. We compiling put together a crack judging team and have currently confirmed: Andrei Herasimchuk, John Rhodes, Lou Rosenfeld, Nathan Shedroff, and Jared Spool.

When Boxes and Arrows first launched in 2001, we were blessed with the design from the talented Gabe Zentall. B&A has been growing and changing and evolving since then, and it’s time to freshen up a bit. But because we love the vibrant community that has made us—from the articles to the amazing discussion in the comments, we’d like to go one step further. We’d like to ask you to redesign us.

Erin Malone, Chief Editor and sometime IA has sketched out a site map and a few wireframes [56k PDF] to get you started. But from here the sky is the limit. Do you think the IA needs stretching? Or has she got it nailed? Should our design get sassier? Or is cool and restrained right where we need to be?

We’ll take submissions until August 1st. Then our panel of celebrity judges (list coming soon!) will ponder over each design’s usability, stylishness, and clarity to pick the future design of B&A. As well as being the designer of B&A, your first prize will be a set of professional books from the fine publishers at PeachPit Press (the parents to New Riders)!

Please take a second to read through the rules and background materials. Then get our your pencils and start sketching!

Rules:
Submission consist of three flat files (preferably png, but gif and jpg will be accepted) of a front page, a search results page and an article page. Please zip these three files and email to: prettyface [at] boxesandarrows.com. No code required. Supporting materials such as adjusted sitemaps, or other supporting pages are acceptable.

The logo is not up for redesign.

All submissions must be completed by August 1st, 2004.

All work must be your original design. Group submissions accepted.

Final design will be implemented on B&A. However, changes as required by technological or usability needs may be made. All entrants will be published for the general edification and pleasure of the community.

Supporting material
Some stats

Top 10 domains pie chart
Listing the top 10 domains by the number of requests, sorted by the amount of traffic.

Browser breakdown pie chart
Listing the top 5 browsers by the number of requests, sorted by the number of requests for pages.

Operating systems pie chart
Listing operating systems, sorted by the number of requests for pages.

Some requirements:
Our users tend to be designers or usability professionals. They print heavily, and complain bitterly about bad print set-ups, low contrast fonts or tiny fonts.

The site must:

  • Be easy to maintain
  • Load quickly
  • Be easy to read online as well as printed
  • Must appeal to everyone from Clement Mok to Jared Spool (both regular readers!)
  • Support advertising, yet not get in the way of reader’s pleasure
  • Have a distinct magazine feel—this is NOT a blog.
  • Must clearly message design but not alienate via arrogance.

The support staff is all volunteer, and Boxes and Arrows currently doesn’t make a dime. Therefore all design solutions must consider a low free maintenance strategy.

The future site will feature advertising. It is not yet determined if this will be text-only, a la Google Adsense, or include image ads as well. The designer may consider this in his/her realm of recommendations.

Feel free to use the comments section for further requirements gathering! We, the staff, will answer publicly for all to learn!

  • Site map and a few wireframes [56k PDF]
    http://www.boxesandarrows.com/archives/images/062104_redesign/Boxes_Arrows_IA.pdf
  • EPS logo [190k]
    http://www.boxesandarrows.com/archives/images/062104_redesign/logoSpecs.eps
  • PDF logo [68k]
    http://www.boxesandarrows.com/archives/images/062104_redesign/logoSpecs.pdf

Day 1: IA Summit 2004 Wrapup

Written by: B&A Staff

Five years and counting. This year’s ASIS&T IA Summit, held in Austin Texas, seemed to me to be the best yet. Perhaps it is because of a lighter mood in the air, or because there are more jobs than ever being advertised, or because this year there wasn’t a war starting at the same time as the summit. Or maybe it was just because we were in Texas, where everything is bigger, and we were communing with our people after a long year.

Texas Longhorn painting in the hotel.
(photo Erin Malone)
MJ and Lou Rosenfeld and Javier Velasco with baby Iris—complete with conference badge.
(photo Mike Lee)
Club DeVille: Location of the Adaptive Path birthday party

(photo Mike Lee)

Whatever the reason, this year’s summit, themed “Breaking New Ground,” seemed to have the right mix of new and returning folks, a nice variety of interesting and well-attended pre-conference workshops and several tracks of presentations to suit the IA of every flavor. While deciding which presentation to attend was at times daunting, you were guaranteed not to be disappointed no matter your choice. My only regret was that I couldn’t be in three places at once.

The Friday cocktail hour was lively and a first chance to catch up with old friends as well as an opportunity to meet new folks. This was also our collective chance to meet the newest IA, Lou and MJ Rosenfeld’s baby girl, Iris, complete with her own badge. Cocktails were followed with a lot of smaller groups doing the “Texas barbecue thang” and finally the three year birthday party for Adaptive Path–drinks supplied. Needless to say, the first few hours of the summit were jovial and festive and promised for a great weekend.
Erin Malone
[Editor’s note: while we attempted to have full coverage of this year’s summit,
the sheer number of presentation options and the small size of our volunteer staff made it impossible to cover absolutely everything. Apologies to presenters who are not covered here.]

Saturday February 28, 2004

Opening Keynote
Achieving a State of Trans
Brenda Laurel
Conference Description

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
–Winston Churchill

Conference attendees listening closely to Brenda Laurel
(photo Erin Malone)

Winston Churchill’s famous remark was not directly quoted by Brenda Laurel in her opening keynote speech, but anyone in the audience familiar with the saying likely had a hard time not thinking of it. In an interesting hour-long presentation that covered topics ranging from evolutionary theory, media studies, computer science research, and the work of her design students at Art Center College of Design, the noted author, designer, and teacher argued that today’s information architectures go beyond simple structures in which we work to complete activities and tasks. Extending Churchill’s point to address contemporary information ecologies, Laurel insisted that famed media theorist Marshall McLuhan missed the notion that media would become indistinguishable from living systems. In fact, today’s information systems extend across physical, temporal, psychological, and linguistic boundaries, and have begun to define new spaces of human life.

Brenda Laurel
(photo Mike Lee)

Citing the Baldwin effect–a hybrid evolutionary theory that postulates that a species’ learned behaviors affect the direction and rate of its own evolutionary change–Laurel presented several examples in which designed information systems have begun to create fundamental changes in the way we experience the world–from the way we use our bodies to navigate virtual environments (Char Davies VR environments), to the way we plan and react to communications across specific media, to the systems we have created that allow for new forms of status and social currency for the individual (think Amazon’s reviews). In effect, the systems we are designing impact not only our current perceptions and relationships to the world, but define future possibilities by shaping how we think and act as a global culture, as a people, and as a species. Inasmuch, Laurel reminded the audience that it is critically important to consider our teleology, and to set our intentions wisely.

True to this year’s conference theme, “Breaking New Ground,” Laurel’s presentation kicked off two days of broad and deep looks at new ways that information architects are considering their work. Though many of the arguments were perhaps a bit esoteric for many in the audience, at the very least attendees came away with new questions to ask about information architecture, a few interesting examples to ponder, and a bit of eye candy to help get the intellectual sugars flowing early on Saturday morning.
John Zapolski

 

Taxonomies, Controlled Vocabularies, and Ontologies Panel
Amy Warner, Katherine Bertolucci, Kathryn Lewellen. Moderated by Chris Farnum
Conference Description
| Handout

“The way we order represents the way we think.” –Steven Jay Gould An energetic, standing-room only crowd attended one of the first sessions of the conference, a panel on taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, and ontologies
by Katherine Bertolucci of Isis Information Services (http://www.isisinform.com), Amy Warner of lexonomy (http://www.lexonomy.com) and Kathryn Lewellen of Thomson’s legal and regulatory division (http://www.thomson.com). Taxonomies, Controlled Vocabularies, Ontologies; any one of these topics, alone, has depth enough to warrant its own breakout, but in combination these three topics convey how very deep our industry goes. This session was broken into three mini-presentations:

  • Katherine Bertolucci shared experiences and insights gained from her work developing a taxonomy for Snoopy and Determined Productions. Taxonomy, according to Ms. Bertolucci is not only a tool for the retrieval of information but also as a means by which you can help your client or company understand their existing systems.
  • Amy Warner provided guidance for the development, maintenance and evaluation of controlled vocabularies. In particular, Ms. Warner’s presentation delved into methodology. What I found reassuring in the process she described, was the inclusion of stakeholders early and often the process and an emphasis on testing and validation.
  • Kathryn Lewellen argued for a new definition, or at least perception, of ontology in the absence of well-adopted standards. Ms. Lewellen’s presentation
    also broke down the concept of ontology, providing a better definition, outlining
    benefits, leverageable values and metrics. Ms. Lewellen suggested evaluating
    your ontology for its potential as a source of revenue and improved customer service.

Overall, this session was an excellent blend of war stories, methodologies, guidance and food-for-thought hopefully provoking those in attendance to reevaluate their existing tools and processes. At a minimum, lucky attendees went home with a brand new set of tools for facing classification metadata challenges.

Christian Ricci

 

Dinner at IronWorks Barbecue
(photo Mike Lee)
Austin
(photo Erin Malone)

Emerging Content Requirements for News Products

Howard Williams

Conference Description
| Handout

 

Creating No-Duh Deliverables
Dan Willis

Conference Description
| Handout

We usually tend to think of deliverables as artifacts that describes a solution to a problem. In his presentation, Dan Willis described a different class of deliverables–artifacts that conceptualize the problem itself. These deliverables are useful for getting everyone to agree on a conceptual model of what is being built, why it is being built, and how all the pieces fit together. Dan calls them no-duh deliverables because as they solidify, everyone looks at them and says, “No duh! I get it! Can we move on?”

Another theme from the presentation, not clearly articulated but definitely present, was that deliverables are both a thing and a process. This process must involve everyone, not just the information architect. The effectiveness of deliverables, no-duh or otherwise, depends on the effectiveness of this process. You can find examples of no-duh deliverables that Dan has created for various projects on his website.
Karl Fast

Dan Willis described the goal of the no-duh deliverable as getting different people to talk about the same things in the same way. He pointed out the power of consensus-building and creating a sense of shared ownership in a solution. Dan presented several approaches to requirements-gathering, feature list building and concept presentation that were deceptively simple, yet extremely effective. The basics included: the power of visuals, the value of smart group facilitation and filtering and funneling upper management’s generalities down to specific users.

Dan Willis taking questions
(photo Erin Malone)

Dan’s basic strategy for success: First, review all the things the task force needs to understand the same way, then think about groupings, then think about change points (or where the information flow changes), then make the concept visual. Once everyone shares the same vision, revision comes shortly after, which is a true sign of success because it represents progress.
Lara Ferguson McNamara

No-duh deliverables–what are they? As Dan explained, his aim is to create deliverables that encourage people to say ‘Stop, No-Duh, I get it already’.

The primary reasons for creating No-Duh deliverables are to build consensus, gain support and share ownership through improved communication. Dan’s deliverables include a combination of visuals and text and are both interesting and inspiring. He showed a number of examples of his deliverables, and walked through a case study explaining the processes he used to create a particular deliverable–both the process of distilling complex data, and communicating the conclusions.

Now, Dan can draw, and I can’t. Does that mean that I can’t create No-Duh deliverables? No, as Dan said “the power of the no-duh deliverable is in the brain, not the pen”. I know that I’ll be thinking differently about my next set of deliverables.

Donna Maurer

 

Discussions during the breaks were often intense
(photo Erin Malone)

XIA@UT: An Extreme Makeover
Jill Burkart, Don Turnbull, Amaris Vigil, Andrew Switzky, Diana Miranda, Leonard
Liaw

Conference Description
| Handout

 

Redesigning a Digital Video Library
Gary Geisler, Anthony Hughes

Conference Description
| Handout

The Open Video Project (www.open-video.org)
is a free digital video library based at the University of Chapel Hill. The
project serves two purposes. The first is to be a useful public resource. The
second is to act as a testbed for digital library research, particularly research
on interface issues.

Dr. Gary Geisler, a professor in the LIS
program
at Simmons College in Boston (http://www.simmons.edu/gslis/), described
the project and the recent redesign efforts. Encapsulating this informative
presentation in a paragraph is impossible, and I will not attempt it. But if
you are engaged in a similar venture, the Open Video Project is a first class
example of how to do it well. And I am pleased to report that all of the research
publications
based on the project are online (http://www.open-video.org/project_publications.php).
One sincerely hopes that the project grows and evolves, and that the research
team continues to share the results of their work with the information architecture
community.
Karl
Fast

Meeting folks during the break
(photo Erin Malone)

 

A Critical Review of Enterprise Content Management
Tony Byrne

Conference Description
| Handout

Today’s CMS vendors are working from several different definitions of Enterprise
Content Management (ECM), including a single “function point” implementation,
an integrated “suite” of content management solutions, and the “single source
of truth” within the enterprise. But Tony argued that ECM is really a discipline
that can be applied broadly across all technologies. He suggests that information
silos aren’t inherently bad, and from a business perspective, there’s a reason
for silos that we should consider as we craft ECM solutions that fit our various
markets.

Tony’s was the voice of reason, as he suggested that vendors are still 18-24
months away from solutions that are actually integrated across the enterprise.
His suggestion for getting through the next two years with the technology we have
on hand is to maintain a strong connection between business processes and content,
build specific use-cases for how information needs to flow, and recognize that
at each stage of the business process there are different content needs.
Lara
Ferguson McNamara

I must admit that I hadn’t thought about this a lot and was expecting to see
information about various content management systems. I was pleasantly surprised
to find out that Tony’s presentation was a high-level discussion about Enterprise
Content Management as a discipline rather than as software or tools. Tony provided
four different definitions of ECM with the underlying concept of each definition
and some broad conclusions about the tools that support each definition. He
also provided some practical suggestions about what to look out for in an enterprise
content management project.
Donna
Maurer

 

Making Personas More Powerful
George Olsen

Conference Description
| Handout

“I needed a tool not just to create empathy, but a tool to help
me design.” –George Olsen
While Alan Cooper wrote about the “why,”
George Olsen presented us with the “how” of personas. George shared methods
from his
extensive toolkit
for developing the more tactical aspects of persona development.
We can find full details in the toolkit itself. The talk focused on how to build
up the tactical details of the personas, how to define their relationship to
the product, the business, and their environment. George, throughout the presentation,
encouraged us to develop personas that use the data collected from actual users,
filtering out any personal tendencies that may affect the details. And if actual
user data is not available, he suggests using substitutes he terms as “User
Surrogates,” “Informants and Interpreters,” “Indirect Sources,” and “Ersatz
Users” (more details in the Toolkit).

George defined six categories of persona types: Focal, Secondary, Unimportant,
Affected, Exclusionary, and Stakeholders. And we must consider them from a number
of different angles, being careful to separate our own personality traits from
those of the personas we develop. After all, “you are where you live,” Olsen
explains. Geography, therefore, becomes one of the key topics to consider. To
round out your characters, think about whether your characters are the New Zealand
or California. What magazines do they have access to? What language do they
speak?

Knowing how to put your audience in context to other audiences is critical.
To prove his point, he asked the room how many listen to National Public Radio
(NPR). And a good number of the audience raised their hands. Although the majority
of the people in the room were listeners, only 4% of the population actually
listens to NPR.

Knowing the relationship between your persona and the product you are designing
is also key. How would the persona interact with the product? Where would the
persona interact with it? Should the persona have an emotional reaction to the
product? The Toolkit is intended to work like a good editor works with a writer,
pushing the writer to develop characters fully. He suggests engaging your organization
in the personas, rather than using them as just one deliverable in the product
development cycle.
Liz Danzico

In his session, George Olsen presented his toolkit for creating next generation personas. Personas, in George’s view, are too fuzzy. “I needed a tool not just to create empathy,” he explained, “but a tool to help me design.” His toolkit aims to create personas that help with both the high-level strategic decisions as well as the tactical decisions and the inevitable design trade-offs that have to be made. The toolkit includes several pages of questions that explore:

  • The persona’s biographic background
  • Business’s relation to the persona
  • Persona’s relation to the product or business
  • Specific goals and attitudes of the persona
  • Specific knowledge or proficiency of the persona
  • The context in which personas uses the product
  • The interaction characteristics of product use
  • The information characteristics of product use
  • The immersive characteristics of product use
  • Emotional characteristics of product
  • Accessibility issues
  • Relationships among the personas

Although that seems like a lot of detail, George emphasized that these personas
can be developed iteratively. Some of the fine-grained information may not be
necessary in the early stages of a project, but it can be valuable later for
prioritizing interface and architecture elements. A mix-and-match approach would
also work, since some parts of the toolkit will be more relevant to a project
than others. (George’s slides offer some additional information on the toolkit.)

Gene Smith

 

XIA: Xtreme IA
Don Turnbull

Conference Description

While featuring an edgy–even paradoxical–title, this talk was a rather straightforward,
matter-of-fact presentation, proposing an accelerated approach to IA based upon
hot methods in computer science, known as “pair programming” or “extreme programming”
(XP). Turnbull offered a brief survey of the history of programming methodologies
and continued with some examples of XP approaches. Essentially, the XP idea
is intended to speed up the process and involve rapid iterative cycles of feedback
and change, generating newer, faster outcomes of the code. The big question
is whether this would work with IA, particularly in situations with massive
scalability challenges (ie, hundreds or thousands of objects and peer relationships)
and globally distributed teams. The answer was not immediately apparent from
Turnbull. Further unresolved issues included:

  1. Under what organizational and cultural conditions would XIA flourish?
  2. How should the time-compressed “pair programming” ideology fit into the
    IA design cycles, with different stakeholders and agendas and priorities intermingled?
  3. How can somebody ensure effective lines of communication during this accelerated
    process, to deal with conflicts and trade-offs?

One issue that fueled the fast-emerging controversy over XIA was the emphasis
on “code”, rather than “design”. Finally, doubts were raised among the audience
about IA practitioners becoming essentially project managers, a dubious proposition
put forth by Turnbull as part of the XIA approach.

So, while raising many serious and valuable questions of process and practice
for IA, this

talk floated an idea that doesn’t seem quite ready for primetime in terms of
implementation. While one person charged that XIA is very “utopian”, the concept
does offer food for thought, particularly about the aptness of the word “extreme”
in a discipline that is often seen as measured, rational, systematic, and orderly.

Uday N. Gajendar

Lunch?
(photo Erin Malone)

 

Fun with Faceted Browsing
Keith Instone

Conference Description
| Handout

Is there an information architect who doesn’t love facets?

After briefly defining what faceted browsing is, Keith took us on a tour of
4 sites that allow faceted browsing (epicurious, IBM product finders, flamenco
and MSN shopping), comparing how each handled aspects of the faceted experience.
He also showed non-examples–sites that looked like they could contain faceted
browsing, but did not quite. Given that faceted browsing is still in its early
stages, he raised a number of questions rather than coming to conclusions.

During the presentation, Keith showed screen shots–a live connection really
would have shown the way the interfaces work much better. Keith’s notes are
good, so if you missed this session, read the notes and have a look at the sites
at:

Keith is also interested in other examples, so email him if you find a faceted
browse on another site. More notes are available here: http://user-experience.org/uefiles/facetedbrowse/

Donna Maurer

 

Information Architecture of Content Management-Based Reuse
Ann Rockley

Conference Description
| Handout

Ann categorized and described quite a few key terms in this presentation. She
outlined the kinds of content one might find in a content management system
(locked, derivative and nested) and the kinds of reuse that are possible for
that content (opportunistic and systematic). She talked about not only the kinds
of metadata used in a content management system (traditional categorization
and element descriptions), but also various uses for that metadata (reuse, retrieval
and tracking within a workflow).

Ann touched on the business rules for reuse management, including considerations
of workflow, approval and use of derivative content. And she suggested various
strategies for supporting content reuse, including authoring tools that support
structured content, CMSs that handles content granularity at the level that
matches your business needs, and delivery tools that can be used to filter content
to assist in reuse.
Lara Ferguson McNamara

 

Incorporating Research on Navigation in Design Method
Victor Lombardi

Conference Description
| Handout

“Does an underlying spatial metaphor make it easier for users to find information
they are looking for?” This kind of question was what sparked Victor Lombardi’s
research for the Summit presentation. The original question was posed at last
year’s
Wayfinding and Navigation
Summit panel with Mark Bernstein, Susan Campbell,
and Andrew Dillon.

Victor’s talk focused on two lines of research: first, the “shape of information,”
and second, “transitional volatility.” To start, Victor shows us a slide with
an excerpt from a document. When he asks the audience to identify it, we all
immediately could.

Menu example

The shape of information of the information in this menu helped us predict
the context, ordering, and grouping of elements. With this information, we become
oriented and can navigate, all without the use of titles, headings, breadcrumbs,
or navigation bars.

When he compares this to an information architect’s view of the menu in wireframe
format, it doesn’t seem as intuitive. Although the layout makes sense, it pales
in comparison to the familiar menu.

Victor Lombardi
(photo Erin Malone)

Referring to research by Andrew Dillon and Elaine Toms, Victor presents two
more examples that demonstrate why content itself–because it has a recognizable
shape–becomes a kind of navigation. “Content is not different from navigation:
In the example of the Chinese food menu we understood what we were seeing, where
we were, and what is around us all without explicit navigation, so the content
itself–because we are familiar with it–enables us to navigate.”

Victor kicked off the “Transitional Volatility” part of the discussion by debunking
our “keep navigation consistent” understanding. Research by David Danielson,
he shows us, demonstrates that instead of keeping navigation consistent, we
should “change navigation in subtle ways.” By changing the navigation subtly,
users’ eyes are drawn to the change and “better prepares users for change and
better reveals connections among information.”

In the question and answer session after the presentation, an audience member
suggested this variation: “Change navigation subtly, but do so in consistent
ways.”

Finally, Victor describes a methodology for incorporating this research into
one’s design method. He emphasizes that navigation design done too early may
result in a user experience dependent on information organization, rather than
the natural shape of the information. Instead, he follows these steps:

  • Summarize your research
  • Define resulting experience
  • Gather and identify content
  • Link content, retaining shape and expressed desired user experience
  • Classify information if necessary

Victor’s presentation provides just a handful of the rich research out there.
At the end of our discussion, Victor encourages us to explore the great research
that is out there to help inform our design processes.
Liz
Danzico

 

Selling User Experience through Value-Centered Design
Jess McMullin

Conference Description

This was a casual presentation about an ever-present issue for IA and UX professionals–how
to sell your self (and your services, skills, benefits, etc.) beyond the familiar
“good user experience” argument. McMullin candidly declared that the client/business
guy wants to know “why bother, who cares, and so what,” indicating that this
is the audience to be addressed. He suggested that a big part of the “selling
problem” is that we are all talking to each other, about ourselves as IA/UX
professionals. McMullin hinted at the notion of approaching selling as a design
problem. Okay, fair enough. So who is the user? In this case, it’s the generic
persona of “Scott Skeptic;” he is a fair-minded business veteran dubious about
IA/UX in terms of supporting his management and economic goals (i.e., maximizing
profit, sales, revenue, etc.).

This is where McMullin advocated what he called “value-centered design”, focusing
on the “value” to the business as part of the sales message. Ostensibly this
should be in the form of measurable, quantifiable results–goals, benefits,
dollars, etc. McMullin suggested “value” has four levels: business, individual,
the offering (not a cheesy horror flick!), and delivery. And ultimately there
needs to be a “fit” of user goals to product functionality that will ensure
a practical business benefit.

The talk ended without a specific resolution; in fact, McMullin admitted he
meant to offer conversation starters. It would have been nice to hear some “war
stories” from his experience in the field as a consultant. Pitfalls and lessons
learned about communicating the value-driven message would certainly help this
audience back at the office. What to say, or what not to say?. I could see this
becoming a workshop for next year. Overall, the talk had a nice direction, with
a necessary message to be told, however there were no action items or solid
conclusions.
Uday
N. Gajendar

 

Using Facet Analysis for Improving Information Access to Marginalized Communities

D. Grant Campbell

Conference Description
| Handout

 

When Ninety-one Yeaers of Content goes Digital
Jody A. Hankinson

Conference Description
| Handout

 

Creating a Consistent Enterprise Web Navigation Solution
David Fiorito and Richard Dalton

Conference Description
| Handout

David and Richard set out to solve some serious navigation and usability issues
for Vanguard, and they came up with some interesting IA tools in the process.
They created a navigation matrix, in which they mapped the content of the Vanguard
site to compare modes of navigation (structural, associative and utility) with
proximity of navigation to content (attached to content, embedded in content,
layered with content, is the content) to determine what types of navigation
best suited various sections and functionalities of the website.

They investigated the key relationships expressed through different types of
navigation, as well as the various content types and the kinds of navigation
that support each. By breaking the content functions of their site into the
basic categories of examination, exploration and execution, they were able to
establish a template approach to navigation that appeased information designers
and users alike.
Lara
Ferguson McNamara

 

Thom Haller leads an interactive session
(photos Mike Lee)

Rebuilding Trust in User Centred Design, Wachovia.com Investing Center Redesign

Samantha Bailey

Conference Description

 

4 Myths About Taxonimies & Dublin Core: Examples from the Field
Joseph Busch

Handout

 

Stories from the Field: Never Consider Yourself a Failure, You Can Always
Serve as a Bad Example

Thom Haller

Conference Description
| Handout

Thom talked about the idea of failure and about different types of failure,
and how we can learn from them, pepperred with examples from his own life. The
session was interactive, with listeners sharing stories of failures and what
they had learned from them. As an end of the day session, it was good to discuss
and participate rather than just listen.
Donna
Maurer

 

The IA Slam Workshop Results
Lynn Boyden, Chris Chandler, Matthew Fetchko, Eric Reiss

Handout

Announcing the winners of the IA Slam exercise. The winners
even got medals–how cool is that!
(photos Erin Malone and Mike Lee)

Take four role-playing organizers channeling the spirits of a VP, Product Manager,
Marketing, and Engineering Project Manager working for Gencool, a fictitous
refrigeration company. Split the 45 attending IAs up into half a dozen teams,
and tell them they are at a vendors conference to propose a design solution
for the latest company product–the iFridge. Present company background and
product concept, and turn the teams loose to design the next wave of connected
consumer appliances. In 45 minutes. With post-its and poster paper. What came
out of the mix was the first IA Slam–hopefully not the last.

The IA Slam was a blast–definitely the funnest conference session, and the
conference highlight for me. It was a great break from the usual format: hands
on and got groups talking about how they work on real projects. The organizers
stayed in character the entire session, complete with pseudonyms on their Kinko’s
business cards. From the bottom-line concerns of VP Eric Reiss to the blue-sky
baby of product manager Lynne Boyden’s dreams, teams had to juggle competing
expecations while still producing a workable design.

Solutions ranged from the simple (put a screen on it), to the minimalist (you
don’t want a screen on an internet fridge), to the flat-out improbable (put
a $20,000 70 inch plasma screen on a $10,000 product–there’s a reason we design
software and not hardware). Some of the most interesting choices came from choosing
which features to cut from the initial laundry list presented by Gencool.

After working through different design challenges, teams presented their concepts
to the Gencool judg…errr…staff. Nine minutes per pitch, and then the Slam
was over, until the next day, when the winners were announced. Congratulations
to Team Pink for winning, and special mention to Dave Robertson for provoking
a very realistic fight between Product Management and the VP in charge!

Looking forward to what Lynne Boyden, Eric Reiss, Matthew Fetchko, and Chris
Chandler put together for next year! Many thanks to the organizers for all the
hard work put into preparing a convincing fictitious company as well as all
the logistics for the session.
Jess
McMullin

Poster session: poster presenters talk with attendees
as everyone grabbed food and drink after a long day.
(photos Erin Malone and Mike Lee)

 

Recycle, Reuse and Rebuild: Information Architecture on a Budget
Rebecca Sukach, Robert Kennedy

Conference Description
| Handout

Rebecca and Robert outlined how they re-worked legacy documentation into a
more dynamic and customer-friendly format that provided a consistent flow of
content. They did this by identifying and analyzing the existing documentation,
defining and classifying it in information blocks, then looking for holes and
inconsistencies. Then they supplied basic templates to their content writers,
to facilitate consistent content generation.

Once they ensured that the new frameworks provided the right amount of structure
for the authors, they focused on user needs to determine the validity of their
information design standards. The process was quite iterative, because they
needed to constantly adjust various aspects of the design as they discovered
the rules of content reuse they needed to follow.
Lara
Ferguson McNamara

 

Birds of a feather discussions
A nice, new feature of the summit. This block of time offered various BOF groups
a block of time to discuss ideas in further detail.

Birds of a feather – Content Management
In a 45 minute discussion, the group discussed content management issues such
as whether to implement a content management system and site redesign at the
same time, and shared stories about previous, current and future content management
system selections and implementations.
Donna
Maurer

 

Posters

  • Social Virtual Interface (SVI). Baris Aksakal
  • Blueprinting: Moving into Precision. Clifton Evans
  • Taxonomy and Thesaurus: Analogy with a Play. Mark Geljon, Almar van der
    Krogt
  • 3D images and Metadata: Can We All Just Get Along? Elise Lewis
  • Visualizing Site Traffic Alongside Site Hierarchy or Flow. Brett Lider
  • Joint Evolution of Web Browsers and Online IA. Jennifer E. Jobst, Don Turnbull
  • LUCIA: A Comprehensive IA Process Model. Arno Reichenauer
  • Building Information for Computerized Systems: Developing Country Scenario.
    Daniel N. Ruheni
  • URI as Navigation Tool. Manu Sharma
  • Metric Aggregation for Social Network Analysis in Blogspheres. Frederic
    Stutzman, Butch Lazorchak, Jesse Wilbur
  • Information Architecture & Social Communication: Twins? Javier Velasco
  • The User Experience from Design to Use, and Back: A Causal Model. Javier
    Velasco

 

The first day of the summit ended with folks checking out the Posters, gathering
together in groups to do dinners—the AIfIA members did a dinner, another
group did barbecue—and others went out for a night on the town. After all, Austin
is considered one of the best places to hear live music.


Check out Day 2

For More Information:

  • IA Summit official schedule
    http://www.iasummit.org/conference.htmlSession presentations and handouts
    linked here as well
  • Summit blog
    http://www.iasummit.org/blog/
  • IA
    Slam

    http://www.e-reiss.com/Seminars/IA%20Slam%20mini-site.aspx

Blog writeups and more reviews

  • Brett Lider – Every
    Breath Defying

    http://everybreathdeathdefying.com/blog/archives/cat_conferences.html
  • Tanya Rabourn – Pixel
    Charmer

    http://www.pixelcharmer.com/fieldnotes/archives/cat_form_conference.html
  • Dan Saffer – Celtic
    Knot

    http://www.celticknot.net/blog/archives/000899.html
  • Kieth Instone – User
    Experience.org

    http://user-experience.org/uefiles/facetedbrowse/
  • Donna Maurer – Maadmob
    http://www.maadmob.net/donna/blog/
  • Jesse Wilbur – jdwilbur
    http://www.jdwilbur.org/weblog/index.php
  • James Spahr – Design
    Weenie

    http://www.designweenie.com/blog/archives/001309.php

Videos:

Summit Photo Albums: