Make Sense: Information Architecture for Everybody

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Why is it so hard to make things make sense when making something for others? In a world where everything is getting more complex and we are all overwhelmed by the amount of information we encounter daily, there is a growing understanding of the tools and processes that are used to make sense of complex subjects and situations. These tools aren't hard to learn or even tough to implement but they are also not part of many people's education.

Information Architecture is a practice of making sense. A set of principles, lessons and tools to help anyone make sense of any thing. Whether you are - a student or professional, a designer, technologist or small business owner, an intern or executive - learn how information architecture can help you make sense of your next endeavor.

This talk premiered at Pratt on Feb 24, 2014.

Published in: Technology, Design

Make Sense: Information Architecture for Everybody

  1. Make Sense: Information architecture for everybody Presented by: Abby Covert | @Abby_the_IA
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  3. Information Architecture (IA) is a practice of making sense
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  5. Objects aid us in discourse
  6. Typical IA Problems • Too much information: Overwhelming use of messages and notifications • Not the right information: Confusions of meaning, intent and/ or action • No information at all: Limited signals for people to understand what is happening, has happened or is about to happen next 7
  7. Tools of IA • Ontological Clarifiers • Taxonomic Structures • Diagrammatic Techniques • User Research • Market Research • Organizational Research • Heuristic Evaluations 8
  8. Why is Information Architecture important for everybody to understand? 9
  9. Because The world is complex • People face more choices and avenues • Businesses are under more pressure • Technology is advanced, but constantly changing • We are all personally experiencing information overload 10
  10. because Communication is about understanding 11
  11. How people understand Data Contextless, Exhaustive, not curated, not meant to inform the consumer • • • • Research Creation Gathering Discovery Information The careful arrangement of data to perform in a context • • Presentation Organization Knowledge Wisdom An intimate understanding of patterns and meta patterns enough to allow for novel uses Gained through experience with the same set of data from a variety of perspectives • • • Conversation Storytelling Integration • • • • Contemplation Evaluation Interpretation Retrospection Slide adapted from Nathan Shedroff’s Diagram “An Overview of Understanding” 12
  12. “To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe” - Carl Sagan 13
  13. Complexity can get in the way of true understanding Rabbit Hole of Complexity 14
  14. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  15. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  16. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  17. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  18. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it • Unnecessary Exactitude: Including more detail than is helpful List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  19. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it • Unnecessary Exactitude: Including more detail than is helpful • Rainbow Worship: Believing that more color or colorful flowery language is always better List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  20. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it • Unnecessary Exactitude: Including more detail than is helpful • Rainbow Worship: Believing that more color or colorful flowery language is always better • Edifitis: Belief that a better, shinier “such and such” could and will fix the problem List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  21. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it • Unnecessary Exactitude: Including more detail than is helpful • Rainbow Worship: Believing that more color or colorful flowery language is always better • Edifitis: Belief that a better, shinier “such and such” could and will fix the problem • Not asking Why: Simple as that. Always ask why. List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  22. Some Enemies that lurk in Complexity • Familiarity: Being too close to the problem can make you forget to remember what it is like to NOT understand • Looking good vs. being good: Tricking yourself into thinking something is good because it is good looking • “Uh, Huh”: Not admitting ignorance when faced with it • Unnecessary Exactitude: Including more detail than is helpful • Rainbow Worship: Believing that more color or colorful flowery language is always better • Edifitis: Belief that a better, shinier “such and such” could and will fix the problem • Not asking Why: Simple as that. Always ask why. • How before What: Thinking to specifically about solutions before the problem is defined List adapted from Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety 2 15
  23. Information architecture is for making Sense of complexity 16
  24. Critical Components Of IA* Ontology: Do you know what you mean when you say what you say? Ontology Taxonomy Choreography Taxonomy: Have you provided logical structures that bring meaning to what you present? Choreography: How is meaning affected across various channels, over time and through usage? *HT  @DanKlyn
  25. Ontology This is a fish. 18
  26. Ontology = Meaning 19
  27. Meaning is subjective Meaning is demographic Meaning is socio political Meaning gets lost in translation Meaning is complex 20
  28. Lexicography vs Ontology • Lexicography is the practice of compiling dictionaries. Lexicographers collect different meanings for words • Ontology represents the knowledge of terms and concepts within a domain 21
  29. Taxonomy = Structure 22
  30. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy 2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R” 3. Time: Rome started in 753 BC 4. Category: Rome is a Romantic city 5. Hierarchy: Rome is within Italy, which is within Europe, which is within the Eastern and Northern Hemisphere *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 23
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  32. Organizing information is not the hard part building true consensus on the meaning and intent of information is the hard(er) part 25
  33. 20 ways to organize a box of vegetables 1.! By cost at the grocery in the USA (Location) 2.! By cost at the grocery in the UK (Location) 3.! By countries it is eaten in (Location) 4.! By first letter scientific names (Alphabetical) 5.! By first letter popular names (Alphabetical) 6.! By first letter cultural names (Alphabetical) 7.! By seasonality of harvest (Time) 8.! By length of season (Time) 9.! By cooking time (Time) 10.! By popularity today (Time) 11.! By popularity 100 years ago (Time) 12.! By color (Category) 13.! By taste (Category) 14.! By texture (Category) 15.! By size (Category) 16.! By growing style (Hierarchy) 17.! By climate (Hierarchy) 18.! By type (Hierarchy) 19.! By soil type (Hierarchy) 20.! By best storing technique (Hierarchy) 26
  34. Taxonomy is Rhetoric The way you choose to organize your vegetables says something about what kind of store you are 27
  35. “It takes knowledge to know that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom not to put it in a fruit salad.” – Miles Kington 28
  36. Mental Models Matter A mental model is an explanation for the way someone makes sense of something. These models of perception shape our behavior and how we relate to information that we encounter. 29
  37. What facets do you have? • A facet is a particular aspect or feature of something. The number of facets something has the more ways it can be organized against other things. 30
  38. Will you use Ambiguous vs. Exact Classifications? 31
  39. The more Ambiguous classifications, the less effective the taxonomy Clarity of Taxonomy Level of Ambiguity in Classification 32
  40. Are you designing for homogenous information or heterogenous information? 33
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  42. How much information is appropriate and at what rate of discovery? 35
  43. Taxonomic Considerations • How much are you organizing? • How much choice can the user handle at each point in the process they are undertaking? • What are the bounds of the medium you are working in? • How does the mental model of you target user relate to this decision? 36
  44. Choreography = Intent • Context: the circumstances that form the setting for an interaction • Channel: A medium for communication or the passage of information 37
  45. How you choreograph Your service says something about who you are 38
  46. Home Create Post Direct Home Home Home Posts Home Home Home User Profile Your Profile Direction (Default/ Front Facing) Comment Photos of User Activity (Following/ News) Explore Edit Profile Flash (No, Auto, On) Like Followers Delete Home Home Home Photos on Phone Following Choose from Library Grid (On/Off) Likers Home Home Home Your Posts Video (On/Off) Copy Share Share URL Comment Take Photo Copy Share Email Photo URL Like Edit Email Photo Tag People Report Inappropriate Tilt Tag People Tweet Frame Comments Copy Share URL Filter Comment Blur (Off, Circle, Line) Comments Brightness (Default, On) Next Post to Followers Post (Direct) Caption Facebook (On/Off) Facebook Login Tag People Twitter (On/Off) Twitter Login Add to Photo Map (On/Off) Tumblr (On/Off) Tumblr Login Name this Location Email (On/Off) Foursquare Results Add Email Address from Contacts Add Email Address Manually Add Email Post IPhone Contacts Caption Send To Choreographing simplicity can be really complex 39
  47. Lesson 1: When unraveling complexity, Start with language not interfaces 40
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  49. Controlled Vocabularies • A controlled vocabulary is a list of approved terms and definitions for a particular context and/or setting • Frameworks like this can help teams to decide on things like: • Variant Spellings (i.e. American vs. British) • Scientific vs. Popular Term Use (i.e. Cockroaches vs. Periplaneta Americana) • Acceptable Synonyms (i.e. Automobile vs. Car) • Acceptable Acronyms (i.e. GE vs. General Electric) • Business vs. User Terms (i.e. What we say in meetings vs. what we say to customers) • Identification of homographs (i.e. the word “pool” can relate to “swimming pool” or “shooting”) 42
  50. h,p://6thfloor.blogs.ny;mes.com/2011/05/20/words-­‐we-­‐dont-­‐say/ 43
  51. Alien Dictionary 44
  52. Synonym Rings tranche de Pizza fetta di Pizza Pied de Pizza Slice of Pizza Piece of Pizza Pizza Pie Piede di Pizza Pizza 45
  53. Lesson 2: Diagram the damn thing 46
  54. diagrams and maps Can be “invented” for a certain context ... but here are a bunch that I keep going back to 47
  55. Funnel 48
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  57. Quadrants Urgent 1 NA 2 Important Not Important 3 Not Urgent 50
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  59. Gantt 7:00 PM 7:05 PM 7:10 PM 7:15 PM 7:20 PM 7:25 PM 7:30 PM Hungry Starving Full Commute Home At Home Call For Pizza ORder Pizza Delivery Info Payment Info Wait Eat Pizza 52
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  62. Flow Diagram Yes! Arrive Home After Work Call Pizza place Order Pizza Delivery & Payment Wait Eat Yes! Hungry? No! Watch Movie No! Yes! Doorbell? Pizza Guy? No :( 55
  63. Venn Diagram Movie Friday Night at Home Pizza 56
  64. Tree Meat Veggie Toppings Meat Plain Plain Chicago Style Veggie Toppings NYC Style Pizza 57
  65. Swim lane Pizza Eater Customer Service Driver Read Order Hungry Cook Take Pizza Call Pizza place Answer Make Pizza Drive to house Give Order Take Order Bake Pizza Ring door Bell Enter into POS Box Pizza Answer Door Pay for Pizza Eat Pizza 58
  66. Block Pizza Crust Thin "NYC" Thick "Chicago" Toppings Service Delivery To Go To Stay 59
  67. schematic Crust Tomato Sauce & cheese Slice Pie Toppings 60
  68. EXPLODED schematic Toppings cheese Tomato Sauce Crust Pizza 61
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  70. Journey Map Unlock Door Get Pizza Outside Walk to Door Get out of Work Car Drive Order Pizza Park In Drive Home Get Home Hear Doorbell Eat Pizza 63
  71. Hierarchical Map Abby's Pizza Customer Service Sales manager Cooks Cooks Driver Kitchen Chef Cooks Cooks Cook Operations Manager Cooks Cooks Ast Mngr 65
  72. Association Map About Menu Order Website Delivery Radio Abby's Pizza Ads Paper Store Board Take Out Dine In Flyer Signs Print Menu Coupon 66
  73. PLAN THE BUSINESS ASSORT THE PLAN SELL-IN THE PLAN EXECUTE THE ASSORTMENT BRING ASSTMT TO LIFE GTM CSI/ Showroom KAPM Create Seasonal Experience SIM Wholesale Sales Point of Sale Key City Samples Business Account Trends Strategies Plans Season Competitor Develop Marketplace Insights Market Share Data Consumer Trends Develop Accountvv Insights Account Financials In Season Sell-thru Account Recap Craft Sell-in Package SELL-IN PREPARATION Learn to Sell & Service Seasonal Top Nike Driven Changes Rep Directed Assortments Account Credit Order Net Allocations ASSORTMENT PLANNING Tailor Seasonal Offering Modules At-once Campaigns availability Financial Plans Targeting Shop Suggested Allocated Replacements Sales Sales Programs Programs Retail Space Futures (Annual, & Foresighting Seasonal, Monthly) Financial Asstmt Store sell-in Manage Fill-in Order RETAILER BUYING Category Visual Manage Delivery PRODUCT EDUCATION & PRESENTTAION Always Available/ Buy Order Physical Carriers Assets Educat e Consumers (SKU) Quickstrike Self-serve Digital Recaps Order Manage the buy UPCs Assets (wholesale.com) Replenishment At-Once Account Seasonal Tracking Digital Present Products Product Create Account Assortment Plans Hindsighting Guidelines & Directives Consolidators Sales & Open to Buy ORDER MANAGEMENT Allocated Products Stock & Manage Gaps & Opportunities PP Nike DC 3rd Party Logistics Product Sales Scorecar ds Account DC Entry Errors Product Analysis Gross to Review the Business Train Retail Associates Launch Content Edited Offering Profitabilty Modeling Build & Manage the Plan EKIN In-store Training Demand/ Supply match Manage Load-in Catalog Plan BUSINESS PLANNING SKU Online Training Account Driven Changes content Analyze the Assortment Account Plans Commercial Fundamentals (Nike U) Analyze the Business Assortment In-store associate Invoices Claims Call-o ffs 67
  74. Lesson 3: Information architecture is not just for Information Architects 68
  75. INSERT CASE STUDIES HERE 69
  76. If you believe in IA • Call it out by name without changing your job title • Join the cause and support the IA Institute • Teach other people how to think about the architecture of information • Share any stories where IA breaks the current popular view of being a digital skill-set 70
  77. Thanks Abbycovert@gmail.com @ Abby_The_IA www.Abbytheia.com

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