Patching Our Crumbling Foundations Through Information Architecture

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With more Internet connected devices than people in the world, there has never been a more important time for information architecture. Now more than ever, the world needs unprecedented collaboration from all of IA's sub-disciplines to shore up the crumbling foundations our digital experiences are being expanded upon.

We can do this by focusing on "what" before "how" in terms of the experiences we create. We can patch these crumbling foundations and make them more organized and capable for a demanding future if we focus more on the foundations of IA.

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  • I work at The Understanding Group. Our goal is to make things be good, by making the complex clear.
  • This is a crumbling wall in Pompeii Italy. Some of the walls in this ancient city were erected as early as the 6th or 7th century. And despite going through the massive destruction caused by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius the foundation stands the test of time. Like this wall in Pompeii, many places on the Internet have some visible semblance of structure, but no longer serve their intended purposes. As makers of the Internet, we aren’t architecting experiences that are intended to be used for long periods of time… and instead of shoring up existing structures to create a renewed sense of purpose and order, more times than not we focus on new strategies, in a sense acting as the volcanic ash that buries our well-intentioned structures.These are problems content strategists and IAs have been fighting for years, but it’s my great fear that content marketing (inbound), social media and SEO-centric tactics are being sold to organizations under the guise of content strategy. In short, we’re becoming too focused on the how, instead of focusing on what, which is the essential purpose of Information Architetcure.
  • This is the work of Jan Vormann, a German artist that began using plastic construction bricks to patch crumbling foundations and architectural elements in municipalities that either lacked a plan for the care of its buildings or the budget to properly care for them. When Vormann works on an installation, he studied the structures of the buildings themselves and the patterns that currently exist within the medium he must work prior to executing his solution. Whether you’re a content marketer, an information designer a writer or a socail media professional, I want you to be more like Vormann, and I’ll tell you how.
  • We do this by focusing on WHAT before HOW. Architects focus on the what, designers and content creators focus on the enablement o Before we ever touch design, get to the content planning phases or write a top 10 blog post. IA focus
  • Today I want to talk about three things: Two of them (Structure and Pattern) I’ve already mentioned but for me, all three are crucial for doing an IA focused content strategyPeopleStructuresPatterns
  • Let’s start by talking about people:My problem with most content marketing efforts is that they seem more focused on Attention vs. True engagement. People centered IA focuses first on the needs of the business and uses that knowledge as a lens to conduct research and inquiry into an audience. It doesn’t start with the content, it starts with the people, their pain points, their fears and the contexts they’ll have when they need to interact with a business, whether its through a blog post, search or navigation.
  • When we architect an experience for a user, context is crucial in the content strategy phases of a project. For me, the most important elements of context can be addressed if we focus on: BehaviorsSituationsEnvironments
  • Physical Factors:Doing: Environmental factors, physical activity levels, habits, disabilities, preferences and sensori stimuliEmotional Factors: Feelings: - Psychological state the content or information puts them inUsers stress level, wants, desires, needsCognitive Factors:Learning: Cognitive assumptions, learning abilities, educational level
  • Situational context is in reference to the actual or perceived situations that users are facing when they need to access our content. How do we deliver content differently to someone who has to buy a new car because theirs has been destroyed in a crash, vs. someone who may be car shopping for a convertible they intend to use only on weekends?
  • When you blend situational and behavioral contexts together, you have the basis for a contextually relevant content strategy, or at the very least, a place to begin when forming questions for research.
  • But not just device type, it’s download speed, time, place, temperature and season.
  • Contextual inquiry is basically a structured field interviewing method, based on a few core principles that differentiate this method from plain, journalistic interviewing. I want to STRESS that inquiry is more a discovery process than an evaluative process; more like learning than testing. It should be completed by an Information Architect and the person responsible for content planning because it becomes INVALUABLE for getting to things like Voice and Tone. If possible, visit the site where services actually take place… how do the physical manifestations of a brand or service influence how a person interacts with it and influences the IA? E.G. Hospital Signage, Department names, etc. Ask questions about these things.
  • Personas come from contextual inquiry and user interviews. We stitch these people together to plan for content strategy needs and ensure that creation of content moving forward has a specific purpose.
  • I call these cognitive maps. The hypothesis come from user personas crafted after contextual inquiry and user interviews take place.
  • Your hypothesis can map against existing content and the gaps allow you to plan to fill the gaps, with social, articles, etc.
  • Does the process feel familiar?
  • These are your bricks.
  • A pattern is a “consistent and recurring characteristic or trait that helps in the identification of a phenomenon or problem, and serves as an indicator or model for predicting its future behavior” Patterns in nature exist for specific reasons. They’re repeatable, easy to identify and serve purpose and clear function. (EG: Spiral Aloe)
  • As is the case in most things, man has leaned a great deal from nature and it’s patterns. They’ve been instrumental for everything from creating architectural structures like the one you see here, to assisting in the establishment of computing systems that account for patterned behavior. [Kamppi Chapel of Silence – Helsinki, FN)
  • The curved façade of the chapel of silence allows for patterns both in the visual and structure itself. The patterns create a context for the space that we enter and lend themselves to being visually interesting. When we think about this in terms of content strategy, we make things that are complex, CLEAR for our users though patterns. We think about about the language and how to arrange patterns to create CONTEXT for the user.
  • What do we mean when we say “Cheap!”
  • What do we mean when we say “turquoise”?
  • What do we mean when we say technology?
  • Ontology = PaddleTaxonomy = ShopChoreography – Clearance items related specifically to the paddling taxonomyREI gets to these through the identification of patterns, either from user data, internal search information or trial and error. Either way, it’s purposeful execution should allow them to improve other pages.... Like this:
  • Better choreography and use of the taxonomy in place, could begin to enable marketing initiiatives or create better relationships and structures to help move from LEARNING to shopping… something we learned when we talked about
  • Structure requires massive amounts of teamwork, from IA to technology, to business units, to publishing cycles. This is where the People Components that Brain Traffic mentions become such big drivers. http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/
  • As Jeff Eaton mentioned yesterday, we don’t structure EVERYTHING… we prioritize. In IA, we do it through inventory, content and context mapping, content wireframes and
  • Inventories give us an idea of the structures that we have. We make initial judgments around value and what needs to be done to patch any of the foundations as well as align it to business objectives. It’s also the first look into how relationships work.
  • Give organizations, designers and developers insight to the people we must reach
  • Contentwireframing allows creators and content managers to visually align common sets of content and understand how to begin to apply taxonomy, etc. and hierarchy leads to cost reductions by way of efficiency. E.G. Ford motor company is able to ensure more build and price completions through a revised content flow, leading to more requests for quote or scheduled test drives. These metrics lead to incremental sales for dealers and more orders from the OEM.
  • This (fields are your friends)
  • Not this…
  • When you have structure, you can distribute
  • We do this by focusing on WHAT before HOW. Architects focus on the what, designers and content creators focus on the enablement o Before we ever touch design, get to the content planning phases or write a top 10 blog post. IA focus
  • Architect before you build. Focus on your business goal. Talk to you users. Look for patterns. Select your bricks. Patch the foundations that need the most help and architect NEW structures with purpose.
  • Patching Our Crumbling Foundations Through Information Architecture

    1. 1. PATCHING OUR ! CRUMBLING FOUNDATIONS ! THROUGH INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE Presented by Daniel Eizans
    2. 2. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 HI! I’M DANIEL EIZANS PAST LIFE: I’ve been a journalist, a student of neuroscience, a marketer and strategist at two of the world’s largest advertising agencies. CLIENT WORK: Automotive (Ford/Chevrolet), Government (EPA, CDC, US Mint), Non- Profits (National Safety Council), Healthcare (Kaiser Permanente) and Consumer Products (Olympic Paint). TWITTER: @danieleizans
    3. 3. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    4. 4. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    5. 5. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 http://www.rexfeatures.com/search/?kw=lego +italy&iso=GBR&lkw=lego&viah=Y&stk=N&sft=&search_action=#
    6. 6. WHAT BEFORE HOW Stakeholder Interviews Expert Review/ Competitive Research Business Process Mapping Content Strategy Audit Alignment Workshops User Research User Testing Analytics Review Personas Experience/ Journey Maps @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    7. 7. LET’S GET PATCHING Structures Patterns People @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    8. 8. LET’S TALK @danieleizans | #CSForum13 PEOPLE People
    9. 9. Let’s talk about people Most web sites are geared for grabbing attention by focusing on findability factors that make it more useful for machines. Attention vs. Engagement @danieleizans | #CSForum13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/untitlism/22800371/
    10. 10. ELEMENTS OF CONTEXT Environment Behavior Situation @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    11. 11. PERSONAL-BEHAVIORAL CONTEXT Emotional Cognitive Physical DOING environmental factors, physical activity, habits, disabilities, preferences, sensory stimuli LEARNING cognitive assumptions, learning ability, education FEELING psychological state, stress level, desires, wants, needs @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    12. 12. PERSONAL-SITUATIONAL CONTEXT Situation Need Need Need TaskTask Task Task Task Task Task Task @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    13. 13. SITUATIONAL-BEHAVIORAL CONTEXT Emotional Cognitive Physical Situation Need Need Need TaskTask Task Task Task Task Task Task CONTEXTUAL CONTENT STRATEGY @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    14. 14. ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS PC/MAC Third Party Set Top Box Game Console Connected TV Connected Set Top Box Tablet Mobile
    15. 15. CONTEXTUAL INQUIRY @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    16. 16. CRAFT “FRANKENPEOPLE” @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    17. 17. FORM A HYPOTHESIS OVERCOME FEAR (Via testimonial, Use Cases, Financial Examples) PLAN AND IMMERSE (Browse an expert, Understand Tools) EXPLORE OPTIONS (Browse options and understand qualifications TAKE ACTION (Apply for pin, Download Forms, Contact Advisor) @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    18. 18. MODEL AND PLAN @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    19. 19. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    20. 20. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 PATCH THE HOLES
    21. 21. LET’S TALK @danieleizans | #CSForum13 PATTERNS Patterns
    22. 22. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    23. 23. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    24. 24. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 PATTERNS ARE USABLE Definition: What does our content mean to our different user bases? Patterns help us align content to a common language to make the complex clear. Arrangement (“Systems”) What should we use to organize data for users? Patterns help us find logical ways to create relationships in data? Flow: What should happen when different content types occupy different spaces? Patterns help us to choreograph how content flows within a system. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattimattila/7661817032/
    25. 25. Ontology! Taxonomy! Particular meaning. Choreography! What we understand. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 Arrangement of the parts. Instances of meaning shaped for context Rules for interaction among the parts. What follows.
    26. 26. Image pilfered from @inkblurt’s tweetstream @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    27. 27. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    28. 28. Ontology! Taxonomy! Particular meaning. Choreography! What we understand. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 Arrangement of the parts. Instances of meaning shaped for context Rules for interaction among the parts. What follows.
    29. 29. TAXONOMY: ARRANGING MEANING IN CONTEXT @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    30. 30. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 TAXONOMY: ARRANGING MEANING IN CONTEXT
    31. 31. ARRANGING MEANING ACROSS CONTEXTS @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    32. 32. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 ARRANGING MEANING ACROSS CONTEXTS
    33. 33. Ontology! Taxonomy! Particular meaning. Choreography! What we understand. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 Arrangement of the parts. Instances of meaning shaped for context Rules for interaction among the parts. What follows.
    34. 34. Arrangement of the parts Particular meaning Rules for interaction among the parts.
    35. 35. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    36. 36. LET’S TALK @danieleizans | #CSForum13 STRUCTURES Structures
    37. 37. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 @danieleizans | #CSForum13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/
    38. 38. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 BENEFITS OF STRUCTURE 1.  Portability 2.  Choreography 3.  Meaning
    39. 39. 1. Inventory 2. Wireframes 3. Configuration (CMS) STRUCTURE: MAKE SENSE OF THE MESS @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    40. 40. INVENTORIES: TYPE, RELATIONSHIP, MESSAGES, PERSONA, INTENT, VALUE @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    41. 41. BENEFIT: CONTENT MAPS @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    42. 42. 1. Logo 2. Navigation 3. Headline 4. Author 5. Date 6. Related Assets 7. Related Badge 8. Comments 9. Related Articles 10. Social Links CONTENT WIREFRAMES @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    43. 43. 1. Logo 2. Navigation 3. Headline 4. Author 5. Date 6. Related Assets 7. Related Badge 8. Comments 9. Related Articles 10. Social Links 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 @danieleizans | #CSForum13 CONTENT WIREFRAMES
    44. 44. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 BENEFIT: HIERARCHY/CHOREOGRAPHY
    45. 45. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 CMS: CONFIGURATION (this)
    46. 46. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 CMS: CONFIGURATION (not this)
    47. 47. @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    48. 48. WHAT BEFORE HOW @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    49. 49. @danieleizans | #CSForum13 @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    50. 50. THEN @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    51. 51. AND ONLY THEN @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    52. 52. MARKETING STUFF @danieleizans | #CSForum13
    53. 53. KIITOS! Twitter: @danieleizans URL: http://understandinggroup.com Slides: http://slideshare.net/danieleizans

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