Process and Methods

As the field of information architecture matures, we are beginning to understand the new challenges it raises for wireless media. This article suggests that some of these challenges can be best addressed through an approach called “psychology-driven information architecture,” which bases design decisions and solutions on the psychological profile of the end user.

To date this column has focused on how to make deliverables more effective, either through their content or through the tools to create them. For this issue, I would like to explore the relationship between deliverables and methodology. Unfortunately, this calls for a definition of IA methodology, which may challenge the definition of IA as the hardest question in our field.

Once upon a time, we were curious and everything we encountered was new. We were excited about discovering new things and the world offered unlimited possibilities. Then we went to school and were taught to color inside the lines, that everything had its place and the world was ordered.

“What I need are highly condensed overviews,” I thought, “like those comic books that convert great literary works into a few illustrated pages. They condense Moby Dick down to 12 pages and provide a version of Great Expectations that can be read in 15 minutes.”

We hear and talk a lot about card sorting in various forms, and how it can be used as input on a hierarchy or classification system (or a taxonomy, if you like more technical words). We hear that we should test our hierarchies, but we don’t talk about how.

Jesse James Garrett’s “The Elements of User Experience” diagram has become rightly famous as a clear and simple model for the sorts of things that user experience professionals do. But as a model of user experience it presents an incomplete picture with some serious omissions—omissions I’ll try address with a more holistic model.

We need a way to document and express mental models that is as simple and robust as personas for user profiles and scenarios for tasks. By laying out users’ current mental models and a target mental model, we can clarify our thinking and communication about the user interface’s objects, metaphors, and interaction.

Somewhere in the process of evangelizing user-centered design, user experience professionals seem to have forgotten the value of vision-driven design, which can be equally important in making sites and software relevant and desirable. We need to integrate both approaches.

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