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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 >>

Conversations with Robots: Voice, Smart Agents & the Case for Structured Content

Voice user interfaces, smart software agents, and AI-powered search are changing the way users—and computers—interact with content. Whether or not you’re building services for these emerging technologies, structured content is now necessary to ensure the accuracy and integrity of your content across the evolving digital landscape. read the article >>

Structured Content Design Workflow

Over the last several years I’ve become an ardent advocate of “structured content design.” This is the process of designing digital resources (like websites and apps) from the content out, as opposed to creating interaction and visual design first, then shoehorning the content into it right before (or right after) launch. A structured content approach to digital work has a number of advantages over typical “interface first” processes. read the article >>

Site Maps & Connected Content

At the IA Summit earlier this year I had the pleasure of chatting with the brilliant and affable Carrie Hane over lunch about structured content, prototyping, and connected data approaches to IA. One of the things that had us both in a bit of a quandary was what to do about “the site map.” Being an “organizer,” that neat hierarchy of tidy boxes and connections has a lot of appeal. And clients love them: they get to see where all their stuff goes! But when designing large scale digital content organization systems (you know, “websites”) for dynamic, evolving collections of content, creating that map of “where everything goes” seems to have become, in equal measures, increasingly laborious, and increasingly short lived. read the article >>

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. read the article >>

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. read the article >>

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. 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 >>

The Trouble with Systems

Much virtual ink has been spilled in the last year or two over the importance of thinking about information design in terms of systems as opposed to thinking of it as a set of carefully laid out maps. In a 2012 blog post on Embodied Responsiveness, Andrew Hinton observed that “rather than trying to pre-program and map out every possible scenario, we need systems that respond intelligently by the very nature of their architectures.” Stephen Hay (Responsive Design Workflow, 2013) and Sara Wachter-Boettcher (Content Everywhere, 2012) have likewise called out the need to stop thinking about web design in terms of pages and start thinking about it as a system, as a cohesive, interrelated whole. read the article >>

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