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Information Architecture as Storytelling - 2011
 

Information Architecture as Storytelling - 2011

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Dave Mamet tells us that story is what happens to the protagonist in pursuit of a goal. Aristotle's framework for the creation and telling of story hasn't been bested in eons. ...

Dave Mamet tells us that story is what happens to the protagonist in pursuit of a goal. Aristotle's framework for the creation and telling of story hasn't been bested in eons.

On a website, the convergence of a user's goals and a business' needs becomes the plot in the story they share, and Information Architecture is the common language of that story's telling.

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Presented at EduWEB 2011.

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  • I’m Geoff Barnes\nDirector of User Experience\nElliance\nWhat we do, where we are.\n
  • \n
  • Good information architecture organizes your web content and helps users find what’s there. \n\n• born of Saul Wurman in the 1970s\n• lived in obscurity until the late 1990s, at which point the rapid growth of web summoned IA by need if not name\n• at base, is about taming complexity of information, imposing rational order on chaotic growth\n
  • Like an org-chart for your web-site.\n\nHow to read:\n• Generational relationships\n• Box per page\n• Box label is navigation label + page title\n
  • Perception: How your site is organized says a lot about who you are. What do the IA choices you make say about your brand?\n\nPersuasion: Every site influences its visitors - some favorably, many not. Persuasive arguments don’t just happen by accident. They are carefully structured - balancing rational & emotional overtures - and empathetically paced and delivered.\n\nBehavior: If you’re a bank, you want new accounts. Manufacturer: orders. School: applicants. Expert IA improves lead quality and increases conversions. How can your website be your leading enrollment recruiter?\n
  • Perception: How your site is organized says a lot about who you are. What do the IA choices you make say about your brand?\n\nPersuasion: Every site influences its visitors - some favorably, many not. Persuasive arguments don’t just happen by accident. They are carefully structured - balancing rational & emotional overtures - and empathetically paced and delivered.\n\nBehavior: If you’re a bank, you want new accounts. Manufacturer: orders. School: applicants. Expert IA improves lead quality and increases conversions. How can your website be your leading enrollment recruiter?\n
  • Perception: How your site is organized says a lot about who you are. What do the IA choices you make say about your brand?\n\nPersuasion: Every site influences its visitors - some favorably, many not. Persuasive arguments don’t just happen by accident. They are carefully structured - balancing rational & emotional overtures - and empathetically paced and delivered.\n\nBehavior: If you’re a bank, you want new accounts. Manufacturer: orders. School: applicants. Expert IA improves lead quality and increases conversions. How can your website be your leading enrollment recruiter?\n
  • Perception: How your site is organized says a lot about who you are. What do the IA choices you make say about your brand?\n\nPersuasion: Every site influences its visitors - some favorably, many not. Persuasive arguments don’t just happen by accident. They are carefully structured - balancing rational & emotional overtures - and empathetically paced and delivered.\n\nBehavior: If you’re a bank, you want new accounts. Manufacturer: orders. School: applicants. Expert IA improves lead quality and increases conversions. How can your website be your leading enrollment recruiter?\n
  • Yes.\n\nThese constitute the difference between IA that simply organizes, and IA that goes beyond organization to become the structure of effective persuasion.\n
  • IA that marries business goals to the user’s situation, being, and need.\n• articulates values & aspirations shared by brand & prospect\n• lowers the cost of acquiring new students\n• increases applications and selectivity\n• elevates the brand & institution\n
  • The strategic significance of how you approach IA is practically self-evident.\nJust like when you hire an architect to design your house, you’re going to live with these structural decisions for a long time.\n
  • Except a college or university is not a house.\nYour house doesn’t need to position itself to elevate human beings, to create leaders, or advance society.\n\nAn institution with might and purpose needs continually to be built, formed. Organizational maintenance alone is stagnation. Without creation, there is only decline. Entropy never sleeps.\n
  • On the day you receive your site map, you’re still a ways out from writing page content, picking design direction, or carrying your message out to the world.\n\nTHIS IS WHERE STORY ENTERS THE PICTURE.\n\nLeave it out - or, worse still, get it wrong - here, and you’re up the creek with no paddle.\n
  • So, IA choices define your brand story, your website’s meaning.\n\nBut what is story?\nAnd whose story is it?\n
  • Pulitzer Prize winner\nAuthor, playwright, screenwriter, director\n\nFilms\nPostman Always Rings Twice\nThe Untouchables\nGlengarry Glen Ross\nWag the Dog\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • If you have a little information architect in you - whether by training, conditioning, or natural proclivity - you may envision Mamet’s definition of story like so.\n
  • Mamet elaborates:\nThe point, as Aristotle told us, is what happens to the hero - not what happens to the storyteller...\n• What does the hero want?\n• What hinders him from getting it?\n• What happens if he does not get it?\n
  • Aristotle saw storytelling as a layered framework with a foundation, a core, and an exterior - or performance.\n
  • Foundation: The Story’s Conception.\nWho is the hero? What has brought him to this point?\n\nWho is Odysseus? Who is Telemachus? How did they come to be in their respective situations?\nKnowing the hero and his situation, we can empathize with him and understand his motivations.\n
  • Core: Theme (the tale at hand)\n\nWhat happens to the hero in pursuit of a goal?\nOdysseus escapes Calypso. Foils Poseidon. Wins help getting home from the Phaeacians. Kills the suitors. Returns to Penelope.\n
  • Exterior: Performance\n\nIn Greek theater:\nAlternation between dialog and narration advances plot.\nDecor establishes place, grounds theme.\nChorus interprets theme, influences audiences perceptions.\nSpectacle captivates audience’s interest.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Making a website is remarkably similar, though we have different names for the layers.\n
  • Foundation: Discovery\nWe learn about the user (hero) and his situation.\n\nWhere has he been?\nWhat is he seeking?\nWhat does he fear?\nWhat does he value?\n
  • Core: IA & Content Strategy\n\nOnly by knowing the user and his situation can an effective IA and content strategy be discerned. For instance:\nMilitary students and traditional students live in different worlds.\nCommuters and campus dwellers prioritize according to different constraints.\nA site’s architecture and content must reflect their stories - or at least credible understanding thereof - in order to persuade them.\n
  • Exterior: Production\n\nVoice: Copy. Persuasive messaging, headlines, descriptions, tonality.\nVisual Design: Photography, color, type, style, layout.\nSocial Proof: Awards, recognition, testimonials, blogs, Likes, buzz, SEO rankings, media coverage.\nInteractive Moments: Rich media, video, games, delightful interactions.\n
  • \n
  • What happens to the hero in pursuit of a goal.\n\nThe act of the person using the website to achieve his goal = story.\n
  • The way a user’s needs and the business goals converge on the website = story.\n
  • \n
  • Plot:\nMet a great school just up the road. St. Edwards had hit a ceiling.\nHad realized most of its incremental gains in both student numbers and quality/reputation as super-regional brand.\nTo sustain growth in student quality and diversity, they had to extend enrollment reach...\nHad to attract right-fit students from national and global markets\n
  • Character & plot:\n\nUndergraduate students as total equals to graduate students and adult learners.\nNot unloved, but neither special nor called to, either.\nUnlikely to identify St. Edwards as a college of first choice.\n
  • Elliance rediscovered the power of the St Edward’s University origin story.\nWe helped to resurrect —  metaphorically — founder Father Edwin Sorin, a remarkable  figure who built two colleges (Notre Dame the other) and changed the course of US history.\n\nSpirit guide for prospective students in search of serious enlightenment.\nWe let his spirit and legacy drive the reformulation of the St. Edward’s prospect & student stories.\n
  • So here’s what they had, roughly.\nan EDU and a colony of dot coms\n
  • First pass was to remove outdated and/or duplicate content.\nI want to say “you’d be amazed,” but you’re maintaining a website - so I bet you already know\n
  • Second pass was to identify remaining content according to its thematic relevance to the user - “what part of the story does this content support?”\n
  • Third pass is to cluster those pages thematically into what you could consider inventories for chapters in a book.\nMore orphan pages identified. Continuous culling.\n\nAlways thinking Mamet, here: What happens to the protagonist in search of a goal. If it’s not that, it’s not advancing the story.\n
  • Resulting site map = narrative framework for the prospect (protagonist/user) story to take place\n
  • We helped St. Edward’s University to articulate why it matters as a first-choice college ­to prospects outside its traditional recruitment area of central and south Texas. \nWeb traffic, inquiries and applications have increased nationally and globally.\nSt. Edward's is poised to grab hold of its claim as one of America’s most important, historic, and pivotal liberal arts institutions.\n
  • Plot:\nDuquesne’s Polumbo School of Business had launched an innovative academic program in an era of uncertain enrollment demand.\nPut a brave stake in the ground, but enrollment hadn’t followed.\nThis was 2005. At the time, “business” + “sustainability” were popularly seen as oppositional concepts.\nIt was one thing to make profit, a different thing entirely to look out for the world.\n
  • Hero (beta): Prospect on the brink of big change, taking risks, venturing into the unknown\n
  • Since the story is of a global movement, anticipate global demand.\n
  • Hero (beta): Prospect on the brink of big change, taking risks, venturing into the unknown \n\nProof co-mingles with call to adventure, because that’s where the hero IS.\n\n
  • Increasing applicants and students with \nhigher GMAT scores\nmore diversity in age and gender\nmore international reach and greater geographic distribution in the US\nMore work experience and more diversity in types of work experience \nFewer than half have undergraduate business degrees, which was the norm in early classes. \n
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Information Architecture as Storytelling - 2011 Information Architecture as Storytelling - 2011 Presentation Transcript

  • ®Information Architecture as Geoff Barnes, Director of UX Elliance, Inc.
  • What is IA? Information Architecture
  • The art & scienceof organizing & labelingwebsites, intranets, onlinecommunities, & softwareto support findability &
  • Exhibit A: “Site Map”
  • But what about
  • But what aboutperception?
  • But what aboutperception?persuasion?
  • But what aboutperception?persuasion?behavior?
  • Is that IA too?
  • Strategic
  • IA choices,made (deferred),allow brand story to thrive(or not)for years to come.
  • You Are Here Discovery Approach CreativeProject Market Brand Content Information Interaction Story/ Visual SEO SocialMission Strategy Strategy Strategy Architecture Design Copy Design Media
  • What is Story?
  • “The story is the essentialprogression of incidentsthat occur to the hero inpursuit of his one goal.”David Mamet, On Directing Film
  • Story
  • Story What in pursuit to herohappens of goal
  • Aristotle’s Elements of Storytelling Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Character Plot
  • Foundation Character Plot
  • Core Theme Character Plot
  • Performance Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Character Plot
  • Elliance Translation Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Character Plot
  • Elliance Translation Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Character User Plot
  • Elliance Translation Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Character User Plot Situation
  • Elliance Translation Diction Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Site Architecture & Content Character User Plot Situation
  • Elliance Translation Diction Voice Decor Chorus Spectacle Theme Site Architecture & Content Character User Plot Situation
  • Elliance Translation Diction Voice Decor Visual Design Chorus Spectacle Theme Site Architecture & Content Character User Plot Situation
  • Elliance Translation Diction Voice Decor Visual Design Chorus Social Proof Spectacle Theme Site Architecture & Content Character User Plot Situation
  • Elliance Translation Interactive Diction Voice Decor Visual Design Chorus Social Proof Spectacle Moments Theme Site Architecture & Content Character User Plot Situation
  • Discovery Interactive Voice Visual Design Social Proof Moments Site Architecture & Content User Situation
  • IA & Content Strategy Interactive Voice Visual Design Social Proof Moments Site Architecture & Content User Situation
  • Production Interactive Voice Visual Design Social Proof Moments Site Architecture & Content User Situation
  • Structure = Story
  • IA & Content Strategy = Story Interactive Voice Visual Design Social Proof Moments Site Architecture & Content User Situation
  • User Needs + Business Goals = Story User Needs IA Business Goals
  • Site Map as Narrative Framework =Story Information Architecture What in to hero happens pursuit of seeks prospect destiny discovers parent reassuranc achieves student launch revives alumnus connection
  • DestinyCalling
  • Characters & Plot
  • Father EdwardSorinFounder, St. Edward’s University
  • BetaTested
  • Beta-Driven Strategy
  • Beta Characters, Plot, & Concerns
  • Beta Aspirations
  • Bottom Line 2007 2008 2009Enrollment 15 20 34Average GMAT 537 535 570% with Professional 25% 45% 88%Work ExperienceStudents from Outside 33% 45% 50%PAInternational Countries India 0 France, China, KoreaIn 2009, enrolled students hail from 12 states (versus 3 in 2007)
  • Now What?
  • PlanMake IA a discrete stage in your process.
  • PlanMake IA a discrete stage in your process. Discovery IA➡ Design ➡
  • FocusGreat IA should allow you tocommunicate more with less. Brevityprojects confidence. Consolidatewherever possible.
  • SacrificeBetter to build IA around a single brandpromise or marketing goal than aroundlots of competing priorities.
  • SacrificeBetter to build IA around a single brandpromise or marketing goal than aroundlots of competing priorities.
  • SupportAll story needs an audience. Great IA,backed by great content, still needsaudience. Consider demand generationearly — build search and social into theIA plan and process.
  • Invest toward realizing resultsPut effortfrom tough IA decisions.Don’t abandon the right story, a vitalstack, or a spectacular page becauseit’s hard tomakehappen.
  • Investmake it happen.
  • ® Thank You Geoff Barnes gbarnes@elliance.com www.elliance.com