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Information architecture

Information architecture is the categorization of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that most people can understand quickly, if not inherently. (source: Wikipedia)

2017 Information Architecture Summit closing plenary address

Making history at the summit while looking at the works of some giants.

“If as information architects we want to do human-centered design, and to be working in terms of health and wellbeing in the overall ecosystem as a consequence of our actions, even those actions that seem isolated in small sub-regions of the ecosystem, then our methods, and ways of talking with people who don’t do what we do, and the entry points into and interactions with our profession, need to go even wider than ordinary.”

Dan Klyn a.k.a. /danklyn | @danklyn

A Comparison in Pursuit of “The Masterworks of Information Architecture”

Finally some time for real in-depth research on the IA roots.

“In a search for classic works on information architecture, Joyce’s Ulysses and Richard Saul Wurman’s The City, Form and Intent are each compared internally across different versions and considered in terms of content, context and user. Each author modified readers’ experiences through changes in the content and physical form of their works. Wurman’s 1963 work, a loose-leaf collection reflecting architecture through clay models of cities, was redone in 1974 with the same content but different physical presentation. Joyce’s Ulysses was marked by variations across versions, with omissions, additions and typographic errors carried inconsistently through editions, leaving the author’s intended meaning ambiguous. The context of Wurman’s work was the very early stage in the author’s career. The context of production of Ulysses involved composition, editing, publishing, correction and republishing across multiple channels, making consideration of the totality of the editions key to understanding the information architecture of the work. Users of Wurman’s original print work exalted it, while users of a 2014 spin-off web project see it from a different perspective. Similarly, the user experience for Ulysses varies widely, depending largely on which edition is read. The analysis and internal comparison of the two works highlight the importance of both content knowledge and technical skill throughout any information architecture project. Whether they will serve as masterworks for the field remains an open question.”

Dan Klyn a.k.a. /danklyn | @danklyn ~ ASIS&T Bulletin June/July 2016

The war on information: A time to muster our UX practitioners

Many synonyms for the tsunami, deluge or overload of information.

“The world as we know it today is rich in information. At whim, we can usually find (without much delay) an information source that answers a question, suggests nearby restaurants, tells us how to travel, or provides us with data for the paper we are writing. The internet, as well as the technological innovations that allow us to easily and enjoyably access it, has given rise to a new era where knowledge is plentiful and interpretation is vital.”

Dash Neimark a.k.a. /uxdash | @ux_Dash ~ Boxes and Arrows

Meeting your mission: A user-centered approach to content strategy

Content, the UX material we work with. And code of course.

“The most common mistake by organizations designing a website, app, or other digital product is breaking the number one rule of human-centered design: put content where users are most likely to look for it. Instead, mission-driven organizations, in particular, such as government agencies and nonprofits, muddle the execution of their design as they struggle to promote their message and meet the needs of stakeholders.”

Nikki Kerber a.k.a. /nrkerber | @SocialWebNerd and Rachel Weatherly a.k.a. /rdweatherly ~ UXPA Magazine

Architect everywhere

Architecting information as an architect.

“The design process consists in defining hypotheses of what the balance between these forces ought to be, and articulating them to two main audiences: stakeholders — the people who are commissioning the product and/or those who will be using it — and its builders. This articulation happens by means of models, which the designer creates to communicate the intended balance to these audiences. These models can take many forms: sketches, comps, prototypes, etc. Feedback from stakeholders and developers helps designers refine these models as the project progresses, and the models evolve from being abstract and ambiguous (rough sketches) to concrete (screen comps, prototypes).”

Jorge Arango a.k.a. /jarango | @jarango

The pain with no name

Language is infrastructure for sense-making and place-making. Language is a medium for making. And, as RSW once said: “Language generates structure.”

“Twenty-five years into designing and developing for the web and we still collectively suck at information architecture. We are taught to be innovative, creative, agile, and iterative, but where and when are we taught how to make complex things clear? In my opinion, the most important thing we can do to make the world a clearer place is teach people how to think critically about structure and language.”

Abby Covert a.k.a. /abbytheia | @Abby_the_IA ~ A List Apart

User Experience Librarians: User Advocates, User Researchers, Usability Evaluators, or All of the Above? (.pdf)

Libraries and UX, a perfect match for information architects.

“User Experience (UX) is gaining momentum as a critical success factor across all industries and sectors, including libraries. While usability studies of library websites and related digital interfaces are commonplace, UX is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion in the community and is emerging as a new specialization for library professionals. To better understand this phenomenon, this paper reports the results of a qualitative study involving interviews with 16 librarians who have ‘User Experience’ in their official job titles. The results show that UX Librarians share a user-centered mindset and many common responsibilities, including user research, usability testing, and space/service assessments, but each individual UX Librarian is also somewhat unique in how they approach and describe their work. As a whole, the research sheds light on an emerging library specialization and provides a valuable snapshot of the current state of UX Librarianship.”

Craig M. MacDonald a.k.a. @CraigMMacDonald ~ Proceedings of the 78th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, vol. 51

Complete beginner’s guide to Information Architecture

But how complete can it be?

“Information architecture is a task often shared by designers, developers, and content strategists. But regardless of who takes on the task, IA is a field of its own, with influences, tools, and resources that are worth investigation. In this article we’ll discuss what information architecture really is, and why it’s a valuable aspect of the user experience process.”

UX Booth

The good, the bad, and the ugly: A language of critique for information architecture

I always love some deep thinking on information architecture. It’s not that often I encounter it.

“IA is more than wireframes. But we’re confined by the mindset that thinks IA is a box to check off on a project plan. If you find this a problem, you’ll want a way to change the discourse. A language of critique is going to help you become a better, more influential UX professional. We can all use that.”

Stacy Surla a.k.a. /stacysurla | @stacysurla ~ Fritillaria

Towards a definition of serendipity in information behaviour

Finding something unexpected and very relevant is a moment of wow!

“Serendipitous or accidental discovery of information has often been neglected in information behaviour models, which tend to focus on information seeking, a more goal-directed behaviour. (…) By including serendipity in information behaviour models, the frameworks arrived at should help further research in this area. A working definition of serendipity in information behaviour is a starting point for other researchers to investigate related questions in the area.”

Naresh Kumar Agarwal ~ Information Research Vol. 20.3

Information architecture’s role in UX design

Fortunately, no more discussions on information design versus information architecture. We’ve come from far away.

Jorge Arango discusses the state of IA and the importance of designers’ understanding of context and perspective – “Information architecture has always been an important part of user experience design, though not always acknowledged as such. With the emergence of social, IoT, and mobile, we have watched IA taking on a more dominant role in product development.”

(Mary Treseler a.k.a. @marytreseler ~ O’Reilly Radar)

Design’s role is to bridge context gaps: Andrew Hinton on making context understandable, smart devices, and programming literacy

Each time, IA is falling off the table when technology or design have the loudest mouth. But in the end, IA provides new meaning, truth, and value.

“Information architecture has always been a critical part of creating great products and services, and many would argue that, until now, it hasn’t been given the attention or respect it deserves. The need for thoughtful IA is increasing as we enter the multimodal world of IoT. Whether you call yourself an Information Architect or Designer, you need to care about context.”

(Mary Treseler a.k.a. @marytreseler ~ O’Reilly Radar)

Interaction design meets architectural thinking

Beside design thinking, we now have architectural thinking as well.

“Architecture is the classic, established approach to the design of our built environment. For hundreds of years, architects have focused on the design of our physical surroundings to define the frames for our lives. In doing so, architecture has established itself as the tradition of working with the material and artificial aspects of our physical surroundings to support the social and cultural aspects of our lives. With this as its primary focus, architecture as a discipline and a practice shares several characteristics with interaction design. Architecture is people-centered yet design-oriented; it deals with the intersection of human factors and artificial matters—that is, the material, designed aspects of our everyday lives.”

(Mikael Wiberg ~ ACM Interaction Magazine March/April 2015)

Architecting happiness

Bravo! Such a nice initiative to bring the design challenge to our community. Great starting point for #WIAD15 and #ArchHappy.

“The world is complex. Information is subjective. Customer Experience is key. Globally there is a big community of courageous professionals for whom their daily work is about making sense of any mess. They are information architects, user experience designers, developers, social media experts, visual designers, innovators… sometimes working as specialists but in other roles too: as creative directors, entrepreneurs, managers or consultants. They are to be found in agencies, startups, big corporations or work as freelancers. They all have something in common: they are responsible for Designing, Developing, Building, Communicating webs, mobile apps or digital services and products that act as information spaces in ubiquitous ecologies (on any device, in any location, and in any format). The aim of this project is to stimulate discussion about how we Architect for Happiness.”

(Silvia Calvet a.k.a. @silviacalvet and Nicole Neuefeind a.k.a. @nicneuvision ~ About Architecting Happiness)

What you know about information architecture, might not be true

But as you also know, common knowledge is not as common as you think it is.

“You don’t hear the term information architecture much anymore. There is a lot of talk about understanding the users needs and delivering appropriate content. But, little about how the user finds that content. This is because it is a subject that is thoroughly covered. There are some great books on the subject and so bloggers don’t feel they have much to add. The problem is that when a subject has been so well covered, it moves into the realm of common knowledge. We all think we understand information architecture. Yet, it is a specialist area and the things we think we know may not be correct.”

(Paul Boag ~ Boagworld)