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

Structured Content Design Workflow 2022

Structured content design focuses on communicating effectively to an organization’s patrons, constituents, and customers, wherever they are and however they choose to access content. While it is the cornerstone of effective, scalable content design for the web, it’s also much more than just a “web” technique: it is a way to prioritize effective communication across contexts. 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 »

Stop Publishing Pages! – Content Strategy MeetUp Talk Highlights

The way that we consume information on the web is changing. Voice and IA technology are driving this change in a way that affects anyone publishing online. And yet: we continue to hold on to the metaphor of the content we publish as “pages,” destined to be found and read as delivered by patient, attentive online readers. I recently had the opportunity to talk with the Seattle Content Strategy MeetUp group about this alarming state of affairs—and about what we can do to fix it. 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 »

Structured Content Design Workflow

Update 2022: This article has been revised! The updated version includes new examples, expanded use cases, and a reframing of the final phase to focus on maturity, instead of simply measurement. Check it out here. 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 »

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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