2013 User Experience Awards

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The 2013 User Experience Awards were presented Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at Parson’s Tischman Auditorium in New York. The host and organizer of the ceremony was Beverly May, Founder and President of Oxford Technology Ventures. A keynote address was given by Robyn Peterson, CTO of Mashable.

Before introducing the jurors, Beverly spoke about the mission of the UX Awards, which is “not just to celebrate the winners, but to determine what great, award-winning UX is.” After messages from sponsors, the jurors were introduced.

Jurors of the 2013 UX Awards were:

2013 UX Awards judges

  • Anders Ramsay, agile UX designer & coach, UX author, leader of NYC IA Meetup and Agile Experience Design Group
  • Chris Jaffe, director, product innovation at Netflix
  • Cindy Jeffers, CEO and CTO at Salon.com
  • Cory Lebson, principal user experience consultant at Lebsontech and director, strategic partnerships at UXPA International
  • John Payne, design educator and principal at Moment Design
  • Lis Hubert, UX consultant & IXDA New York local leader
  • Tomer Sharon, UX author and senior user experience researcher at Google Search

The keynote speech

2013 UX Awards keynote speaker, Robyn Peterson

For the keynote speech, Robyn Peterson talked about redesigning Mashable with the help of data. For example, data showing that articles with images get eight times the clicks as articles without was the impetus for making images larger in the new design.

Robyn believes that media companies need to become more technically savvy and not rely on outside companies for technical solutions. Mashable created Velocity, an algorithm that predicts what content will go viral. The Mashable homepage is now 95% algorithmically driven, with some options given to editorial staff to kill or promote a story at their discretion.

The host and jurors discussed some of the criteria used when selecting the winners, and it was clear that some jurors were more interested in process and research, while at least one juror had a more intuitive, less analytical approach of looking at only the finished product and choosing what he believed demonstrated a great user experience.

The winners

Grand prize

  • Grand prize, best everyday utility: Google: Google Now

Gold prizes

  • Gold prize, best digital media transformation: Cava Interactive: Helsingin Sanomat Digital Transformation
Gold prize, best social learning platform: Schema Design, LLC: Actively Learn

Silver prizes

  • Silver prize, best accessibility innovation: Virginia Tech: Activ

  • Silver prize, best consumer device: Belkin: WeMo
Silver prize, best UX research process: Digitas: Cessna – We Have Your Jet
Silver prize, most useful consumer health care service: ZocDoc

Bronze prizes

  • Bronze prize, most persuasive use of data: EffectiveUI: Water For People – Re-Imagine Reporting Platform
Bronze prize, best clinical health care experience: Cerner Corporation/ User Experience: PowerChart Touch
  • Bronze prize, best classroom learning experience: Amplify: Amplify Tablet


2013 UX Awards finalists

  • Fi: Gannett: USAToday.com site redesign
  • kbs + Spies & Assassins: PUMA Joypad Wall
  • kbs + Spies & Assassins: BMW ActiveE – A Social Experiment Shaping the Future of Mobility
  • Huge: American Express – Consumer Digital Acquisition Journey
  • R/GA: Nike+ FuelBand
  • SAP: RealSpend

Congratulations to all the winners! For more about the people involved and their winning products, including videos and descriptions, visit 2013 User Experience Awards.

Information Architecture’s Teenage Dilemma

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Imagine if you will information architecture as a pimply-faced, malcontent teenager.  IA is eager to express and redefine itself. It wants to be an individual yet accepted by its peers. It is simultaneously aggravated and apathetic about its parents, mentors, and role-models. It is a bit of a mess, but a wonderful, beautiful mess with endless opportunity and potential.

The IA Summit (and information architecture) enters adolescence

The first IA Summit was held April 8-9, 2000, in Boston, MA, and was titled Defining Information Architecture. Now, fast forward to this year’s 13th IA Summit held April 3-7 in Baltimore, MD, in which the Summit entered the awkward teen years against the slogan “Observe Build Share Repeat.”

Taking the slogan to heart, a number of Summit workshops, sessions, keynotes, and discussions focused on reframing information architecture as a practice and as a field. Granted, IA is closer to 40 in chronological age (many date back to Richard Saul Wurman’s 1976 declaration “I am an Information Architect,” though personally I subscribe to Andrea Resmini’s Brief History timeline), but it is also experiencing adolescence thanks to a rapidly transforming digital landscape that makes puberty seem pretty innocuous. Consider, for example, the proliferation of:

  • Big data and open machine readable datasets (e.g. DATA.gov, and AWS Public Data Sets)
  • Content syndication, especially approaches like COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere)
    • Plus increased use (and occasionally understanding) of taxonomies and metadata
  • Free and open-source:
    • Blogging and content management systems like WordPress
    • Content management frameworks like Drupal
    • Design tools like Twitter Bootstrap and hosting services like GitHub
  • HTML 5 and CSS3 with their improved capabilities especially around design and media
  • Mobile devices and technologies
  • Responsive web design in its various approaches and permutations

Like a teen whose body is changing faster than it realizes, so too is information architecture stretching and growing and developing. But information architects (at least most of them) have gone through puberty and should be able to adapt their practice and usher their field through this tectonic change.

Remaking information architecture

Coming of age is always difficult. It requires patience and introspection. It is uncomfortable, unpleasant, awkward, and is in many ways unending. But, it offers a unique opportunity to remake and improve information architecture in the face of change and to prepare for the next tools, technologies, and even modalities altering both the digital and physical landscapes.

This means making hard choices and invariably suffering missteps and setbacks. But when the IA community comes through it, it’ll be older and wiser with a better understanding and control of its body (the practice and field of information architecture). Then IA can start realizing the unmet potential of its youth. So what is the path ahead?

Define information architecture not as a concept, but as a practice and a field

For me, the highlight of the 2013 IA Summit occurred before the opening keynote. It was the pre-conference workshop, Academics and Practitioners Round Table: Reframing Information Architecture, moderated by current Information Architecture Institute president Andrea Resmini. The all-day session consisted of 30+ information architects working to identify the requirements that would lay the foundation for a common language, grammar, and poetics for IA.

While the proceedings of the workshop will be published in the Journal of Information Architecture, the real work will begin when the larger community comes together to define and formalize itself. This necessarily includes:

  • Defining what is and is not information architecture
  • Identifying and documenting the major IA schools of thought
  • Mapping out and understanding how IA relates to sibling (such as usability, information design), parent (such as architecture, library science) and extended-family (such as psychology, linguistics) fields
  • Agreeing on a basic timeline for information architecture’s intellectual history, including formative events that pre-date the emergence of the field as well as key technological and cultural events that shaped it
  • Codifying information architecture best practices and developing standards around key artifacts
  • Formalizing the requisite background, training, skills, and certifications for practitioners and then defining the various roles within IA, noting which overlap with other fields and how

Here it should be noted that individual IA practitioners, organizations, and programs have made strides in addressing the above. But until there is a confluence from across the information architecture community, these will be little more than outposts in the wild and may even promote schisms within the community.

Accepting some basic truths about the practice of information architecture

The larger discussion around remaking information architecture also includes coming to consensus around some important concepts that every information architect needs to understand. These are discussed in my April 17, 2013, Aquilent (my employer) blog post 2013 IA Summit Themes but are summarized here:

  • You cannot control device usage. Device usage will change and evolve faster than we can keep up, and it is a fool’s errand trying to predict or determine how users access content.
  • You cannot control content. Syndication and content reuse ensure that content takes on a life of its own, so it’s essential to understand and leverage taxonomy and metadata.
  • You cannot control meaning. It is not inherent or discrete and can’t be turned on and off; information architects can only share meaning and should consider a meaning-first approach.
  • To serve the users you must serve the content. Understand and leverage syndication, promote content longevity and usefulness, and consider targeted, accidental, and future audiences.
  • Sometimes you’re the architect, but often you’re the builder. We cannot always do dramatic and innovative work, but remember, the best information architecture is invisible.

There are, of course, many other concepts that are essential to the practice and field of information architecture will be identified and defined as its adolescence continues.

The time is now…

With the IA Summit turning 13 and information architecture in a time of adolescent turmoil and transformation, it seems clear that the timing is right to define and formalize both the practice and field of information architecture.

Heading into the 2014 IA Summit, members of the community need to open their minds and roll up their sleeves for the difficult, awkward, and emotional work ahead. And they should do so knowing that once information architecture enters its adulthood, it will open up new world of influence and opportunity.

Put another way – and paraphrasing B&A founder Christina Wodtke – be bold, take risks, and fail spectacularly. Now is the time to clearly define and state the communities’ vision for information architecture then set out to realize it.


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It feels like we are experiencing a fascinating “Powers of 10”-style paradox with experience design and the digital design community — where we’re excitedly pushing beyond interface on many levels — attacking multiple interfaces at once with responsive and adaptive design and seriously embracing the massive world of service design and that broader brand and customer “experience” — yet also pushing deep into the extreme details of interface on other levels — tackling unique design rules tailored for the nuances of individual device models and OS flavors, dreaming up insightful ways to visualize unique data sets and bespoke stories, or even trying to wrap our minds around the constraints and conventions of dizzyingly different, is-it-fish-is-it-fowl “experiences” like iTV, ebooks, phablets, events, and the like.

So, to help us make sense of this ping-pong, broad-to-narrow game we need to play today as experience designers, we wanted to go back to the thing that unites and inspires us all: our users. They are the glue that connects us as a practice — and also connect our broad and narrow thinking, our wild flights of expansive concepting to the late-night detailed design sessions. In taking a step back and discussing what they’ve taught us, we get to see a different perspective on where the work is heading — and hopefully, catch a glimpse at what’s coming next.

RE:DESIGN/ is an empowering set of conferences because it brings the design community together as a real thought leadership practice — asking us all to examine the work and actively debate and discuss where it’s going and how we want to help shape that. The size, the format, and the mix of speakers and topics create such a fun opportunity to directly contribute to the industry’s evolution, while also setting an expectation that we take our role and responsibility in that seriously, too.

RE:DESIGN/ UXD, with a focus on small-scale, salon-style discussions, eschews the typical panel format. The result is an atmosphere where attendees can interact, network, and learn from each other. This conference will bring together user experience thought leaders from traditional design firms, interactive agencies, in-house groups, journalists and beyond. This year, the conference is taking place in Silicon Valley on April 29+30. Our symposiarch for this year’s event is Marisa Gallagher of CNN.

Register now and use code UXBA for $75 off the advertised rate.

Information Architecture, A Global Perspective

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Show Time: 35 minutes 20 seconds

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Podcast Summary

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

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

New Global Director for WIAD Needed!

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

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

Driving Holism in Cross-channel Projects

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Show Time: 29 minutes 29 seconds

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Podcast Summary

Today on Boxes and Arrows, Chris Baum talks with Patrick Quattlebaum, Design Director at Adaptive Path. Patrick has some interesting insights and tools that designers can use to develop experiences across channels. Quattlebaum explores the difference between atomism and holism, and how designers often struggle with making parts of an experience that really needs to be thought of as a whole. He also discusses how he navigates relationships in large organizations across teams building different parts of the experience. Finally, he talks about how he brings those teams together using the “rough cut” from film to show the whole context of the experience and find “bridges” between channels that might be missed if the parts are developed separately.


“[As designers,] we did research and strategy, and draw great concept diagrams, and try to sell a vision. Many times it didn’t play out, or would play out, but was missing those crucial elements that really made it what it was. It’s never going to be the way you thought it would be on paper.

More lately, I’ve been thinking about atomism, about how companies break things down, and work separately and how that makes thing harder. It’s not something we need to say, ‘Well, that’s just how companies are,’ and just give up or do the best we can with what we can control with digital or the touchpoint that we own and not worry about the other things.”

“I personally can’t stop worrying about the other things and the big picture what i wanted to do is encourage people to communicate that with everybody that they work with. That’s what everyone is trying to do. It’s easy to get lost in your area of responsibility and what you can control, but that’s not going to get us where we know that customer experience and user experience needs to go.”

“What designers and IAs do is find those connections across the work stream that is going to be the experience in the design. They make sure there’s the right balance or consistency among all the diff’t touch points, without being a slave to total consistency.”


  • Follow Patrick on Twitter “@ptquattlebaum”:https://twitter.com/ptquattlebaum
  • Find “his presentation”:http://t.co/gHFKTN8a from the IA Summit on Slideshare