Information Architecture Expert Panel – Part One

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The Structure of Complexity

With the 2020 events for World IA Day (est. 2012) and the IA Conference (est. as IA Summit in 2000) approaching, the team here at Boxes and Arrows is taking this opportunity to highlight the importance of Information Architecture (IA). We reached out to some pillars of the IA community to ask them for their thoughts on, where information architecture is today, and where it’s going. Their response was so enthusiastic that we will be breaking this into multiple posts.

My thanks to the generosity of Abby Covert, Peter Morville, Jorge Arango, Donna Spencer, Madonnalisa Chan, Dan Klyn, Andy Fitzgerald, Grace Lau, Dan Brown, Andrew Hinton, Lou Rosenfeld, and Boxes and Arrows patron saint, Christina Wodtke. The time and insights they provided to bring this post together are very appreciated.

“IA is all around us and is mostly practiced by people who don’t even know they are doing it.”

– Abby Covert

If you’re unfamiliar with IA, Abby Covert, information architect, teacher, and author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody, has a straightforward description of it:

“Information architecture is the way we arrange the parts of something to make sense as a whole, whether that be arranging screens in a mobile application or arranging various pieces of signage at a baseball stadium. IA involves the careful consideration of the language you use and the structures you enable for users to understand something. So IA is all around us and is mostly practiced by people who don’t even know they are doing it.”

Continue reading Information Architecture Expert Panel – Part One

An Out of the Box Rebranding

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Just before the 2020 new year, we decided it was a good time to refresh the Boxes and Arrows brand identity, a time to start a fresh decade with a fresh logo. And, after a few weeks at the drawing board, we’re liking the results. 

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To us, the new, dynamic, and pleasingly symmetrical icon—a box made of arrows—represents the emerging dimensions of information spaces, greater interconnected continuity between people, and an ever-expanding collection of knowledge which we hope to bring to our readers. 

Continue reading An Out of the Box Rebranding

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In the spring of 2002, Christina Wodtke and David Bloxom had a three-buck-chuck infused afternoon and came up with Boxes and Arrows.

That kid is now 17 and, like a teenager heading off to college, Boxes and Arrows — and, more importantly, its staff of three — is going to take a little time to think about things to come. This means migrating our hosting, adopting a new look, and optimizing our content, along with solving any technical issues of the past.

We’ll be back in January 2020, ready for adulting and ready to make everyone proud.

Not Dead Yet

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When Boxes and Arrows was founded a little over ten years ago, there was nothing quite like it online. There were peer-reviewed journals, and basic how-to articles. A List Apart was much more concerned with the CSS behind the interface back then, and UX Matters, Johnny Holland and Smashing Magazine were not even a twinkle in their creators’ eyes. So a bunch of scrappy volunteers gathered together and pushed to get the stories we wanted to read online. We were struggling to figure things out in our day jobs, and we created a place where we could learn from each other. Boxes and Arrows did much better than we could ever have imagined, surviving transitions over four chief editors, thirty-nine editors, and today it holds four-hundred-and-forty-one articles written by three-hundred-and-nine members of the community at large.

But it was always a volunteer organization. It lost money for the first five years of its life, and for the next five barely paid for hosting and conference coverage. This allowed us to podcast the IA Summit for the first time, and paid to have those podcasts transcribed. Jesse James Garrett’s incendiary talk on User Experience is captured because of the passion of those volunteers, and the kind sponsors who made it possible. Our history is written because of the amazing volunteers of Boxes and Arrows. Wireframes were defined and debunked here, Design Patterns explained and complained about, career advice given out and career transitions documented. Boxes and Arrows was the best of us, and we like to think it inspired our many peers who now make it so easy to share inspiration and knowledge.

But as often happens with volunteer efforts, the volunteers’ lives changed. Some people left the field, some people took on jobs that required long hours, and some people made babies. Some people did all three. The people who used to have spare time, didn’t.  They didn’t even have time to notice what was happening. And through spam and neglect, the magazine started to wither. And the torch didn’t get passed. And lacking oxygen, it started to flicker. And now, some say, the light is gone.

But rather than dead, let’s say it is sleeping. Boxes and Arrows is old for an online magazine, and with age comes some advantages. One is SEO: with no new article published, it still gets 5-7K pageviews a day. A bad day for Boxes and Arrows is ten times most blogs’ best day. Which means Boxes and Arrows is still a site with reach. It means it is still a place where a voice, having something important to say, can be amplified. That voice could be yours.

And so, facing retirement or resurrection, we’d like to ask you, reader, what should be the fate of Boxes and Arrows? Is there a new generation of designers out there who wants to take the power of this magazine’s reach and use it to talk about the next generation of user experience design? Will you define it? Will you defend it? Will you debunk it?

If you would like to take over Boxes and Arrows, speak up. We have moved it to a new platform. We have reached out to new writers. We have breathed a little oxygen on to that torch, and the flame begins to catch. We’d like to pass it to you.

If you would like to to volunteer to create the next Boxes and Arrows, please leave a note below. Say what you would like to do, and this magazine is yours.

Again.

As it always was.

As it should be.

Addendum: So grateful for the outpouring of support!  Please join this mailing list where the next generation of B&A begins to plan for the future…

 

When Life Intervenes

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iTunes     Download    Del.icio.us     IA Summit theme music created and provided by BumperTunes™

2009 IA Summit logo

IA Summit 2009 Podcasts

The IA Summit was held in Memphis, TN from March 20-22. Boxes and Arrows captured many of the main conference sessions (“see schedule”:http://iasummit.org/2009/program/schedule/).

| Preview | “Keynote”:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-09-keynote | “Day 1”:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-09-day-1 | “Day 2”:http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-09-day-2 | “Day 3”:http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-09-day-3 | “Closing Plenary”:http://boxesandarrows.wpengine.com/view/ia-summit-09-plenary |

When Life Intervenes

Mom and babySamantha Bailey missed the 2008 IA Summit in Miami due to an illness. Still, she could look forward to 2009 as the Summit’s Chairperson. A few months later, she was excited to find out she would be having a baby, due several weeks after the Summit. With Fate relishing its spoiler role, Niles arrived six weeks early – ensuring that Samantha would miss the ’09 Summit, her Summit.

I spoke with Samantha the week before this year’s Summit about how she approached creating this year’s IA Summit program, the how the Summit community has morphed over time, and what it means to be a part of this community of practice.

This is a first in a series of IA Summit podcast posts.

Creating the Program

Samantha talks about how she started forming the 10th Summit by creating a big committee around her, then looking both backward and forward to ensure that the program reflected at the same time it set a new course. She points out that patterns are forming around the choosing of the opening keynote and closing plenary speakers.

The keynote speaker shapes the theme, how people perceive event. At the Summit, this tends to be someone that’s not an “insider.” When Peter Merholz suggested Michael Wesch, Kansas State Professor and producer of the powerful “The Machine is Us/ing Us.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE YouTube video, Samantha and her team knew it was right because their reaction was, “How did we not think of that before?”
(Download Michael Wesch’s Opening Keynote later this week.)

For the closing plenary, organizers look for an insider, someone who is a highly respected, deep thinker. Jesse James Garrett has, for several years, participated in 5-minute Madness, always offering wisdom in that narrow slice of time, making him a perfect choice to sunset the ’09 Summit.
(Download Jesse James Garrett’s Closing Plenary later this week.)

Summit History and the Communities of Practice

We talk about the 20th anniv of the World Wide Web, and how we continue to use some of the same tools for a completely different Web.Happy family

Further, Samantha goes into detail about how summit has changed in respect to different communities and their involvement in the Summit. She describes how, from 2001 to 2003, the discussion was around whether IA as a practice would survive the Tech bubble bursting. In recent years, the practice has started to broaden its horizons and interact with other practices more openly.

Boxes and Arrows welcomes Niles. Congratulations, Samantha and Karl! Thanks to Samantha for taking the time to speak with us.

These podcasts are sponsored by:

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

IA Summit 2009 logo
The “IA Summit”:http://www.iasummit.org: the premier gathering place for information architects and other user experience professionals.

The theme of the event this year, Expanding Our Horizons, inspired peers and industry experts to come together to speak about a wide range of topics. This included information as wide ranging as practical techniques & tools to evolving practices to create better user experiences.

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

Contribute as an editor or author, and get your ideas out there. “boxesandarrows.com/about/participate”:http://www.boxesandarrows.com/about/participate