Boxes and Arrows was born in 2002. We came into the world in March like a lion, and swore to write about “what we do” even though we couldn’t agree what that was or what to call it. Like art or porn, we agreed we knew it when we saw it, and that was good enough. As the year unfolded, we discovered “it” was strategy and practice, design and evaluation, and most of all understanding and empathy for users and business. We definitely design, but we design more than just an interface or just a sitemap. We discovered we need a vast variety of skills to do our jobs well. And we need to do our jobs well to survive.
2002 was the year the rubber hit the road. Cutbacks hit companies hard across the world, and everyone struggled to justify their existence. Some new media professions and techniques disappeared almost completely; others became part the standard design practice. 1997 to 2001 was our digital childhood, but now we are clearly in our adolescence—immature, cantankerous, argumentative, but also passionate, hopeful, and determined.
So now we stand poised to dive into 2003. What will this year hold for the profession known as “what we do” and its children, information architecture, usability, interaction design, interface design, and graphic design? What will it hold for our favored media, the digital world? Boxes and Arrows asked our authors to hazard a guess. Here’s what they came up with.
Dan Brown predicts:
Information architecture will be in high demand in the federal government, which faces information-sharing challenges with the Homeland Security “merger,” and information findability challenges as implied in the new e-Government Act of 2002. Information architecture, therefore, will play a prominent role in eGov conferences. The federal government might even recognize an official Information Architecture role in the Office of e-Government.
There will be at least one course on information architecture in every major university in the world.
On the other hand: No standard will emerge for information architecture deliverables. The concepts are too varied, the field too dispersed, and the practitioners too spread out to achieve any sort of unity. This prediction won’t come true only if the information architecture community can find a unified voice.
Nate Burgos predicts:
Like the advancement of Internet2, there will be the advancement of Blog2.
More serial narratives, a la comic books and graphic novels, will be established on the Internet as the culture of online literary audiences grows.
Reacting to global causes and conflicts, there will be an increased wave of socially entrepreneurial web presences.
The nomenclature of visual communication will increase.
Earl Morrogh predicts:
I predict that in 2003 the subject of the emerging profession of information architecture will be picked up and reported on by at least one of the major television news networks. The report will include clips from an interview with either Christina Wodtke, Peter Morville, or Louis Rosenfeld.
I also predict that in 2003 there will be at least one newsworthy lawsuit served by a major retailer against a website design agency (or individual information architect) for a site design that fails to meet their return on investment expectations because of performance-related issues.
Scott Berkun predicts:
We’ll realize that the names used to define what we do (UX/IA/UI/design/usabililty) are less important, compared to the impact we have on customers and businesses, and the positive effect we can have helping each other, when we manage to ignore those names and focus on the impact of the work.
Adam Greenfield predicts:
In 2003, some members of our community—which tends to be populated by highly principled and ethical sorts—will be forced to confront their feelings regarding the political uses to which our work can be put. Will they, for example, improve the findability of suspect records in “homeland security” databases, or design simplified interfaces to surveillance systems?
Steve Fleckenstein predicts:
The most awesome IA challenge ever will surface in 2003, and most professionals in the field won’t even hear about it. The people in charge of the Department of Homeland Security’s website will have to contend with a merger of 22 separate agencies, page counts in the millions, hundreds of content owners, hundreds of web developers, dozens of contractors, a multitude of technical environments, and an extremely large and diverse user base (literally, the entire population of the U.S., along with tens of thousands of businesses and government agencies).
Jeff Lash predicts:
2003 will be the year of wireless. Wireless networks in homes, businesses, and public and common spaces will be increasingly popular, and cheaper service plans for mobile phones and PDAs will drive the development of usable and useful wireless-based applications.
The increase in the number of web applications and web services will highlight the need for standards for distributed information architecture.
With more desktop software applications connecting to the Internet to obtain, upload, and share files and information, interaction designers will need to design conceptual models for this new line of “webware” that blurs the line between traditional software and web applications.
David Heller predicts:
Instant Messaging will enter the enterprise as a true collaboration tool, as opposed to a distraction that is stopped at the firewall.
Tablet PCs (especially laptop/tablet hybrids) take more market share from laptops.
The Content Management Systems (CMS) market is going to thin out as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle take bigger chunks of the enterprise market, forcing previous enterprise vendors to find space in the middle tier.
Dan Saffer predicts:
As the word about our discipline(s) continues to spread, more companies, established and startup, will begin hiring in-house IAs.
Transportation systems, military applications, biomedical systems, gaming, PDA/phone/wireless applications, and financial services will be the areas where the most interactive work will occur.
Several IAs will get drunk in Portland.
Elan Freydenson predicts:
Phone companies will realize snapping and emailing photos from cell phones is the next killer mobile data hog.
Flash will still not be the web client of choice for highly interactive applications.
Hopeful: Cell phone manufacturers will finally realize that they need to make hands-free use much more usable, starting all the way from connecting the headset (cordless or otherwise) to redialing a lost connection to dialing with spoken digits (“call 2015553434″).
And I’ll play the game too—Christina Wodtke predicts:
Information architecture as a skillset will become ubiquitous—any company making websites will have people who practice it. Information architects however, will remain relatively rare, and be hired mostly as consultants for major content restructuring. The people in companies doing IA will be visual designers and interaction designers, product managers, database modelers, programmers, webmasters, and editors.
Design teams will start remembering they have to hire writers.
“Findability” will begin to be part of the business vocabulary along with usability and understandability, but not until the end of 2003, where it will be mentioned in a magazine such as CIO or Fast Company.
Knowledge management and information architecture will recognize each other as kin and begin intense collaborative efforts, both informally and formally.
The SIGIA list will either collapse under the weight of annoying squabbling, or become fiercely moderated. Meanwhile, an exciting new interaction design list will pop-up… somewhere…
A company delivering films online will grow popular among the high-bandwidth set for its excellent findability and usability, allowing the film industry to avoid being cannibalized by pirating.
Meanwhile, the music industry will continue to slit their own throats by not figuring out how to deliver music to their users in a satisfying fashion. However, the independent music labels will figure it out.
Somebody will finally write a readable book on controlled vocabularies.
Somebody else will come up with a formula for ROI of Design and Information Architecture.
Somebody else still will start selling prepackaged taxonomies.
…and that is all my Magic 8-Ball will tell me.
Next year, hopefully we can all check in and see how many we got right, and how many we got wrong. And now I dare you: what are your predictions for 2003?