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“Complex issues … written about patiently, clearly, and accurately”

How to Choose Topics for Card Sorting

Like many “so easy anyone can do it processes,” there is a pitfall in setting up and running an effective card sorting exercise: selecting the right topics for cards. With a little bit of preparation, teamwork, and in-person (or virtual) facilitation, it’s possible to fine tune your card sorting exercise set-up process to substantially improve both the quality of your results, and the depth of insight those results reveal. Read the article »

Delivering Information Architecture

One of the greatest challenges in digital design is identifying and maintaining focus on the right problem. For information architecture, one of our most common deliverables, the visual sitemap, can actually make focusing on the right problems harder, if not impossible. In this article we’ll examine why this happens, explore what practitioners and teams can do to avoid this trap of misplaced focus, and learn how to rehabilitate our wayward sitemaps and reinstate them as the effective design artifacts they can be. Read the article »

What is Information Architecture?

Information Architecture is the process and the product of designing shared information environments. In the same way that building architects collaborate in the creation of physical environments for shared human use, information architects collaborate in the creation of information environments for shared human use. The architect may not know in detail how each wall or widget gets built, but they know enough about how all the pieces fit together as a whole to ensure that the final result effectively meets the human needs. Read the article »

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 Read the article »

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). Read the article »

Designing with Code

To code or not to code? For designers, that’s a very contentious question. Clients like designers who code because (among other reasons) that’s one less body on payroll. Design advocates, on the other hand, often see code as a technical limitation that stifles creativity. To make matters worse, the information ecologies we all work in refuse to stand still. By looking carefully at some of our favorite arguments, however – and by taking them within the context of our ever-evolving digital landscape – we can begin to make a case for when working in code makes sense. Read the article »

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