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IA Debt


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Emma Chittenden's talk 'IA debt' from World Information Architecture Day Bristol, 2015.

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IA Debt

  1. 1. IA DEBT (OR HOW TO MAKE AN IA HAPPY) Emma Chittenden Hi, I’m Emma and this is my presentation ‘IA Debt’ from World Information Architecture Day Bristol, 2015. 'Knock it down, and start again’ a line that we've heard often when discussing information architecture. But what if knocking it down and starting it again creates a whol e new set of problems, on top of what already existed? This is an all to regular occurrence, I will be discussing the concept of IA debt and why understanding it is the key to building successful Information Architecture.
  2. 2. Emma Chittenden In the beginning there was a single page
  3. 3. I'm sure those of you who remember the days of Internet explorer 3.5 will remember those pa ges with awful backgrounds, 10pt times new ro man and the odd rolling smiley.
  4. 4. Emma Chittenden As with the dawn of many things, we tend to find our way
  5. 5. Emma Chittenden When humans started building homes, they were rudimentary, meant to keep beasts out and the heat in. It was shelter and it served a purpose. Over time a person's home became a symbol of their wealth and status in society.
  6. 6. Emma Chittenden From the favelas of Brazil…
  7. 7. Emma Chittenden …to our stately homes, each says something about the people who live in them.
  8. 8. Emma Chittenden The same is starting to be said about websites, they are becoming a representation of the wealth that the organisation can display. From start-ups ( to corporate behemoths .
  9. 9. Emma Chittenden Each also represents the wealth of the business. But does the amount of money you throw at a website really reflect a good website?
  10. 10. Emma Chittenden MONEY WEBSITE + = ? I would argue not
  11. 11. Emma Chittenden MONEY WEBSITE + = TRUST that builds trust with its visitors.
  12. 12. Emma Chittenden For those of us who deal with architecture like this you will know that this is counterintuitive, why? because if you’ve ever had to hunt for something on a website, you’ll have felt the pain and may well have voted with your feet… and left.
  13. 13. Emma Chittenden I’m also sure that many of you here today will have encountered the demolition conundrum. Whereby a client or your own business will have told you to flatten it and start again. A little bit demoralising isn’t it? more so if you’d been instrumental in building it in the first place.
  14. 14. Emma Chittenden What can be learned from demolishing an entire architecture? Very little if it’s done without any consideration.
  15. 15. Emma Chittenden THE FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOOD AND BAD ABOUT A WEBSITE What can be learned from demolishing an entire architecture? Very little if it’s done without any consideration.
  17. 17. Emma Chittenden THE FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOOD AND BAD ABOUT A WEBSITE THIS IS WHAT I LIKE TO CONSIDER IA DEBT In most instances the reason for starting over is that there is something inherently bad about the architecture that has started this.
  18. 18. Emma Chittenden Users can’t find anything
  19. 19. Emma Chittenden It’s just too big to maintain
  20. 20. Emma Chittenden We’ve renamed most of our products
  21. 21. Emma Chittenden We want people to get to things quicker
  22. 22. Emma Chittenden We want people to buy more
  23. 23. Emma Chittenden ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY? I thought I’d finish off with a nice little story (no falling asleep at the back, milk and cookies won’t be provided).
  24. 24. Emma Chittenden MEET BOB
  25. 25. Emma Chittenden MULTINATIONAL Bob is the leader of a multinational company. But it wasn’t always that way.
  26. 26. Emma Chittenden STARTED SMALL Bob started out with humble beginnings, and his little company called ‘Bobs bits ‘n’ bobs’
  27. 27. Emma Chittenden BIG IDEAS Bob had big ideas His business grew. With the growth his operational base grew.
  28. 28. Emma Chittenden As Bob’s business grew, so did his problems. The little whispers of dissent became louder and louder, and louder until...
  29. 29. “…We need to be closer to accounting…” Emma Chittenden
  30. 30. “…We need an open plan office for our teams to be productive…” Emma Chittenden
  31. 31. “…We need more natural light to remain healthy…” Emma Chittenden
  32. 32. “…WE NEED! WE NEED! WE NEED!…” Emma Chittenden
  33. 33. Emma Chittenden LOUD H.I.P.P.O. (HIGHEST PAID PERSON) One day, Bob had had enough. The HiPPO’s voices got so loud he couldn’t take it anymore.
  34. 34. Emma Chittenden BRIGHT IDEA! Bob had a bright idea, he decided a new building would fix ALL his problems.
  35. 35. Emma Chittenden FAMOUS ARCHITECT So Bob found a famous architect. Meet Andy, Andy’s the architect
  36. 36. Emma Chittenden “I’M KIND OF A BIG DEAL” Andy’s company lived (and died) by its reputation.
  37. 37. Emma Chittenden …WHO LISTENS TO NO ONE Andy didn’t listen to anyone else, he knew what was best.
  38. 38. Emma Chittenden “I’M KIND OF A REALLY BIG DEAL” Andy’s architecture practice had also grown, and grown over the years and he’d won many prestigious accolades for his work.
  39. 39. Emma Chittenden Kings hired him
  40. 40. Emma Chittenden Presidents hired him
  41. 41. Emma Chittenden YOU’RE HIRED Yeah, you guessed it. Bob hires him
  42. 42. Emma Chittenden *BOB SHARING HIS WOES Bob shares all his woes with Andy. ‘They just won’t shut up!’
  43. 43. Emma Chittenden *ANDY NODS
  44. 44. Emma Chittenden *NOT HIS ACTUAL OFFICE Bob tells Andy that his head office is old, it’s creaking. The walls are thin, the windows even thinner, the maintenance costs are astronomical. He can’t find anything. He doesn’t know where anyone works.
  45. 45. Emma Chittenden Andy nods his head some more and makes the right noises. He gets out his pen and paper and with a quick flourish, he draws Bob’s new building.
  46. 46. Emma Chittenden Andy’s a vision of glass and concrete. It won’t need air conditioning because the sun’s rays will heat it and the greenery in the atrium will cool it. It’ll win awards, everyone will think Bob has made the best decision for his company.
  47. 47. Emma Chittenden “THIS’LL SHUT’EM UP!” Bob is in awe! ‘This’ll shut ‘em up’ he thinks
  48. 48. Emma Chittenden Out comes Bob’s cheque book and a firm handshake seals the deal.
  49. 49. Emma Chittenden After years, Bob’s new building is open for business.
  50. 50. Emma Chittenden Staff are in awe.
  51. 51. Emma Chittenden Customers are amazed
  52. 52. YEAH… YOU GUESSED IT… Emma ChittendenEmma Chittenden
  53. 53. Emma Chittenden Now, there’s 500, ev voices! They make even more the original 5… and the worse things
  54. 54. Emma Chittenden AWFUL TRANSPORT CONNECTIONS The building is 10 miles away from the old building with awful transport connections, it’s costing people a fortune to get here.
  55. 55. Emma Chittenden OFFICE IS TOO HOT Next, the building is too hot from the sun and isn’t getting cooled down for most of the day.
  56. 56. Emma Chittenden EVERYONE’S DEPRESSED They’ve moved all the departments around in the open plan layout and it’s really affecting productivity.
  57. 57. Emma Chittenden “HOW DO I FIX THIS!? Bob is at a loss. What has he done?
  58. 58. Emma Chittenden “I’LL GO SPEAK TO ANDY!” Bob knows what to do. He’ll go and speak to Andy, Andy’s always got the answer. How do I fix this?
  59. 59. Emma Chittenden “YOU ASKED FOR SOUTH FACING” Andy sits down and say he’ll bring his business consultancy agency and they’ll look at productivity. Next he admits there might be a problem with the temperature, but if Bob hadn’t insisted on it being south facing they wouldn’t have the problem.
  60. 60. Emma Chittenden “WHAT HAVE I DONE!?” Bob walks out of Andy’s Architects and thinks ‘what have I done?’ So he turns around and goes back in.
  61. 61. Emma Chittenden “YOU’RE FIRED ANDY!” He fires Andy.
  62. 62. Emma Chittenden *WHILE RESEARCHING… He then goes and does some research into his problem and finds Carol
  63. 63. Emma Chittenden *TALKING TO CAROLS OTHER CUSTOMERS He talks to people who Carol has helped. He visits the place that Carol has built…
  64. 64. Emma Chittenden “CAROL, YOU’RE HIRED.” He hires Carol
  65. 65. Emma Chittenden “LETS TALK TO PEOPLE” Carol says ‘let’s talk to people’ 'Let’s find out what the problems are’.
  66. 66. Emma Chittenden After a LOT of talking. Carol now knows everyone in the business, from Bob at the top to Xander in the mail room. She knows what the problems were and what they are.
  67. 67. Emma Chittenden “GET OUT H.I.P.P.O.!!!” The old, loud voices (HiPPo’s) don’t work there anymore. They just wanted a shiny building to reflect their status, they never had a problem.
  68. 68. Emma Chittenden The loyal workers who’ve stuck by Bob said ‘sure, the old place was a bit cold in winter and a bit warm in summer’ But…
  69. 69. Emma Chittenden “PEOPLE TALKED TO EACH OTHER”
  70. 70. Emma Chittenden “FINANCE WAS NEXT TO SALES”
  71. 71. Emma Chittenden “PRODUCTION WAS NEXT TO DESIGN”
  73. 73. Emma Chittenden “THERE WAS A CULTURE”
  74. 74. Emma Chittenden *SITTING BACK TOGETHER AGAIN
  75. 75. Emma Chittenden *NEW PUB, MAY ALSO BE THE OLD PUB
  76. 76. Emma Chittenden *A/C TO SOLVE HEATING She couldn’t however change which direction the building faced. So the heat problem became more of a challenge to fix. Lots of little changes didn’t make much of a difference, so ultimately Bob had to get air con.
  77. 77. Emma Chittenden From the first ‘sight’ of the problem, to the eventual fixes, Bob was 10 years older and millions of pounds lighter. The improvements weren’t enough to justify the spend
  78. 78. Emma Chittenden ZAHA HADID Of course, this is a thoroughly ridiculous story. You would never hear Zaha Hadid…
  79. 79. Emma Chittenden NORMAN FOSTER …or Sir Norman Foster accepting a job like this and making a complete disaster of it like Andy did. They have built successful architect’s practices on their ability to listen to their customers and solve their problems.
  80. 80. OF COURSE NEVER! Emma Chittenden And of course, nothing like this would ever happen with Information architecture. Kidding, the sad truth is, that this sort of thing does happen all the time. If businesses considered that their digital bricks and mortar were just as, or if not MORE important than their physical bricks and mortar we wouldn’t be asked to demolish entire sites.
  81. 81. Emma Chittenden ANDY, BOB AND CAROL So what can we learn from Andy, Bob and Carol?
  82. 82. ASK Emma Chittenden Talk to people. What is working as well as what is not. Talk to people. Find out what’s working and what’s not working.
  83. 83. BLEND Emma Chittenden …What you’ve got now with improvements Blend what you’ve got now with improvements.
  84. 84. CHALLENGE Emma Chittenden …Anyone who tells you that it needs to be knocked down and built again Challenge anyone who tells you that it needs to be knocked down and build again. Small problems can become astronomical if we fail to understand everything,
  85. 85. THANK YOU Emma Chittenden @EMCHI