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WIAD Ghent 2016



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Let’s be honest, information is to be found everywhere – as it always has. So, it should come as no surprise that information architecture has also been around since the dawn of time. This is often forgotten in our enthusiasm for electronic media. I hope to make you think more about what makes a good information architect and what pitfalls we should avoid.

This was my closing keynote at World Information Architecture Day (WIAD) in Ghent, Belgium.

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WIAD Ghent 2016

  1. 1. Chickens and Eggs (a broader view of information architecture) Eric Reiss @elreiss WIAD 2016 February 20, 2016 Ghent, Belgium
  2. 2. My premise for today’s talk: If you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s difficult to see where you’re going.
  3. 3. I hope to dispell some myths: IA was first invented in the ‘70s IA relates strictly to digital information Reading IA books will make you an IA I also want to share my thoughts on three key issues: context psychology changing content properties My goals, your take-aways
  4. 4. So, when did it start? Using the term Doing the work
  5. 5. February 1998
  6. 6. Happy birthday, polar bear book!
  7. 7. February 1998August 1999
  8. 8. “But gosh, I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Certainly others were doing this before me...”
  9. 9. Belgium’s first information architect
  10. 10. IA and gestural interfaces - 1935
  11. 11. A 150-year-old infographic
  12. 12. A 170-year-old sitemap
  13. 13. A 220-year-old SEO project
  14. 14. A 250-year-old knowledge map
  15. 15. A 300-year-old taxonomy
  16. 16. A 400-year-old content inventory
  17. 17. 650-year-old personas
  18. 18. A 5000-year-old wireframe
  19. 19. And you could argue that Plato was actually the first person to write about information architecture!
  20. 20. Content strategy Abel Bailie/Urbina Bloomstein Halvorson Kissane Lamm McGrane Nichols Rach Wachter-Boettcher IA Arango Covert Gilchrist/Mahon Morville Reiss Resmini/Rosati Rosenfeld van Dijck Wodtke/Govella Wurman Usability Krug Nielsen Pearrow Reiss Rubin/Chisnell Snitker Spool Wroblewski UX Chandler/Unger Cooper Goodwin Gothelf Garrett Kuniavsky Norman Shedroff Saffer Unger/Starmer Marcom Drucker Godin Kottler Pepper Peters Rogers Advertising Caples Hopkins Ogilvy Service Beckwith Crosby Osterwalder Polaine/Løvlie Seybold Schneider Stickdorn Tschohl Underhill Zemke
  21. 21. Reading books is good. But don’t discount the value of emprical experience and intuition. And you gain experience everywhere!
  22. 22. These won’t make you a chef or a mechanic
  23. 23. Mama said “no” but we learned by touching
  24. 24. And books won’t teach you the secrets of every great information architect: • Curiosity • Empathy • Passion
  25. 25. Time travel back to the very first IA Summit
  26. 26. (Strange seas of colour…) Stage Me
  27. 27. Cool blackTweed Flannel Other
  28. 28. Sadly, 16 years later, these groups still don’t really get along • designers • academics • developers • marketers
  29. 29. The wonderful Lou Rosenfeld spent all night working on this diagram
  30. 30. Information architecture Model ver. 0.01 (synthesis of ~900 terms, 8 April 2000) Information Information Architect Information User IA Goals •Meet user-needs •Mediation •Usability •Added value •Navigate •Search •Browse •Evaluate •Design •Implement •Structure •Tag/index •Analysis •Model •Classify •Evaluate •Create •Own •Edit •Manage Standards DisciplinesPolicies Technology
  31. 31. The Wikipedia still thinks information architecture is strictly digital
  32. 32. How do we do information architecture? • Gather things in convenient categories • Call things something recognizable • Put things where they can be found
  33. 33. Wurman’s LATCH model (1994) L – Location Ghent is a city in Belgium A – Alphabet Ghent starts with the letter “G” T – Time Ghent dates back to the stone age C – Category Ghent is a “marine west coast climate” H – Hierarchy Ghent is the largest city in Eastern Flanders
  34. 34. IA is not just something on a screen
  35. 35. Gather things in convenient categories
  36. 36. Message: our skills are valuable far beyond the screen
  37. 37. Call things something recognizable (a case story from a strip mall in Miami)
  38. 38. Generic labels easily read from a speeding car
  39. 39. Find the weird label...
  40. 40. Usability testing in the real world
  41. 41. 2007
  42. 42. 2009
  43. 43. 2012
  44. 44. Message: labels have to be crystal clear and appropriate to the user’s environment
  45. 45. Put things where they can be found
  46. 46. Put them where they can be found
  47. 47. Message: if content is king, context is the kingdom
  48. 48. What and how are only part of the story
  49. 49. What and how are only part of the story
  50. 50. Fundamentals of change management
  51. 51. How What Why
  52. 52. Once you understand the “why” of IA, the “what” and “how” are mostly a matter of common sense and practice.
  53. 53. Why? To create understanding through context
  54. 54. Noise Information Understanding
  55. 55. “You can only understand something relative to something else.” Richard Saul Wurman
  56. 56. Our title is “information architect” Perhaps itis should be “context coordinator”
  57. 57. Content collections can be messy. Pattern recognition is a key skill
  58. 58. An ergonomic seat designed for one person Optical lenses invented by Benjamin Franklin Alcoholic mixture invented by Dr. Iain Marshall Incandescent device invented by Thomas Edison Fabric made on a loom invented by JM Jacquard Rouge Royale (marble) Baskerville Light (typography) Domesticated mammal (This is often how our clients look at their content) Content objects
  59. 59. Armchair Bifocal eyeglasses Manhattan Cocktail Lightbulb Wool jumper Tabletop Book Cat (This is an easier way to look at content) Content objects (simplified)
  60. 60. Eyeglasses Wool pullover Lightbulb Marble tabletop Armchair Book Gus the Cat Manhattan Cocktail
  61. 61. Sensory assistance Warmth/comfort Sensory assistance Convenience/aethetics Convenience/comfort Education/information Companionship Chemical stimuli
  62. 62. Message: You have to understand the big picture in order to make good tactical decisions. And the big picture is found in the business plan.
  63. 63. Content strategy can go wrong
  64. 64. Let’s dry our hair... Which three things do we need?
  65. 65. Message: the IA behind the Internet of Things has always been here. It just hasn’t always been on the internet! Now, it’s up to us to form the electronic “arrows”
  66. 66. If we don’t get the context right, the user experience suffers
  67. 67.
  68. 68. Message: you have to give users options and not just a single, inflexible solution
  69. 69. If we don’t get the context right, sales may suffer, too.
  70. 70. + vs. vs.
  71. 71. Buy camera and case at same time Expectation that some high-end cases would be sold Case bought separately – two choices Expectation that mostly low-end cases would be sold Case bought separately – three choices Expectation that mostly mid-range cases would be sold Inspired by Dr. Susan Weinschenk Three different scenarios
  72. 72. Message: Study up on the psychology of choice
  73. 73. And sometimes our initial perceptions can be misleading...
  74. 74. A - a sphere and a circle B - a sphere and a cube Which seem more alike?
  75. 75. A – cassette tape B – mirror C – music CD D – LP record Which of these items seems least relevant?
  76. 76. A – cassette tape B – mirror C – music CD D – tin-can lid Which of these items seems least relevant?
  77. 77. A – cassette tape B – mirror C – old car hubcap D – tin-can lid Which of these items seems least relevant?
  78. 78. A - a cube and a square B - a cube and a sphere But here’s my original question…did you change from A to B? If so, you probably started to see the generic properties. A - a sphere and a circle B - a sphere and a cube Which seem more alike?
  79. 79. Percent changes in perception
  80. 80. What are the generic properties? • Shiny • Sharp • Rolls • Contains stuff • Makes noise
  81. 81. Message: to find new contextual relationships, you must look at the generic properties of the content
  82. 82. I hope to dispell some myths: IA was first invented in the ‘70s IA relates strictly to digital information Reading IA books will make you an IA I also want to share my thoughts on three key issues: Creating meaningful context Understanding psychology Identifying generic content properties My goals, your take-aways
  83. 83. Bonus material (a basic process for introducing IA/UX as an integral part of how an organisation does business when the stakeholders just want to continue doing business as usual)
  84. 84. Reiss’s Integration Model (3:24 AM) Figure out the business problem (Read the business plan) Understand the opportunities (Identify ways to create value through IA/UX) Channel your energy (Don’t get sidetracked by naysayers) Kiss some ass (A sad part of doing business) Institutionalize the process (Find your champions. Spread the word) Take care of the business goals (Show the stakeholders the money!)
  85. 85. But above all else, there are three skills every great IA demonstrates: Passion, curiosity, and empathy With these, you can rule the world!
  86. 86. Dank U! Merci!
  87. 87. The FatDUX Group ApS Strandøre 15 2100 Copenhagen Denmark Office: (+45) 39 29 07 07 Mobil: (+45) 20 12 88 44 Twitter: @elreiss Eric Reiss can (usually) be found at: