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The Politics f
Navig tion
Stuart Maxwell
@stumax turninggrille.com
Experience Architect at REI
#ias15
SLOW DOWN!
1 The Pol...
1938
77 years ago, Lloyd and Mary Anderson
2 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
Matt Peyton / AP Images
were a couple of avid amateur mountain climbers in Seattle. 

Lloyd was looking for a high-quality...
the Austrian Akadem Pickel. After importing and selling a handful of these to his climbing buddies, he and Mary and 21 of ...
photo by REI
They named this co-op Recreational Equipment, Incorporated, or REI. 

5 The Politics of Navigation - final - M...
1970s
In the 1970s, REI expanded its offerings from climbing and backpacking gear to other outdoor activities,
6 The Politi...
photo by REI
opened its first retail store, and became what it is today:
7 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
Photo by daveynin - http://flic.kr/p/oGPQ54
a national retailer of outdoor gear and apparel with over 140 physical retail s...
and a very successful online store. 

But while REI has expanded to sell kayaks, standup paddle boards, running shoes, car...
the company has always acknowledged its roots in climbing. That’s why ice axes are installed as door handles on almost all...
distribution centers, and headquarters buildings.

11 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
2014
Which is why, in 2014, some customers (and quite a few employees) were surprised to learn that,
12 The Politics of Na...
Camp & Hike Climb Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+
as part of an A/B test on REI.com, “C...
Camp & Hike Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+
to a submenu.
14 The Politics of Navigation...
–Actual REI customer comment
“what happened to Climbing as a
category in the top navigation?
are you kidding?”
This is an ...
But this is a company that has climbing axes on all of its doors.

Removing “Climb” from the nav sent a message (however u...
Camp & Hike Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+
The A/B test is over.
17 The Politics of Na...
“Climb” has been restored to the global nav and all is right with the world. But this event foreshadowed the story I'm goi...
1. I’m political and so are you
2.Not everyone thinks like an IA
3.Count the votes
4.Information is power
5.Influence early...
1I’m political,

and so are you
Lesson One: I’m political and so are you.

Now, when I say politics,
20 The Politics of Na...
– Choosing in Groups

by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger
“Politics is
choosing and acting
in groups.”
I mean it the ...
Photo by NewsHour - http://flic.kr/p/5h6Q8C
If you think of politics as this …
22 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 3...
Photo by Robert Scarth - http://flic.kr/p/deguN
or if the word "Machiavellian" springs to mind,
23 The Politics of Navigati...
Photo by arboltsef - http://flic.kr/p/tJpQF
or if you think of the backstabbing and manipulation of "office politics", well, ...
– Choosing in Groups

by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger
“Politics is
choosing and acting
in groups.”
Reading the Mu...
Photo by DonkeyHotey - http://flic.kr/p/aprH6X
Because politics is a political debate, of course,
26 The Politics of Naviga...
Photo by Jeffrey - http://flic.kr/p/qHPHH6
but it's also a design meeting
27 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 20...
Photo by MyDigitalSLR - http://flic.kr/p/6Lof3x
and a one-on-one. Politics is how we make decisions in groups.
28 The Polit...
Photo by soukup - http://flic.kr/p/8RHg98
It takes a lot of forms, including some pretty mundane ones. And if we want to be...
February 2014
to February 2014. Remember those days, kids? We were so young then.
30 The Politics of Navigation - final - M...
Photo by Kelly Kline - http://flic.kr/p/mH3JqA
The president was Barack Obama,
31 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 3...
Photo by Josh Lackey - http://flic.kr/p/jJie9b
and the Seattle Seahawks had just won the Super Bowl. Not thrown it away at ...
Anyway, in February of 2014, this was the global navigation for REI.com.
33 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 20...
1996
When the website was first launched in 1996, it looked like this. We have a few links in the left rail to our product ...
2014
Today, it's the same idea, just more complex. Essentially, the site today is what it has always been: a paper catalog...
Digital Retail
Marketing
Public
Affairs
REI Adventures Outdoor Programs,

Marketing
The gray tabs in the global navigation...
Products
Trips Classes, Events, How-to
Articles, Videos
Blog Posts
Stewardship
Reports
Of course, content is siloed in the...
There are occasional rumblings about a radical rethinking of the nav, but nothing ever comes of it. Because the fact is, a...
$2.2 billion
REI’s 2013 revenue
In 2013, REI drove $2.2 billion in revenue.
39 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31,...
$2.2 billion
REI’s 2013 revenue
Online accounts for ~25%
The online business drives a little less than 25% of that, and we...
Digital Retail
Marketing
Public
Affairs
REI Adventures Outdoor Programs,

Marketing
And the navigation is also successful ...
Lots of clicks Some clicks Just a few clicks
Sure, some slices of pie are pretty small if you count how many clicks they g...
Products
Because not only does REI sell outdoor gear and clothing,

43 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
Articles
we have lots of great articles
44 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
Videos
and videos that tells you how to get the best use out of that gear and clothing.
45 The Politics of Navigation - fin...
Classes
We also offer classes
46 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
Trips
and adventure travel. In fact,
47 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
–REI’s mission statement
“To inspire, educate, and outfit for
a lifetime of outdoor adventure
and stewardship.”
it's in our...
Unfortunately, our website just isn't as good at the inspire and educate part as it is the selling part. Customers who tak...
July 2014
So, in July of 2014, a design agency is hired to conduct the redesign.
50 The Politics of Navigation - final - Ma...
The Agency’s mandate
• Differentiate us
• Dump the silos
• Support the mission (“inspire, educate, and outfit”)
Their manda...
Site merch
UX
Visual
IA
The internal team
At this point, I’m assigned to be the IA representative on REI's internal team w...
September 2014
But in September, after several weeks of stakeholder interviews, primary research, and brainstorming, the a...
the agency proposes a new navigation that is drastically stripped down, with most functionality moved into a hamburger men...
We're going from this...
55 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
to this.
56 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
The Agency does offer an alternative, with a limited number of menu options. But this just raises more questions. Chiefly: w...
Proposed Option 1
Proposed Option 2
Current
Now I'm getting a little concerned. What I thought might be a fun assignment w...
Now, look, we’re the client, right? Supposedly, whatever we say goes. The problem is that, as the client, we’re many voice...
2Not everyone
thinks like an IA
Lesson Two: Not everyone thinks like an Information Architect.

So, our small internal tea...
So we’re reviewing the design, and I am truly conflicted about the proposed navigation. I love new and shiny things, and I'...
Doesn't Search
60%
Searches
40%
Most of the year
1. 60% of our customers navigate; they don't search.
62 The Politics of N...
Doesn't Search
80%
Searches
20%
December
During the holidays (when we do a large part of our yearly business), that number...
Purchasing
(11%)
Evaluating
(23%)
Just browsing
(29%)
Researching
(32%)
Other
(5%)
2. When customers visit REI.com

	 1. R...
20,000+ products
2,000+ categories
3. We have a broad product catalog, and our navigation needs to support that.

65 The P...
–REI’s mission statement
“To inspire, educate, and outfit for
a lifetime of outdoor adventure
and stewardship.”
4. We need ...
So, the majority of our customers depend on the navigation in order to find stuff on our site. The agency had this informati...
Photo by iwona_kellie - http://flic.kr/p/7WbppX
I mean, if the ice axes on our doors reinforce who we are as a company,
68 ...
then so does what we choose to present in the global nav. 

Why couldn't the agency see this like I did? Well, they weren'...
Misconception
Hiding navigation options
simplifies the experience and
reduces confusion
First that hiding navigation option...
Aesthetic Simplicity
vs.
Functional Simplicity
I think that there's a difference between Aesthetic Simplicity and Functiona...
In the eyes of visual designers, long lists of navigation options are just so much visual clutter. As an IA, I believe tha...
Aesthetic Simplicity
vs.
Functional Simplicity
The balance point between aesthetics and function is what we are striving f...
Misconception
People will just search.
The other misconception that was often used to justify visual design decisions was ...
Doesn't Search
60%
Searches
40%
Most of the year
Remember this slide? 60% of our customers browse the site. They won't use...
Doesn't Search
80%
Searches
20%
December
And during the holidays, that number is 80%. And it's not hard to understand why ...
– Search Patterns

by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender
“Search requires that we
know what we want and
have the words t...
Photo by Megan Lawrie Cole - http://flic.kr/p/2FzaPg
Now, look. I want to be clear that it wasn’t just the agency that had ...
3
Count the
votes
Which brings me to: Lesson Three: Count the Votes
79 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
October 2014
So, it’s October of 2014.
80 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
We’re in a big meeting room, the biggest one on campus. It’s a few weeks after the agency had proposed the minimal nav, an...
While The Agency shows an early preview of the visual design for the site, they show the new minimalist navigation just as...
Will customers find our products?
Merchant
The site merchant speaks up first. She’s responsible for what product gets sold o...
This changes the way
REI represents itself.
Merchant Marketer
* This is the Marketer. He’s concerned with the company’s im...
Some customers
want a richer
experience.
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
* The Market Researcher has done a ton of res...
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader
Are we going far enough?
* The senior leader doesn't take a strong stand...
This is probably going
to hurt conversion.
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
* The Web Analyst...
Too much blah blah blah.
We need more white space.
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
De...
Let’s put this in
front of customers.
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Des...
Natural search traffic
might drop.
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designe...
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designer SEO Developer
Too much technical...
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me
WTF!?
* And the...
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designer SEO Developer
I'm not convinced....
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me
This meeting wa...
Merchant Marketer Market
Researcher
Senior Leader Web Analyst
Visual
Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me
so did everyone...
~
+
- -
-
~ ~
~~ -
I reflected back on the meeting and counted up the votes for the navigation in my head. There were four ...
+
- - ~-
-
~ ~
~~ -
I had thought that my colleagues on the REI team working with the agency would be with me, but they we...
~
+
- -
-
~ ~
~~ -
The folks from marketing turned out to be unexpected allies. I had figured they would care more about vi...
4
Information is
power
Lesson 4: Information is Power

One of the persistent arguments I had to counter was the idea that ...
For instance, I wanted us to try something like what Lowe's does in their navigation. They've got this simplified, task-bas...
–Stuart Maxwell
“Just because a design is published

doesn’t mean it’s performing.”
Just because a design is published doe...
–Stuart Maxwell
“Just because a design element is
effective in one context doesn’t
mean it’ll be effective in another.”
Ju...
So, here's a site that one of the designers sent around saying "we should do what these guys do: a really simple navigatio...
24
But let's just see how many men's jackets they have. I can count 'em up: 24 jackets in three categories: blazers, jacke...
558
How many men's jackets do you think REI carries? 558. Men’s jackets. Insulated, Casual, Snow, Rain, Fleece, Soft-Shell...
November 2014
In November 2014, support for the minimalist navigation was picking up steam, and I was becoming increasingl...
I had been gathering research over the past month to help make my case, including conducting our own research.
107 The Pol...
We used Optimal Workshop's Treejack test to analyze three variants on our then-current global nav. We found that there was...
50
62.5
75
87.5
100
Default Modified Expanded
78
7575
slight uptick in overall success using the variant with the most navi...
The more navigation

options we showed,

the more successful

our users were
Let me just underscore that. The more navigat...
What’s the global nav for?
• Let customers find stuff
• Tell customers what they can find
• Assert a perspective
I reckoned ...
5Influence early
and often
Lesson Five: Influence early and often

So, politics is about how we make decisions in groups. An...
Too much
text!
In these meetings, someone might say, "there's too much text",
113 The Politics of Navigation - final - May ...
Get rid of the
long lists.
or "let's get rid of lists",
114 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
No left rails!
or "no left rails". Each time these statements went unchallenged,
115 The Politics of Navigation - final - M...
Why?
the group point of view about information architecture solidified a bit more. Later, when it came time to try to chang...
–Mike Auzanne and Mark Horstman, Manager Tools
Shot across the bow
Not every argument has to be resolved right away. Somet...
No long lists!
Visual Designer: "We need to get rid of these long lists in the navigation."
118 The Politics of Navigation...
We need
lists!
Me: "I actually think these are kind of important. We have a lot of things to sell, and we need to show tha...
Make ‘em
shorter!
Visual Designer: You need to come up with shorter lists! Just combine some categories or something."
120...
Shot across the bow
So now I have a choice to make. I can pursue the conversation as long as it's productive. But I don't ...
–Mike Auzanne and Mark Horstman, Manager Tools
Pre-wiring the meeting
The other trick for influencing your peers is somethi...
December 2014
Eventually, I started making headway. By December of 2014, I had convinced the project owner and the members...
6Strive for
consensus
Finally, lesson six: Strive for consensus. 

In January 2015, the agency called a meeting to hash ou...
– Choosing in Groups

by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger
Consensus builds:
1. Information
2. Legitimacy
In their boo...
vs
And here’s the agency’s final design, up top. This is what it boiled down to for the global nav: 13 items instead of 8. ...
So here we are today The new navigation design (coming to production later this year) is a mix of old and new. Will it sur...
Conclusion
128 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
One of the reasons I love the ice axes on REI's doors is because they imply that there's a journey ahead, one filled with
c...
The navigation on our site says something about us. It says something about how we look at the world.
130 The Politics of ...
It can say we're comprehensive but siloed,
131 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
or that we're coldly efficient,
132 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
or that these things are important to us, and these are the things we know are important to you, our customers.

Getting t...
1. I’m political and so are you
2.Not everyone thinks like an IA
3.Count the votes
4.Information is power
5.Influence early...
Thank you
Louise Maxwell
Andy Fitzgerald
Bram Wessel
Michael Adcock
Max Eichbaum
Kim Field
Dena Gazin
Isaac Pattis
Luke Wa...
Questions? Comments?
Observations? Heckles?
Stuart Maxwell
@stumax turninggrille.com
Experience Architect at REI
136 The P...
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The Politics of Navigation

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Presented at the IA Summit on April 24, 2015.

For years, REI.com’s global navigation existed in a relatively stable equilibrium. It balanced the need to sell products and services, provide access to educational content, and inform visitors about unique aspects of the company. But a recent agency-led redesign threatened to disrupt this stability. Suddenly, a whole host of assumptions around the proper role of site-wide navigation were exposed. As REI’s in-house IA, I had a front row seat to watch merchants, marketers, designers, and business managers wrangle over their competing expectations of REI’s global nav. My job was to influence opinion and try to restore a healthy balance in the navigation while still supporting a new design direction for the site.
This talk will be a case study of the unexpected political struggles that were revealed during the design process. I’ll attempt to fairly portray the full range of perspectives on global navigation, from customers to business owners, from agency designers to in-house designers, from accepted practice to emerging trends. I’ll talk as candidly as I can about the discussions that took place throughout the redesign process, and where we landed on some fundamental questions about navigation: Who should we design for? Who should care about the global nav? And, particularly, what is IA’s role in the creative process? In short, when politics enter the design studio, who wins?

Published in: Design
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The Politics of Navigation

  1. 1. The Politics f Navig tion Stuart Maxwell @stumax turninggrille.com Experience Architect at REI #ias15 SLOW DOWN! 1 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  2. 2. 1938 77 years ago, Lloyd and Mary Anderson 2 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  3. 3. Matt Peyton / AP Images were a couple of avid amateur mountain climbers in Seattle. Lloyd was looking for a high-quality climbing axe that didn’t cost a day’s wages, and he found what he was looking for in this: 3 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  4. 4. the Austrian Akadem Pickel. After importing and selling a handful of these to his climbing buddies, he and Mary and 21 of their friends started a cooperative so they could sell more high-quality climbing gear to other amateur climbers. 4 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  5. 5. photo by REI They named this co-op Recreational Equipment, Incorporated, or REI. 5 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  6. 6. 1970s In the 1970s, REI expanded its offerings from climbing and backpacking gear to other outdoor activities, 6 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  7. 7. photo by REI opened its first retail store, and became what it is today: 7 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  8. 8. Photo by daveynin - http://flic.kr/p/oGPQ54 a national retailer of outdoor gear and apparel with over 140 physical retail stores 8 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  9. 9. and a very successful online store. But while REI has expanded to sell kayaks, standup paddle boards, running shoes, car racks, and luggage, 9 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  10. 10. the company has always acknowledged its roots in climbing. That’s why ice axes are installed as door handles on almost all of REI's retail stores, 10 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  11. 11. distribution centers, and headquarters buildings. 11 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  12. 12. 2014 Which is why, in 2014, some customers (and quite a few employees) were surprised to learn that, 12 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  13. 13. Camp & Hike Climb Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+ as part of an A/B test on REI.com, “Climb” was moved from the main global navigation menu 13 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  14. 14. Camp & Hike Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+ to a submenu. 14 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  15. 15. –Actual REI customer comment “what happened to Climbing as a category in the top navigation? are you kidding?” This is an actual comment from an actual REI customer. Now, it seemed perfectly reasonable to consider – to test – removing “Climb” from the global nav. The analytics clearly show that it doesn’t perform as well as other navigation options, and since space is at a premium, why not remove it from the top level and open up room for something else? 15 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  16. 16. But this is a company that has climbing axes on all of its doors. Removing “Climb” from the nav sent a message (however unintentional) that maybe REI’s focus had changed. Maybe we didn't care as much about climbing anymore. But our customers – at least some subset of our customers (and many of our employees, too) – didn’t care what the analytics said. They cared about their beloved activity. They cared about tradition. 16 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  17. 17. Camp & Hike Cycle Fitness Run Paddle Snow Travel Men Women Kids Footwear More+ The A/B test is over. 17 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  18. 18. “Climb” has been restored to the global nav and all is right with the world. But this event foreshadowed the story I'm going to tell you today. 18 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  19. 19. 1. I’m political and so are you 2.Not everyone thinks like an IA 3.Count the votes 4.Information is power 5.Influence early and often 6.Strive for consensus It's the story of a major redesign of REI.com, and the six big lessons it taught me about the politics of navigation. 19 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  20. 20. 1I’m political,
 and so are you Lesson One: I’m political and so are you. Now, when I say politics, 20 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  21. 21. – Choosing in Groups
 by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger “Politics is choosing and acting in groups.” I mean it the way political scientists Michael and Kevin Munger define it: politics is choosing and acting in groups. 21 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  22. 22. Photo by NewsHour - http://flic.kr/p/5h6Q8C If you think of politics as this … 22 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  23. 23. Photo by Robert Scarth - http://flic.kr/p/deguN or if the word "Machiavellian" springs to mind, 23 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  24. 24. Photo by arboltsef - http://flic.kr/p/tJpQF or if you think of the backstabbing and manipulation of "office politics", well, join the club. That's how I usually think about it, too, and it really kind of turns me off. I've spent most of my life believing that I'm not a political animal and wanting to avoid politics at all costs. 24 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  25. 25. – Choosing in Groups
 by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger “Politics is choosing and acting in groups.” Reading the Mungers' definition has reframed politics for me. It helped me see that I am political. In fact, I can't *not* be political. 25 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  26. 26. Photo by DonkeyHotey - http://flic.kr/p/aprH6X Because politics is a political debate, of course, 26 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  27. 27. Photo by Jeffrey - http://flic.kr/p/qHPHH6 but it's also a design meeting 27 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  28. 28. Photo by MyDigitalSLR - http://flic.kr/p/6Lof3x and a one-on-one. Politics is how we make decisions in groups. 28 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  29. 29. Photo by soukup - http://flic.kr/p/8RHg98 It takes a lot of forms, including some pretty mundane ones. And if we want to be good information architects, we need to embrace politics. Not to manipulate for any sinister reason, but to persuade others that what we have to say is worth listening to. That what we suggest is worth doing. Let me set the stage for you so that I can explain how I came to this way of thinking. Let's go aaaaalll the way back 29 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  30. 30. February 2014 to February 2014. Remember those days, kids? We were so young then. 30 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  31. 31. Photo by Kelly Kline - http://flic.kr/p/mH3JqA The president was Barack Obama, 31 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  32. 32. Photo by Josh Lackey - http://flic.kr/p/jJie9b and the Seattle Seahawks had just won the Super Bowl. Not thrown it away at the last minute from the one yard line when they could’ve just handed it to Marshawn Lynch, I mean he’s your best offensive weapon, what are you thinking? I mean, not that I'm bitter. Football, am I rite? But those were happier, more innocent times, February of 2014. 32 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  33. 33. Anyway, in February of 2014, this was the global navigation for REI.com. 33 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  34. 34. 1996 When the website was first launched in 1996, it looked like this. We have a few links in the left rail to our product catalog and so on. 34 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  35. 35. 2014 Today, it's the same idea, just more complex. Essentially, the site today is what it has always been: a paper catalog translated for the web. 35 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  36. 36. Digital Retail Marketing Public Affairs REI Adventures Outdoor Programs,
 Marketing The gray tabs in the global navigation basically map to business lines. The Digital Retail division sell products. REI Adventures sells trips. Outdoor Programs sells classes and events, and so on. 36 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  37. 37. Products Trips Classes, Events, How-to Articles, Videos Blog Posts Stewardship Reports Of course, content is siloed in these tabs, too. There are some links between content, but if you want to find our help articles, you go through the Learn tab. 37 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  38. 38. There are occasional rumblings about a radical rethinking of the nav, but nothing ever comes of it. Because the fact is, although the navigation is far from perfect, it is actually usable for the one person that matters: our customer. 38 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  39. 39. $2.2 billion REI’s 2013 revenue In 2013, REI drove $2.2 billion in revenue. 39 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  40. 40. $2.2 billion REI’s 2013 revenue Online accounts for ~25% The online business drives a little less than 25% of that, and we're the fastest growing part of REI. We're doing something right. 40 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  41. 41. Digital Retail Marketing Public Affairs REI Adventures Outdoor Programs,
 Marketing And the navigation is also successful from the perspective of internal politics. Every customer-facing internal group is represented in the global nav. Everyone has their slice of the pie. 41 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  42. 42. Lots of clicks Some clicks Just a few clicks Sure, some slices of pie are pretty small if you count how many clicks they get, but at least they're represented. But back in February of 2014, we've got a new CEO and a new brand identity and it's clear we need to do more. 42 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  43. 43. Products Because not only does REI sell outdoor gear and clothing, 43 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  44. 44. Articles we have lots of great articles 44 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  45. 45. Videos and videos that tells you how to get the best use out of that gear and clothing. 45 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  46. 46. Classes We also offer classes 46 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  47. 47. Trips and adventure travel. In fact, 47 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  48. 48. –REI’s mission statement “To inspire, educate, and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” it's in our mission statement that we're supposed to inspire and educate people about the outdoors, not just to sell products. 48 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  49. 49. Unfortunately, our website just isn't as good at the inspire and educate part as it is the selling part. Customers who take a class or go on a trip with us, or who read one of our how-to articles, are our best customers, but our website makes it hard to serve those customers well. Senior leadership calls for a site redesign to address these challenges. 49 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  50. 50. July 2014 So, in July of 2014, a design agency is hired to conduct the redesign. 50 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  51. 51. The Agency’s mandate • Differentiate us • Dump the silos • Support the mission (“inspire, educate, and outfit”) Their mandate is to define a future REI.com that: * Differentiates us from our competitors * Breaks down the silos of information on the site * Supports the mission of REI: to inspire and educate, as well as outfit 51 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  52. 52. Site merch UX Visual IA The internal team At this point, I’m assigned to be the IA representative on REI's internal team working with the agency. My job will be to represent the in-house perspective on navigation and site structure. Early meetings with the agency are really positive. They're intelligent and creative, and it feels like a match made in heaven. 52 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  53. 53. September 2014 But in September, after several weeks of stakeholder interviews, primary research, and brainstorming, the agency returns to REI to present their proposal for the new site. Among other things, 53 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  54. 54. the agency proposes a new navigation that is drastically stripped down, with most functionality moved into a hamburger menu. This would be our global nav for desktop and tablet and would easily adapt to the smartphone breakpoint. There are no mega menus; the heavy lifting we currently depend on the global nav to do would have to be done elsewhere. 54 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  55. 55. We're going from this... 55 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  56. 56. to this. 56 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  57. 57. The Agency does offer an alternative, with a limited number of menu options. But this just raises more questions. Chiefly: what would be in those placeholders? As you can see here, the agency didn't make a choice. They figured that we could eventually find the six and only six navigation options to represent who we are and what we sell. 57 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  58. 58. Proposed Option 1 Proposed Option 2 Current Now I'm getting a little concerned. What I thought might be a fun assignment was starting to make knots form in my belly. I was (partly) responsible for the navigation of a site that drives upwards of $450 million per year, and we were talking about making a radical change in the primary way our customers find products. Instinctively, I thought that the new design was too restrictive, too pared back, too far a jump from where we were, but at the time, I wasn’t able to articulate why. I pushed back with the agency: can't we talk about expanding this out, maybe to 10 or 12? The agency dug in their heels. They really believed that zero was the right number of global navigation links for us.They thought that eight was a compromise. Nine was out of the question, never mind 12. 58 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  59. 59. Now, look, we’re the client, right? Supposedly, whatever we say goes. The problem is that, as the client, we’re many voices that have to speak as one. As we’ll see a little later on, there wasn’t enough agreement internally about the proposed nav to stop it from being seriously considered for our new site. It dawned on me that if I had any hope of avoiding a potential disaster, I would need to a) develop my take on the proposed nav and have some good reasons for objecting to it; and b) start persuading and influencing my colleagues at REI and at the agency. In other words, I would need to get political. 59 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  60. 60. 2Not everyone thinks like an IA Lesson Two: Not everyone thinks like an Information Architect. So, our small internal team at REI begin poring over the design and trying to understand its implications. And, look, I'm going to mainly discuss the debate around the desktop and tablet nav from here on out. If you're wondering about smartphone nav, just rest assured that we were taking a mobile-first approach, and we were pretty well aligned on the nav for our smallest breakpoint. But desktop and tablet are still important viewports for us, and that's where the most interesting discussions took place. 60 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  61. 61. So we’re reviewing the design, and I am truly conflicted about the proposed navigation. I love new and shiny things, and I'm a fan of minimalist design. But I'm also a pragmatist. I know that our customers need to find things, and they mainly find things by using our navigation. During stakeholder interviews, before seeing this proposed design, I had told the agency just that. 61 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  62. 62. Doesn't Search 60% Searches 40% Most of the year 1. 60% of our customers navigate; they don't search. 62 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  63. 63. Doesn't Search 80% Searches 20% December During the holidays (when we do a large part of our yearly business), that number is 80%. 63 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  64. 64. Purchasing (11%) Evaluating (23%) Just browsing (29%) Researching (32%) Other (5%) 2. When customers visit REI.com 1. Roughly a third are browsing with no intent to purchase anything 2. Only 11% say they know exactly what they want to buy when they come to the site. So, 90% of our customers don’t have a well-articulated finding task. 64 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  65. 65. 20,000+ products 2,000+ categories 3. We have a broad product catalog, and our navigation needs to support that. 65 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  66. 66. –REI’s mission statement “To inspire, educate, and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” 4. We need to present inspirational and educational content (articles, videos, trips, classes, and so on) alongside our products, because this is what we’re all about. 66 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  67. 67. So, the majority of our customers depend on the navigation in order to find stuff on our site. The agency had this information. So why were they insisting on this slimmed-down navigation? Why couldn't they see that the new design would force us to narrow the possible entry points to the site, which could impact sales? And why did they think it was okay that the REI perspective was missing? 67 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  68. 68. Photo by iwona_kellie - http://flic.kr/p/7WbppX I mean, if the ice axes on our doors reinforce who we are as a company, 68 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  69. 69. then so does what we choose to present in the global nav. Why couldn't the agency see this like I did? Well, they weren't looking at this like an IA, for one thing. They were approaching the problem from a different perspective. I needed understand their perspective and start finding some common ground. Over the course of several meetings I was able to tease out the assumptions behind the proposed navigation. What I figured out was that support for the minimalist navigation was based on two primary misconceptions: 69 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  70. 70. Misconception Hiding navigation options simplifies the experience and reduces confusion First that hiding navigation options automatically simplifies the experience and reduces confusion. This is one I hear from visual designers a lot. And I understand where they're coming from. In visual design, just like in good writing, concision is considered state of the art. Many visual designers (especially those working in a modern design idiom) try to eliminate lines, colors, and clutter, to reduce visual overload to a streamlined and minimalist style. It's only natural that they'd see text as just a lot of ugly, squiggly lines and think, "Let's just clear some of that out of the way." They're not thinking of the text as functional, they're thinking of it as a design element. They argue that taking away text makes the design simpler. 70 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  71. 71. Aesthetic Simplicity vs. Functional Simplicity I think that there's a difference between Aesthetic Simplicity and Functional Simplicity. Aesthetic simplicity is the domain of visual design. It’s all about white space and lack of clutter. Functional simplicity is the domain of usability. It's the idea that an interface is easy to understand and use. Aesthetic simplicity can help reduce an overly complicated interface into something that's far more useful. But I believe there's a crossover point where the interface has been so pared down that it becomes harder to use. 71 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  72. 72. In the eyes of visual designers, long lists of navigation options are just so much visual clutter. As an IA, I believe that long lists of navigation options (within reason and when properly grouped) are easier to use. 72 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  73. 73. Aesthetic Simplicity vs. Functional Simplicity The balance point between aesthetics and function is what we are striving for in the navigation design. The agency had made the nav simpler visually, but they hadn't made it easier to use. 73 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  74. 74. Misconception People will just search. The other misconception that was often used to justify visual design decisions was that customers who didn't see what they wanted in the navigation would just use the search box instead. That'd be nice if it were true, but I don't believe it is. We didn't have to look much farther than our own analytics to start debunking this one: 74 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  75. 75. Doesn't Search 60% Searches 40% Most of the year Remember this slide? 60% of our customers browse the site. They won't use the site search. 75 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  76. 76. Doesn't Search 80% Searches 20% December And during the holidays, that number is 80%. And it's not hard to understand why that might be: During the holidays, many customers are shopping for other people, so they don't know exactly what they need to find. Perhaps they're looking to be inspired. Perhaps they don't know what to search for. 76 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  77. 77. – Search Patterns
 by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender “Search requires that we know what we want and have the words to describe our needs.” As Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender point out in their book *Search Patterns*, “Search requires that we know what we want and have the words to describe our needs.” So during the holidays, when a lot of our customers don't know exactly what they want, they use the navigation. So the idea that site search can make up for a lack of navigation is a non-starter. 77 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  78. 78. Photo by Megan Lawrie Cole - http://flic.kr/p/2FzaPg Now, look. I want to be clear that it wasn’t just the agency that had these misconceptions. There were also a lot of people within REI that I had to convince. But now, at least, I had identified the major points of contention. Now I needed to get the rest of the group to see things my way. I needed to figure out the political pressure points where I could make my case and steer the global navigation decisions in the way I thought best. 78 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  79. 79. 3 Count the votes Which brings me to: Lesson Three: Count the Votes 79 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  80. 80. October 2014 So, it’s October of 2014. 80 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  81. 81. We’re in a big meeting room, the biggest one on campus. It’s a few weeks after the agency had proposed the minimal nav, and now they’re back at REI headquarters to present the new design to a group that includes our division VP and directors and managers from other divisions. The Agency delivers a killer presentation. The site is beautiful, it’s different, and everyone in the room is enthusiastic about the design. 81 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  82. 82. While The Agency shows an early preview of the visual design for the site, they show the new minimalist navigation just as you see it here, as an abstract concept. One by one, people give their feedback. I'm attuned to the issues with the navigation, so I'm listening to what people say about the global nav: 82 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  83. 83. Will customers find our products? Merchant The site merchant speaks up first. She’s responsible for what product gets sold on the site and depends on the navigation to prompt a customer to head down the purchase path. "Are people going to be able to find our products with this new nav?" she asks. "And how do we promote new things, products we want to feature?" 83 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  84. 84. This changes the way REI represents itself. Merchant Marketer * This is the Marketer. He’s concerned with the company’s image. "I'm nervous that we're changing the way REI represents itself. This new navigation... it's one of the first things you see... Are new visitors going to understand what we're all about?" 84 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  85. 85. Some customers want a richer experience. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher * The Market Researcher has done a ton of research on who our customer is and how they shop. "This navigation will appeal to our, you know, hardcore gear heads." She says. "But some of our customers want more context, a richer experience." 85 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  86. 86. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Are we going far enough? * The senior leader doesn't take a strong stand on the global nav specifically. Instead, he's "concerned that the design won’t go far enough. Will REI stand out amongst our competitors?" 86 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  87. 87. This is probably going to hurt conversion. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst * The Web Analyst says "We can remove some of these navigation links, no problem. They get very little traffic. But some of these get a lot of clicks. We're probably going to hurt conversion if we do this." 87 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  88. 88. Too much blah blah blah. We need more white space. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer * The visual designer claims, "I just want this to look great. We have too many lists. Lots of blah blah blah. We need more white space." 88 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  89. 89. Let’s put this in front of customers. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer * The UX designer says, "So, we won't know if this works until we test it. Let's just put this in front of customers and find out if they know where to click." 89 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  90. 90. Natural search traffic might drop. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO * The SEO points out that "If we remove the mega menus, we could see a sharp drop in natural search traffic. Google won't understand what the site is about and how to rank our pages." 90 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  91. 91. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Too much technical debt. * The developer warns "Yeah, I'm not sure how we're going to do this this year. It's going to take a long time. We've got a lot of technical debt to work through." 91 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  92. 92. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me WTF!? * And there's me. And I’m all, like, "What the...?! What...? No way are we doing a hamburger menu for the global nav. Get outta here.” Okay, I didn't really say that. I thought it. 92 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  93. 93. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO Developer I'm not convinced. Me What I said was, "I'm not convinced that this hamburger icon is going to work. You're asking the rest of the design to pick up a lot of slack." 93 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  94. 94. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me This meeting was a revelation. I thought of myself as the person responsible for the nav. And then I realized: 94 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  95. 95. Merchant Marketer Market Researcher Senior Leader Web Analyst Visual Designer UX Designer SEO Developer Me so did everyone else. In that moment, I realized that my job wasn't just about trying to do good information architecture. It was also about playing politics. So that I *would have the opportunity to* do good IA. So I started to wonder: How could I convince my team to push back on the agency for some major changes to the navigation? 95 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  96. 96. ~ + - - - ~ ~ ~~ - I reflected back on the meeting and counted up the votes for the navigation in my head. There were four of us who were against the proposed navigation, one for it, and five who were neutral. Thing is, those neutrals may as well have been for the navigation, because they weren’t motivated enough about it to advocate for a change. But the case wasn’t hopeless. I just needed to convert two or three people to my side. 96 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  97. 97. + - - ~- - ~ ~ ~~ - I had thought that my colleagues on the REI team working with the agency would be with me, but they were split or indifferent. 97 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  98. 98. ~ + - - - ~ ~ ~~ - The folks from marketing turned out to be unexpected allies. I had figured they would care more about visual design than about functionality, but they turned out to be pretty insightful about the utility of a robust navigation. Now, their opinions carried a little less weight since their division wasn't sponsoring the project. But their arguments gave me some ammunition. I just needed to come up with a bit more evidence and I'd have a strong case. Which is what I did in… 98 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  99. 99. 4 Information is power Lesson 4: Information is Power One of the persistent arguments I had to counter was the idea that REI should copy some design element from another site. I used this tactic myself. 99 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  100. 100. For instance, I wanted us to try something like what Lowe's does in their navigation. They've got this simplified, task-based navigation that basically asks, "what are you here for? Products? Click here. How-to content? Here you go." It sure looked like they were trying to solve the same problems we had. Like us, they have a broad catalog of products and lots of non-product content. Trouble is, I heard through the grapevine that their nav wasn't performing to their expectations, and they might be considering a redesign. So it didn't make sense to go that push to hard for this. But it did lead me to this insight: 100 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  101. 101. –Stuart Maxwell “Just because a design is published
 doesn’t mean it’s performing.” Just because a design is published doesn’t mean it’s performing. I kept coming back to this one over and over during the design process. A lot of the discussion around design direction revolved around designs that someone observed out in the wild. And of course this is a good way to get inspiration. But it's not okay to look at designs uncritically because unless you've tested them or you're looking at the analytics, you don't know whether they're actually effective. There’s a corollary to this observation, too: 101 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  102. 102. –Stuart Maxwell “Just because a design element is effective in one context doesn’t mean it’ll be effective in another.” Just because a design element is effective in one context doesn’t mean it’ll be effective in another. REI has a broad product catalog, a variety of service offerings, and lots of non-product content. Not every site is like that. 102 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  103. 103. So, here's a site that one of the designers sent around saying "we should do what these guys do: a really simple navigation.” So, Betabrand is a boutique clothing site. Looks great, doesn't it? 103 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  104. 104. 24 But let's just see how many men's jackets they have. I can count 'em up: 24 jackets in three categories: blazers, jackets, and hoodies. 104 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  105. 105. 558 How many men's jackets do you think REI carries? 558. Men’s jackets. Insulated, Casual, Snow, Rain, Fleece, Soft-Shell, Running Jackets, and Wind Shells. Betabrand is a cool site. But it's not an example for REI. Companies with a smaller and narrower catalog can get by with different navigation approaches. And, you know, it's up to IAs to point this stuff out, because this isn't about visual design, it's about information design. If all you're concerned with is how the site is laid out and how it looks, and if you can ignore the realities of your inventory, or tell yourself that the search box is sufficient for wayfinding... basically, if you can ignore the realities of information-seeking behavior, you can design some beautiful sites that might not work. It's up to us as IAs to address these kinds of issues head on, to make sure that our sites are beautiful **and** smart. 105 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  106. 106. November 2014 In November 2014, support for the minimalist navigation was picking up steam, and I was becoming increasingly convinced that it was a bad idea. I thought we needed at least 12 to 15 navigation options immediately visible in the global nav on desktop and tablet. 106 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  107. 107. I had been gathering research over the past month to help make my case, including conducting our own research. 107 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  108. 108. We used Optimal Workshop's Treejack test to analyze three variants on our then-current global nav. We found that there was a 108 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  109. 109. 50 62.5 75 87.5 100 Default Modified Expanded 78 7575 slight uptick in overall success using the variant with the most navigation options. That variant also dramatically outperformed the default navigation for 4 of 10 tasks. 109 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  110. 110. The more navigation
 options we showed,
 the more successful
 our users were Let me just underscore that. The more navigation options we showed to our test users, the better the navigation performed. All this research helped me articulate some overarching principles of navigation. 110 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  111. 111. What’s the global nav for? • Let customers find stuff • Tell customers what they can find • Assert a perspective I reckoned that global navigation does three things: It lets customers find stuff, of course, but it also tells customers about what they *can* find. At REI, this is especially important, since we cater to a wide range of skill levels; not everyone knows each category deeply enough to understand what it contains. Finally, the global navigation asserts a perspective. It defines a mental model about the information space. It says "this is how REI thinks about the world of outdoor activities." Whatever decisions we made about the navigation would have to support these principles. So, if information is power, now I had some. I had my point of view, I had my evidence, and now I needed to play a little politics to make the case for a better global navigation. 111 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  112. 112. 5Influence early and often Lesson Five: Influence early and often So, politics is about how we make decisions in groups. And to get a group to coalesce around a point of view, we need to use persuasion. We need to influence each other to see the world a certain way. Here's the truth: over the course of nine months, in every meeting that I attended about the redesign, I had an opportunity to have input about the design in general and navigation in particular, but I often failed to do so, because I didn't understand the principle of influencing early and often. 112 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  113. 113. Too much text! In these meetings, someone might say, "there's too much text", 113 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  114. 114. Get rid of the long lists. or "let's get rid of lists", 114 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  115. 115. No left rails! or "no left rails". Each time these statements went unchallenged, 115 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  116. 116. Why? the group point of view about information architecture solidified a bit more. Later, when it came time to try to change those opinions, it was harder because they had formed the foundation of the redesign work. And there was already a house that was being built on top of that foundation. Eventually, I learned to speak up at every opportunity. It didn't have to be challenging or confrontational. Sometimes I just needed to ask a question. "Why should we get rid of lists?" or "No left rails, huh? How will that work?" When I did that, one of three things would happen: 1. I'd get an opportunity to counter a mis-conception; 2. My colleagues' arguments would collapse because they had no substance to them; 3. I'd hear something that I hadn't thought of before, and I'd get a chance to work on my point of view. It would take time to make my case. It became a game of patience, and to play it, I drew from two pieces of advice I learned from Mike Auzanne and Mark Horstman of the Manager Tools podcast: 116 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  117. 117. –Mike Auzanne and Mark Horstman, Manager Tools Shot across the bow Not every argument has to be resolved right away. Sometimes it's enough to just challenge a point of view. Auzanne and Horstman call this the "shot across the bow". The idea comes from naval warfare. When two enemy ships are in the same area, and one of them fires a shell across the bow of the other one so that it narrowly misses, the message is: I missed on purpose, but I’m within range and can hit you whenever I want. In the politics of navigation, it works like this: 117 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  118. 118. No long lists! Visual Designer: "We need to get rid of these long lists in the navigation." 118 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  119. 119. We need lists! Me: "I actually think these are kind of important. We have a lot of things to sell, and we need to show that." 119 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  120. 120. Make ‘em shorter! Visual Designer: You need to come up with shorter lists! Just combine some categories or something." 120 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  121. 121. Shot across the bow So now I have a choice to make. I can pursue the conversation as long as it's productive. But I don't have to say anything else right now. I don't argue, I just smile and let the conversation move along. The important part is that I didn't let an assumption pass unchallenged. I've delivered the shot across the bow. I can press the point at a more strategic time. 121 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  122. 122. –Mike Auzanne and Mark Horstman, Manager Tools Pre-wiring the meeting The other trick for influencing your peers is something Auzanne and Horstman call "pre-wiring the meeting". The main idea here is pretty simple: don't wait until a meeting to discuss potentially contentious topics. Instead, look for opportunities -- formal or otherwise -- to discuss your point of view with your peers. This really works for me because I'm an introvert, and I tend to be a lot better in one-on-one or small group conversations than in a bigger discussion. So as I got more sophisticated about the politics of the redesign, I'd find opportunities to have hallway conversations, lunchtime chats, or one-on-one meetings with my peers in order to bend their ears about the navigation. This is kind of like counting up the votes in congress so that you don't bring a bill to the floor until you know that it will pass. Pre- wiring the meeting means making sure you know what to expect when you walk into the room. 122 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  123. 123. December 2014 Eventually, I started making headway. By December of 2014, I had convinced the project owner and the members of the internal team that the minimal nav needed to be replaced by something more suited to our needs. 123 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  124. 124. 6Strive for consensus Finally, lesson six: Strive for consensus. In January 2015, the agency called a meeting to hash out our differences about the navigation once and for all. The meeting went about as well as I could have hoped. I had prepared the ground by continuing to speak up about navigation early and often in meetings with the agency. And, of course, I had been paying attention to internal politics to build a consensus point of view within REI. It paid off; at this meeting, my REI colleagues were often making my points about the navigation even before I could. To their great credit, the agency really listened and heard our arguments. Later, they returned with a much-improved take on the navigation design, one that met our requirements and showed us some new possibilities we hadn't thought of. It was, ultimately, a triumph of consensus-driven decision-making. 124 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  125. 125. – Choosing in Groups
 by Michael C. Munger and Kevin M. Munger Consensus builds: 1. Information 2. Legitimacy In their book *Choosing in Groups*, Michael and Kevin Munger say that there are two reasons to use voting as a means of decision-making: to get better information and to lend legitimacy to the final decision. While voting and consensus aren't exactly the same thing, they're close enough to enjoy similar benefits. The drive for consensus flushed out the various opinions in the group and required each of us to present convincing arguments for why we believed what we did. We shared information and changed minds as a result. I even softened my stance on having the hamburger menu in the global nav, because I heard the arguments and examined the alternatives and I can wholeheartedly support where we ended up. 125 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  126. 126. vs And here’s the agency’s final design, up top. This is what it boiled down to for the global nav: 13 items instead of 8. On the surface, it seems like it's a pretty minor thing to put so much energy into arguing over, but I think it's actually pretty significant. Not least because 13 was the number that we believed in. 8 menu items was an arbitrary number meant to support an aesthetic choice. 13 menu items was well-researched, tested, and reinforced by our previous experience and our understanding of our customers. 126 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  127. 127. So here we are today The new navigation design (coming to production later this year) is a mix of old and new. Will it survive in the real world? I don’t know, but I'm as confident in it as I can be at this point. It's time to give it a try. 127 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  128. 128. Conclusion 128 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  129. 129. One of the reasons I love the ice axes on REI's doors is because they imply that there's a journey ahead, one filled with challenge. At REI we’ve always believed that challenging journeys in the real world are well worth the effort. While hardly as heroic, I believe the challenges of negotiating the politics of navigation are also well worthwhile. 129 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  130. 130. The navigation on our site says something about us. It says something about how we look at the world. 130 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  131. 131. It can say we're comprehensive but siloed, 131 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  132. 132. or that we're coldly efficient, 132 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  133. 133. or that these things are important to us, and these are the things we know are important to you, our customers. Getting the navigation to say something meaningful, to wrangle many voices into one non-verbal statement, is a political struggle. Politics doesn't have to be machiavellian, and it doesn't have to be sinister. It can be thoughtful, and civil, and empathetic. But it has to happen. And you have to be a part of it, because politics is happening all the time, whether you choose to engage with it or not. Better to engage with it on your own terms. 133 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  134. 134. 1. I’m political and so are you 2.Not everyone thinks like an IA 3.Count the votes 4.Information is power 5.Influence early and often 6.Strive for consensus So find your allies and hold them close, and influence the rest at every opportunity. Gather your information and drive for consensus. As an IA, you're a necessary and vital player in the politics of navigation. I wish you luck in negotiating your own political challenges. Thank you so much for listening. 134 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  135. 135. Thank you Louise Maxwell Andy Fitzgerald Bram Wessel Michael Adcock Max Eichbaum Kim Field Dena Gazin Isaac Pattis Luke Warwick Team IAS15 Special thanks to 135 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015
  136. 136. Questions? Comments? Observations? Heckles? Stuart Maxwell @stumax turninggrille.com Experience Architect at REI 136 The Politics of Navigation - final - May 31, 2015

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