The Understanding Bee

Information architecture is the practice of making the complex clear. But is information architecture clear? We collected attendees’ deepest questions and greatest doubts considering the practice and results of information architecture work and thought. And in the Understanding Bee, we are ready to do some ‘splainin.

Inspired by the dramatic arc of an elementary school spelling bee, Peter Morville, Abby Covert and Dan Klyn are asked to answer questions one at a time, at random. Marsha Haverty served as moderator.

Desiring Ecologies: Meaning-Making in the Network Wilderness

As networked information ecologies get more complex, interdependent, and unpredictable, designers must focus on the simple, foundational, and emergent. Connected networks are growing beyond our ability to grasp them as a whole. The big changes will catch us by surprise. Our best chance to positively impact these systems is by influencing the creation of effective small pieces that work as part of a holistic ecology.

This talk will explore the changing role of the information architect in the emerging wave of connected computing. It will propose strategies for reframing the way we approach information design in order to better create enriching and empowering experiences for users. We’ll look at examples from technology, cultural movements, and nature in order to frame a set of guidelines for creating systems that desire collaboration and clarity as an innate function of their underlying nature.

2015 IA Summit Closing Keynote

Brenda Laurel goes deep on emergence as a force in information architecture from serious to playful designs. As information becomes more free-flowing and intertwingled with the made as well as the natural world, we need to cut meaningful and engaging swaths through it all. Brenda’s work in research, design, nature, and advocacy make her the very model of an information architect.

The IA is IN: Mentoring block

Come enjoy a mentor-mentee interactive session. We’ll start with a structured introduction to mentors with a diversity of experience and then transition to organic conversations.

What is Past is Prologue

Christina Wodtke and Jesse James Garrett in conversation. This is a light-hearted (and ever-so-slightly contrarian) discussion of what has gone before and why IA is now more important than ever. Our scholarship, practice, community, and culture get the deep dig in an intelligent, informal, and invigorating chat.

A Tale of Twin Cities

A fireside chat presented by Karl Fast and Kristina Halvorson

Karl Fast and Kristina Halvorson in conversation. As the Information Architecture Summit visits content strategy’s spiritual home of Minneapolis, let’s look at how these disciplines compare, why they’re important and what they can teach each other.

Let’s Hear It For The Seams

We’re going to spend the next decade trying to figure out how to design cross-channel, multi-device experiences that don’t suck, so it’s probably a good time to come clean and admit that the goal of making those experiences “seamless” is just plain silly.

What have we delivered in decades of digital product development that you could describe as seamless? “Apple’s ‘it just works,’ ” you say? Really. How are you enjoying that Flash movie on your iPad? Or maybe you’re thinking Google’s got it knocked … but then you’re not talking about the gazillion people who stumble through their multiple Google accounts.

If we couldn’t pull off “seamless” for single-channel experiences, what makes us think that we can do it when things get really complicated? It’s finally time to let go of the fantasy of hiding seams and focus instead on crafting them skillfully.

In this interactive session we will take a look at a mix of current and imagineered seams. As a group, we’ll analyze what makes for ragged connections between devices and identify some keys to creating elegant transitions across channels. Nobody’s figured out this stuff yet, so let’s roll up our sleeves and work on it together.

Session Takeaways
  • A starter kit of techniques and standards for elegant seam design
  • A deeper understanding of complex, cross-channel, multi-device experiences and the level of effort required to design them well
  • Hands-on experience with the collaborative design of seams

Architecting Reality

As information architects, we are responsible for understanding and communicating what is, and, in doing so, shaping what will be. In order to do this well, and ethically, we need to understand the structures which shape reality: how are they formed and maintained? How does our work resist or uphold existing structures and narratives? How can we make sure we are looking where we ought to be?

Richard Saul Wurman’s LATCH, is one tool for understanding meaning, and when used correctly it is an important tool, but it doesn’t go far enough to help us question or even see the most pernicious structures that shape our reality. What do the fields of philosophy, psychology, and language tell us about how these structures are created and maintained, and how can we make sure the solutions we are architecting are good, not just because they are easy to use, or meet client specifications, but because they actively resist harmful structures, and support beneficial ones?

Session Takeaways
  • ‘Reality’ is a construct which persists through our continued use of it.
  • We can either resist structures or uphold them, but nothing is neutral.
  • If we are not aware of all the structures that control the meaning of the things we are architecting, we are doomed to uphold the prevailing structures.
  • In order to see these structures we need a practice or tool like LATCH which shows us where to look and how to push, but one which addresses more structures.
  • We have an ethical duty as information architects to be aware of the structures we are upholding and how they impact our future, but are likely to fail unless we engage in a practice wide conversation about what this means.

Atomizer: Microcontent and the Future of IA

Digital content experiences emerging in the next decade will look, feel, and be consumed very differently from those of today. As today’s “app and page” consumption paradigm gradually recedes, replaced by a much more immediate, fragmented, and continuous core experience, content management organizations face a point of consequence.

The demands of emerging digital experiences threaten to strain traditional enterprise content management approaches to the breaking point. Enterprise IA organizations will be forced to evolve to meet the complexity of this challenge by becoming increasingly granular in their content and information modeling. This shift will place heavy emphasis on the development of flexible information models containing rich secondary data to describe increasingly small, interoperable, and portable units of content.

Session Takeaways
Get in front of this paradigm shift before your organization gets buried in its own confusion. Learn what steps you can take as you begin to prepare your organization’s information model to accommodate the content and data demands of these rich new experiences. See how the discipline of Information Architecture is theoretically well-suited to meet this challenge, but must also adapt and evolve in the ways it is practiced on the ground.

This session will begin by demonstrating how the trend toward micro-content is unfolding, citing examples of how emerging digital experiences are straining the framework of traditional taxonomy, metadata, and attribution approaches. It will then describe how rich, sophisticated enterprise information models designed to accommodate these shifts can evolve to meet the demands of data-rich, microcontent-driven digital experiences, focusing on the first steps organizations can take to prepare.

Panel: The Secrets of Master UX Consultants

Being a design, IA or UX consultant is hard. Most new consultants struggle just to stay busy. In this panel, expert practitioners will share their wisdom on what it takes to be a master consultant. Panelists with many years of consulting experience will share their insights on winning engagements, dealing with clients, and the different skills needed for internal and external consulting.

If you’ve polished your UX skills extensively, but are struggling with clients or internal stakeholders, this session will provide insights into the consulting soft skills you need. We’ll share our secrets to help you become a more effective leader and a happier consultant.
Session Takeaways

Attendees will learn tips and trick for consulting from the multiple perspectives of each panelist. They may not always agree.

Here are some examples:

  • Consulting is about delivering – be clear about your deliverables – if you’re just offering “advice” clients will have a hard time seeing your value after you leave.
  • Don’t do the hard work of writing a proposal until the client already knows your planned approach and has agreed to a ballpark budget. The work should be mostly sold before you write up what you’ve already talked about in the proposal.
  • The roles of internal consultant, external contractor, and external consultant are all very different. Each of these roles requires different behaviors. For example, as an external consultant, you need to be able to effectively “project manage” your work and hold clients accountable for their action items, while as an internal consultant or contractor, you’re often part of a larger team managed by the client. If you’re not good at managing projects…take note. On the other hand, as an internal consultant, you must be great at navigating the political waters of the organization.
  • External consultants need to HAVE A CLEAR RECOMMENDATION. Don’t be wishy-washy (saying “it depends…”) or give clients too many options. You need to be an expert. That’s what they hired you for. But that doesn’t mean you have all the answers.