What We Mean by Meaning: New Structural Properties of IA

We know we can’t design meaning directly, but as IAs we can certainly facilitate it. This session delves into theory to uncover the nature of meaning so that we may recognize new structural properties of information that not just facilitate the emergence of meaning, but maintain its evolving thread in networks, cross-channel ecosystems, the Internet of Things, and other complex contexts.

Embodied cognition – the notion that meaning is not a clean, logical process inside the brain, but emerges as we act with information (physical and digital) in the environment – is offered by many IA thinkers to inform our work. But, we haven’t yet fully characterized the nature of meaning. We’ll do that in this session. We’ll visualize the way meaning emerges and evolves as an information-behavior coupling, and how this implies that meaning is not a static recognition, but a flow. Flows have properties like texture, viscosity, permeability. As IA practitioners, we may use structure to modify these properties. We’ll see that the phase-space of IA affects viscosity, facets of linguistic and perceptual information affect texture, and understanding factors affect permeability.

Recognizing these properties of meaning, and the IA structures that stand to modify them, we may make deliberate design choices in our projects.
Session Takeaways
* Visual breakdown of the nature of meaning as a flow.
* How to recognize new structural properties of IA that help us facilitate the flow of meaning: the phase-space of IA to modify viscosity, facets of linguistic and perceptual information to modify texture, and understanding factors to modify permeability.
* How to use these new structural properties as design tools in our projects.

Evening Keynote: New Fields and Feeled Effects

Evening Keynote: New Fields and Feeled Effects
A keynote presented by Ted Nelson on  Friday, 24 April, 2015

DesignOps Skunkworks: Shoes for the Cobbler’s Children

We’ve all worked at places where there’s never enough time to make sure that things are operationally done the “right way”—bills need to get paid, client or product/project work needs to get done and takes priority, and hey, everyone deserves to have a life, too. There is light at the end of this tunnel! Several companies, including Atari, Ford, Microsoft and Google, have pulled off some great things by taking advantage of skunkworks teams and projects. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some successes with those teams and projects, as well, and will share them so you can see how to apply the approach(es) to your own practice.

Way back in the 1940s, Kelly Johnson and his team of mighty skunks used their Skunkworks process to design—and build—a prototype jet fighter in 143 days. Kelly established 14 Rules and Practices for Skunkworks projects in order to help articulate the most effective way for his team to be successful in the projects that they worked on. Not only can we learn from Kelly’s rules and adapt them to our current methods of working, we can also create our own skunkworks teams and projects to ensure that the Cobbler’s kids—the operational areas of our design practices—get some shoes put on their feet. And the results might just smell pretty good, if you’re patient enough.

Session Takeaways
  • What is this Skunkworks thing you mentioned?
  • What are Kelly Johnson’s Skunkworks Rules and how can I apply them to my design practice?
  • What have other companies done that are considered skunkworks and how were they successful?
  • How can skunkworks be used in our current work practices?
  • How can skunkworks be used to help accomplish the ever-growing stack of non-priority (yet still very important) projects that are important to me and my team?

Learning from Users in their Natural Habitat

One of the shortcomings of user interviews is the vast gulf between what people think they do versus what they actually do. Fortunately, a new generation of digital research tools are filling that gap by allowing users to provide quick feedback via their smartphone right after using a product. This allows rich details to be captured that might otherwise have been forgotten. These tools are breathing new life into a traditional research tool, the diary study.

This talk shares best practices for creating a digital diary study that collects relevant and insightful data. It will be framed by examples from a recent digital diary study I conducted that explored how people use their fitness trackers (Fitbit, etc).

Attendees will come away with not only an understanding of the kind of rich data that can be collected this way, but the basic knowledge needed to create their own digital diary studies.

The Politics of Navigation

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?

Archaeology & IA: The Adventures of Information Jones

During my previous career as an archeologist, I studied people I couldn’t talk to in order to learn how they interacted with the world around them. As a User Experience Analyst, I now study people I can talk to and learn first hand how they interact with their environments.

In this presentation, I will bring my interdisciplinary perspective to life through a case study of the FCC.gov redesign, demonstrating how my experience as an archeologist made this daunting task doable.

In 2014 we began the research process for redesigning the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) website. The project included intensive research and restructuring of the site. We dug through layers of data and content making fascinating discoveries along the way.

The understanding and research that goes into information architecture is not unlike what goes into the study of an 18th century farmstead. Both disciplines use maps and collect artifacts to create a story of people and information. Using the right methods, you can get the job done with more ease than Indiana Jones.

Every step during the FCC project can be reframed through the archaeological process. The parallels can help you prepare for IA research with the mindset of a historian or archaeologist, expanding your approach and enhancing your skill.

Session Takeaways
  • Be a historian: Gather historical materials relevant to the site and talk to the locals when you can
  • Survey the area: Have a standard method to your research, this helps you determine when you need to go back and investigate an area further
  • Dig deeper: Determine where you need to analyze more

The Anatomy of a Content Model

With the rise of responsive design, a content model and a CMS are necessities for any content-rich web presence. Once you’ve designed the front-end user experience, it’s important to consider the content structure that will support your design. Content models define:

  • the underlying structure of each type of content
  • the user experience for content authors and editors within the CMS

Luckily, designing a content model is a natural extension of IA for a front-end user experience. In this talk, we’ll get into the details of HOW to content model. We’ll dissect the content model for a single content type for a nonprofit website. The goals for this content model were:

  • to be adaptive and portable for any device or context
  • to contain a lot of content, yet display it in a simple way
  • a successful user experience for administrators creating and editing the content
  • a delightful user experience for end users of the content

In content modeling, there are often multiple approaches you could take so I’ll also cover the alternate models we explored and describe the process that led us to our end result.

Session Takeaways
  • Define a content model
  • Evaluate a content item and create a content model based on that item
  • Learn best practices for adaptive content models

You Are What You Eat: The IA of Food

Would a well-designed interface for a food database help people better understand what they are consuming?

We are living in times when 2% of the U.S. population is producing food for the other 98%. Technology has changed our way of producing food, but still has a very small role in informing us what exactly we are eating. Can design step in to help here? Can good design raise the awareness of what we are consuming? I think yes, and I will tell you how. Using apples.

Session Takeaways
* Is it possible to make informed choices about our consumption while considering one’s budget and improving the grocery shopping experience?
* Can a well-designed (user-friendly) product raise awareness about eating habits among people less inclined to educate themselves otherwise?

Is Design Metrically Opposed?

The world of metrics and analytics has always been at odds with how designers work. Design is a process where we finely tune our gut intuition to create a great user experience. Yet, sometimes, the measures we take indicate a different outcome. Which do we believe? Our gut or what the computers are collecting?

In this presentation, Jared will explore the world of measures, metrics, and KPIs. He’ll share the techniques behind Amazon and Netflix’s success. He’ll show how some practices, like the growth hacking approach to increasing Monthly Average Users (MAUs) have hurt the online experience of Instagram and LinkedIn. Plus, you’ll see some alternatives to satisfaction and net promoter score that give insight into the design process and can help designers better tune their gut intuition.
Session Takeaways
* What do easily-collected analytics like bounce rate and time-on-page actually tells us about our users experiences?
* How do we construct true Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can predict the future patterns of users?
* Why advanced techniques, like a money-left-on-the-table analysis and the CE11, show us how much more powerful metrics can be in design?

The Crossover Role: PM + IA + UX

The evolution and demands of the web have brought many exciting new beginnings, including the friendship and growth between roles that have historically operated in autonomy. Most relevant to us are the merging of project managers, information architects, and user experience designers. The intersections of these roles has created an opportunity for fast-paced growth in skillset – wireframing, rapid prototyping, user stories, and data analysis – greater endurance amongst project teams, and increased fluidity and efficiency in organizational processes.

The Crossover role, and the individuals who fulfill this role, are valuable, strong players on the team, the missing links, and the hidden gems pushing the line between good and brilliant, effective and mind-blowing. Learn what the Crossover role is, why it’s important, how to embrace it, and the essential benefits for your organization, and more importantly, your career development. Through practical advice and real life examples, you’ll understand if you are the Crossover role and how to maximize your impact.

Session Takeaways
  • Understanding when your traditional role is transitioning to the Crossover.
  • As demonstrated through real life examples, know when it’s appropriate to don the PM, IA, and UX hat and how each will benefit the project, product, and/or team.
  • How to leverage discrete skillsets to create opportunities for career growth and skillset development.
  • Draw from the knowledge bank of project management versus the bank of information architecture versus the bank of user experience.
  • How to reform and innovate processes through the Crossover role and keys to identifying where the process needs support from the crossover.
  • Gather and structure project requirements in a way that will speak to both front-end and back-end development teams.
  • Identify methods to showcase the value of crossover skills, both internally and to clients.
  • Identify characteristics of crossover people by examining personas and how to engage them in the role.

Wayfinding For The Mobile Web

As we attempt to map larger, more complex systems to smaller screens, it becomes more and more challenging to help people find what they’re looking for. Learn how lessons from architectural wayfinding can guide how you structure your navigation and improve the ease with which your users can explore your site—regardless of what device they’re on.

We’ll dissect a number of mobile and responsive UI patterns, covering concepts like circulation systems, spatial cues and route visibility. By better understanding the cognitive and perceptual decision making processes that determine how people navigate their environments, you’ll be better equipped to build seamless experiences across a multitude of screens and devices.

Session Takeaways
  • the pros and cons of different mobile and responsive navigation patterns (there are lots of conventions, so I’ll cover considerations for determining which ones make sense under which circumstance)
  • the cognitive and perceptual decision making processes that determine where people decide to go
  • how architectural wayfinding concepts like paths, landmarks and signage can help you make your site easier to navigate (looking at things like: visible vs. hidden nav,  text vs. iconography, grids vs. lists, consistent and identifiable zones)

Testing Taxonomies: Beyond Card Sorting

Taxonomies, while critical, are often created in collaboration with businesses and in isolation from users, which leads to misalignment of expectations and a disconnection from their mental models. But testing taxonomy is not difficult, doesn’t have to be expensive, and offers clearly identifiable value to projects. In this very practical session you’ll learn about when to test, the different kind of tests available, and what works best (and what doesn’t) at different stages of different projects.

Session Takeaways

Attendees will be introduced to testing methods that go beyond the basic card sorting, such as

  • Delphi-method card sorting
  • Online grouping
  • Click path studies
  • Usability testing

For each of these methods, we’ll talk about

  • What they are
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to execute a study
  • What they’re good for
  • How they differ from traditional card sorting
  • Examples & case study learnings

The talk will be full of screenshots, examples that clarify abstract ideas and methods