A Cognitive Sciences Reading List for Designers

If you’ve ever done any contextual inquiry or usability testing, you’ve probably observed first hand the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually end up doing. Overlooked calls to action, bizarre navigation paths, mind-bogglingly irrational decisions — even the most sensible seeming users occasionally (or often) do things that “rationally” make little sense. Which is to say that we all, on occasion (or often) do things that seem to make little rational sense. And yet, on a day-to-day basis, this is how we successfully negotiate the complexities of our world. We use heuristics (aka rules-of-thumb) and limited information to make decisions about how we live our lives, and we do it continuously throughout the day — often without stopping to consider why we choose one thing over another ... continue reading

Architecting the Connected World

In the first two posts in this series, I examined the connection between information architecture and user interface design, and then looked closely at the opportunities and constraints inherent in information architecture as we’ve learned to practice it on the web. Here, I outline strategies and tactics that may help us think through these constraints and that may in turn help us lay the groundwork for an information architecture practice tailored and responsive to our increasingly connected physical environments. ... continue reading

The Lingering Seduction of the Page

In an earlier post in this series, I examined the articulatory relationship between information architecture and user interface design, and argued that the tools that have emerged for constructing information architectures on the web will only get us so far when it comes to expressing information systems across diverse digital touchpoints. Here, I want to look more closely at these traditional web IA tools in order to tease out two things: (1) ways we might rely on these tools moving forward, and (2) ways we’ll need to expand our approach to IA as we design for the Internet of Things. ... continue reading

Architecture, Design, and the Connected Environment

Just when it seems we’re starting to get our heads around the mobile revolution, another design challenge has risen up fiercer and larger right behind it: the Internet of Things. The rise in popularity of “wearables” and the growing activity around NFC and Bluetooth LE technologies are pushing the Internet of Things increasingly closer to the mainstream consumer market. Just as some challenges of mobile computing were pointedly addressed by responsive web design and adaptive content, we must carefully evaluate our approach to integration, implementation, and interface in this emerging context if we hope to see it become an enriching part people’s daily lives (and not just another source of anger and frustration). It is with this goal in mind that I would like to offer a series of posts as one starting point for a conversation about user interface design, user experience design, and information architecture for connected environments. I’ll begin by discussing the functional relationship between user interface design and information architecture, and by drawing out some implications of this relationship for user experience as a whole. ... continue reading

Language + Meaning + User Experience Architecture

There is an architectural concept called the “kitchen triangle” that I often use in talks and presentations. I use it to point out the difference between arguments and articulations of arguments. The gist of it is this: in order to create an effective kitchen, the sink, the stove and the refrigerator must each be placed no closer than 4 feet to each other, but no further than 9 feet apart. There must also be limited or no traffic through the center of the triangle. In this example, the triangle is the argument: it presents a solution for how we use space to accomplish a task. It is based on the dimensions of the human body (the length of our arms, of our steps, of our ability to twist and pivot) and on the process of food preparation (which requires, among other things, that access to key areas not be disrupted by household traffic flows). ... continue reading