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 or Noreen Whysel

Leaping Into Indie UX

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Show Time: 33 minutes 40 seconds

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Podcast Summary

In this episode Chris Baum speaks with Donna Spencer, Lynne Polischuik, Justin Davis and Erin Jo Richey at the 2012 IA Summit about their interactive panel discussion Taking the Plunge: Diving Into Indie UX. They share practical and personal considerations of being an indie designer, including how to to get over the fear of making the jump, where and how to find clients, managing the business side of design and what it’s like to work alone.


“When you first start this you are really insulated…when I looked back it in the first six months to a year I didn’t make any money! When you’re in that initial phase you’re really excited… I think if you looked at it objectively you’d never do it.”

“I spent three years working my butt off to have all of the buffers in place… if there’s no work there’s no backup second income. It took a good couple of years to get enough money in the bank… where I could finally start to relax and say no to work knowing other things would come up and not kill me.”

“I got pushed out of the nest with a reasonable size contract.. and I was OK for a couple of years but I look back now on projects I took on that now I never would have taken on… taking on the wrong clients, taking on the wrong projects… I got to a point recently last Fall where I asked am I happy is this where I want to be?”

“I have been an independent for just over a year now… I had joined the agency that would come in as an analyst and then transition to an Information Architect. We decided that they didn’t want to take the agency in the direction of UX or IA and we talked about the role within the company… I didn’t want to focus on the same types of marketing … I did get laid off but I didn’t have a backup plan put in place.”


Thanks to “Vitamin Talent”: and Morgan Kaufmann’s “It’s Our Research”: for sponsoring this podcast.

And thanks to “ASIS&T”: for their support of the “IA Summit”: and this podcast.

The Past and Future of Boxes and Arrows

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Show Time: 21 minutes 06 seconds

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Podcast Summary

In this episode, I had the pleasure of sitting down in New Orleans at the 2012 Information Architecture Summit with Christina Wodtke (@cwodtke), the founder of Boxes and Christina shares a bit of the history and future of the web magazine that has supported both the people and ideas that have played a key role in the continuing growth and evolution of the IA discipline.

Her key message is that designers need to get their ideas out there.

“You know what really terrifies me? That so few people actually write about what they are doing. There’s so much intelligence lying around out there and not getting out. I just want to find a way to get these folks in front of the people that need to hear them.”


Pitch in on B&A

In that spirit, Boxes and Arrows seeks editors and writers. Participate!


Thanks to Vitamin Talent and Morgan Kaufmann’s It’s Our Research for sponsoring this podcast.

And thanks to ASIS&T for their support of the IA Summit and this podcast.

The Stranger’s Long Neck

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Show Time: 33 minutes 42 seconds

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iTunes     Boxes and Arrows Podcast theme music generously provided by Bumper Tunes

Gerry McGovern has recently published The Stranger's Long Neck - How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want.

Ireland’s Gerry McGovern shares a few of the key ideas in his recent publication The Stranger’s Long Neck – How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want. Mr. McGovern, who will be teaching a Masterclass series in Canada on the importance of task management this November, discusses several of the key findings in his new book, including:

Trading with strangers

– The customer is a stranger. On the Web, the customer isn’t king—they’re dictator. When they come to your website, they have a small set of tasks (long neck) that really matter to them. If they can’t complete these top tasks quickly, they leave.
– There is an existential challenge going on right now between organization-centric and customer-centric thinking. Customer-centric thinking is winning.

From Long Tail to Dead Zone

– The Long Tail theory says that the Web allows you to sell more of less, that we are seeing the decline of the blockbuster and the rise of the niche.
– The Long Tail is often a Dead Zone of extremely low demand and hard to find, poor quality products.

The rise of the Long Neck

– The Web is exploding with quantity but quality is still relatively finite. Quality is the ‘long neck’; the small set of stuff that really matters to the customer.
– Understanding and managing the long neck has never been more important.
– Remember that the customer’s long neck—what really matters to the customer—is rarely the organization’s long neck —what really matters to the organization.

A secret method for understanding your customers

– A unique voting method that identifies your customers’ long neck.
– Developed over 10 years, with over 50,000 customers voting in multiple languages and countries.
– Used by the BBC, Tetra Pak, IKEA, Schlumberger, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Cisco, OECD, Vanguard, Rolls-Royce, US Internal Revenue Service, etc.

Organization thinking versus customer thinking

– Case study that shows how car company managers think differently about how customers buy cars to how customers themselves think.
– Explanation of how to frame the task identification question.

Deliver what customers want—not what you want

– Case study of Microsoft Pinpoint, a website to help businesses find approved Microsoft IT vendors and consultants.
– What’s the top task of US small and medium businesses when it comes to IT? Security.

Measuring success: Back to basics

– Why traditional web metrics such as page views, number of visitors, etc., are often misleading
– Observation-based technique to measure online behaviour.
– The key metrics of task measurement: completion rate, disaster rate, completion time

Carrying out a task measurement

– The benefits of remote measurement
– How to run an actual measurement session

This podcast has been sponsored by:

Publishers of world class content for students, researchers, and practitioners in the UX and HCI fields. To learn more visit

From concepts to rich prototypes and detailed specifications, all in one tool. Get your free 30-day trial at

The design behind the design
Boxes & Arrows: 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.

IA Summit 10 – Day 3

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IA Summit 2010

This year marks the 11th annual Information Architecture Summit. Our theme is meant to inspire everyone in the community—even those who aren’t presenting or volunteering—to bring their best ideas to the table.

As busy practitioners, we rarely have the chance to step back and think about the future of our field—we’re too busy resolving day-to-day issues. By gathering and sharing practical solutions for everyday challenges, we can create more breathing room to plan for what’s to come.

Subscribe to the Boxes and Arrows Podcast in iTunes or add this page to your account:

iTunes     2010 IA Summit theme music generously provided by Bumper Tunes


| “Day 1 – Dan Roam” | “Day 2 – Richard Saul Wurman” | “Day 3 – Whitney Hess” |

Full Program

| Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |

Additional podcasts will be posted as available over the coming weeks.

Day 3 Presentations


Tipping the Scales: Bringing Social Networking within the Enterprise – Manya Kapikian, Kevin Lynch, Michael Patterson

In 2009, a pilot was launched by Raytheon Company to determine the value of social networking. In this session aimed at Information Architects interested in deploying social networking in organizations, Manya Kapikian, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Patterson expose 11 hard lessons learned from the pilot that apply to this relatively undefined territory.

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Sorting Skittles: A User Research Game – Aaron Hursman

In this session, Aaron Hursman introduces introduces a new user research technique that engages research participants in a fun and tactile game format, rather than putting them to sleep with boring questions. Learn how you can use this game approach to produce rich, quantifiable data.

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Testing Content: Early, Often, and Well – Colleen Jones, Kevin O’Connor

In their presentation, Colleen Jones and Kevin O’Connor talk about how testing content is just as important as testing design. Through a website case study, they cover what worked and what didn’t for testing content early in the project—from concepts to prototypes—to inform content strategy and tactics.

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The future of wayfinding – Cennydd Bowles

With boundaries between the abstract digital world and the real physical world becoming blurred, we need new approaches to wayfinding, information scent, and navigation. This session from Cennydd Bowles explains the exciting challenges ahead of us, exploring how we can use information architecture to shape the chaos and design systems for both the digital and physical world that allow users to orientate themselves, understand the choices available, and feel at home.

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Using Beekeeping History to Predict the Future of UX – Aaron Rosenberg

Measurement and prediction can help foster great insight and innovation. Calling upon the history of American beekeeping as a backdrop, Aaron Rosenberg shows how incremental improvement comes from qualitative observation, while giant strides can be achieved through quantitative insight. This calls to the next generation of user researchers to apply quantitative methods to our study of user behavior on the web.

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The Human Interface (or: Why Products are People, Too) – Christopher Fahey

We can no longer ask users to think like machines just to be able to use software. Instead, our systems must act more like people. User experience designers, in turn, need to stop thinking about interfaces as dumb control panels for manipulating machines and data and start thinking about them as human beings.

In this talk, Christopher Fahey explores diverse areas of non-digital human experience in order to frame and showcase some of the most exciting current and emerging user experience design practices, ultimately inspiring designers to humanize their interfaces.

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What they didn’t know they needed – Amy Cueva, Megan Grocki

Although it is a really easy trap to fall into, if you simply ask users about what would make life better, you will rarely get meaningful answers. They are just not good at envisioning revolutionary solutions, and basing your designs on those responses won’t get to a breakthrough in your design. In this presentation, Amy Cueva and Megan Grocki discuss how research inspires design and how reality inspires creativity. They focus on activities such as Laddering, Game play, Storytelling and Triading that can help expose opportunities for radical innovation and designing products that people can’t live without.

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Words #Fail: Collaborating on the Unexplainable – Dan Willis, Dave Gray

In the real world, developing a shared understanding often needs to happen while the team is already in motion, and words can often only vaguely describe people’s ideas. Visual thinkers Dave Gray and Dan Willis decided to explore the murky glory of the unexplainable with an interesting experiment: over the course of a large scale challenge, they collaborated without the benefit of spoken words or written narrative to first identify and define their primary challenge, then create and winnow potential solutions, and finally develop a single solution.

Dan and Dave live in different parts of the US, and before their session had never compared notes on the blow-by-blow details of their experiment. The two discuss their silent, geographically dispersed effort as they meet for the first time in front of the audience, illustrating how visual thinking can feed and support collaboration that results in breakthrough solutions.

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Living Personas – Visually Displaying Brand Insights and Connections to Consumers – Russ Unger, Ross McClean

In this session Russ Unger and Ross McClean examine living personas—an interactive and engaging format that goes beyond flat paper personas we are used to. They discuss how this technique will change your perception of personas, no matter what you think of them now, and how it can showcase how real people are behaving related to your brand, product, or project.

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Design for Emotion and Flow – Trevor van Gorp

Trevor van Gorp’s presentation explores the role emotions play in how we focus attention, learn, process, and use information, and how they are involved in creating a state of flow. You’ll learn about the underlying causes, characteristics and consequences of flow, how flow is related to emotional design, and how to take user goals into consideration when designing for it.

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The Practice of Information Architecture: It takes a village of practitioners to raise a discipline – Nathaniel Davis

In this session, Nathaniel Davis introduces the Organization Role Segmentation (ORS) theory that suggests how to define and chart unique business functions and role types within any organization. He shows how ORS can articulate a distinct information architecture role, shape an IA practice, and show us how to align ourselves and our teams for growth, accountability, and discovery within our discipline.

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Metropolitan Information Architecture: The future of UX, Databases, and the (Information) Architecture of complex, urban environments – Don Turnbull, John Tolva

What does location mean for UX? How does information architecture and design synchronize with urban architecture? How does mobile communication and web culture impact the streetscape? Are we living in facets of the same virtual city or does location still constrain us?

In this session, Don Turnbull and John Tolva look into these and other questions as they discuss research and designs unveiling how our interactions with both digital and physical environments are changing.

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From Here to Experience – Jared Spool

It’s impossible for an organization to flip a switch, turning off their product mindset to start innovating great experiences. Instead, they must embark on a journey where every step, no matter how tiny, gets them closer to their goal of delighting customers.

In this entertaining presentation, Jared Spool shows you the path successful organizations have taken on their journeys. You’ll learn how to create an integrated feedback system. You’ll see the benefits of formulating a solid experience vision. And, you’ll learn why it’s critical to shift your organization’s culture past risk-aversion.

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Presentations – It ain’t all about the PowerPoint – Adam Polansky

We know that people like stories. They also like pictures. By giving you some tips that take advantage of those two facts, Adam Polansky shares how to shift the focus of your presentations to you, the storyteller, rather than living or dying by the content of your slides—and in the process getting your ideas into someone else’s head more effectively.

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5 Minute Madness – Attendees of the 2010 IA Summit

Along with conference speakers, attendees share their thoughts of the IA Summit, its people, ideas explored, or whatever else they want to share… but they only have 5 minutes each to do so.

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These podcasts are sponsored by:

MAD*POW logo
At Mad*Pow, they leverage the disciplines of Human Factors, Psychology, and Visual Design to create engaging experience that maximize customer acquisition, increase attention, and reduce costs.

ASIS&T logo
The American Society of Information Science & Technology: 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 2010
The IA Summit: the premier gathering place for information architects and other user experience professionals.

The design behind the design
Boxes & Arrows: 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.