Category: Building Blocks


Understanding Frameworks: Beyond Findability IA Summit Workshop Slides

April 8th, 2010 — 6:05am

I’m post­ing slides for my ‘Under­stand­ing Frame­works’ por­tion of the Beyond Find­abil­ity work­shop on strate­gic prac­tices just given at the 2010 IA Sum­mit.  This por­tion of the full-day pro­gram empha­sizes under­stand­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing the com­mon things that make up a design frame­work, con­cen­trat­ing on the sim­ple struc­ture that design­ers need to grasp in order to cre­ate their own effec­tive frame­works for solv­ing design chal­lenges. I hope you find it infor­ma­tive and useful!

Design frame­works offer sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits to all par­ties involved in cre­at­ing high qual­ity user expe­ri­ences for prod­ucts, ser­vices, dig­i­tal media, and the emerg­ing inter­ac­tion spaces of aug­mented real­ity, ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing, and cross-media sto­ry­telling. Frame­works allow design­ers to bet­ter adapt to the rapid shifts in the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment by lever­ag­ing increas­ing mod­u­lar­ity, gran­u­lar­ity, and struc­ture, and accom­mo­dat­ing the far-reaching changes inher­ent in the rise of co-creative dynam­ics. This pre­sen­ta­tion — part of a full-day work­shop deliv­ered at the 2009 & 2010 Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture Sum­mits — iden­ti­fies the ele­ments com­mon to all design frame­works, and offers best prac­tices on effec­tively putting frame­works into imme­di­ate use.  Alto­gether, it is a short course in the cre­ation and use of cus­tomized design frame­works for address­ing the com­plex­ity of strate­gic expe­ri­ence design.

Comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Designing Frameworks For Interaction and User Experience: IA Summit Workshop Presentation

April 5th, 2009 — 11:05am

I’ve posted my slides and mate­ri­als from the Beyond Find­abil­ity work­shop Andrew Hin­ton, Livia Labate, Matthew Milan and I put on at the IA Sum­mit in Mem­phis recently.

This set of mate­ri­als addresses some of the most impor­tant ques­tions for prac­ti­tion­ers con­sid­er­ing a framework-based approach to design: why frame­warks mat­ter for user expe­ri­ence and inter­ac­tion design, what frame­works are use­ful for, and how you can work with them effectively.

Why *do* frame­works mat­ter? As I’m argu­ing, look around and you’ll see pro­found shifts chang­ing the struc­tural makeup of the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment, the con­texts and bound­aries of the expe­ri­ences, and the role of pro­fes­sional designers.

For design­ers, very com­pli­cated and inter­est­ing prob­lems are on the way: think of Mike Kuniavsky’s work defin­ing some of the fun­da­men­tal con­cepts behind the ‘smart things’ that will inhabit this new design envi­ron­ment, such as infor­ma­tion shad­ows and ser­vice avatars. It’s plain that this world will require new tools, and I believe frame­works are part of that toolkit. (See my col­umn Every­ware: Design for the Ubiq­ui­tous Expe­ri­ence for ongo­ing perspective.)

And check out the slides for the rest of the work­shop :)

Noth­ing bet­ter than blues, bar­be­cue, and Build­ing Blocks!

Comment » | Building Blocks, User Experience (UX)

On Modularity: "Always Look Both Ways When Componentizing the Street"

March 3rd, 2009 — 6:52am

That’s the title of my just-submited guest con­tri­bu­tion to Nathan Cur­tis’ forth­com­ing book “Mod­u­lar Web Design.” (I’m in good com­pany; Todd War­fel and Andrew Payne are two of the other con­trib­u­tors.) When Mod­u­lar Web Design comes out (fol­low on Twit­ter for details), you can turn directly to chap­ter four, ‘Vari­a­tions’, and read my cau­tion­ary tale.
What about the rest of the book? I’ve seen the com­plete out­line, and let me say that if you like mod­u­lar­ity as much as we do and you’re design­ing inter­faces, this is the book for you. Maybe you’re even work­ing with some vari­a­tion of the build­ing blocks, or a sim­i­lar design frame­work? And the cover fea­tures Legos!
Of course, if you *don’t* like mod­u­lar­ity, there’s no need to sweat about it: the future has a place for every­one [We’ll be busy play­ing with our Sifta­bles]. Just don’t be sur­prised if it turns out to be small­ish, dry, and bit — uhh — box-like

Comment » | Building Blocks, User Experience (UX)

Effective Portals Article in Intranets Today

November 2nd, 2008 — 11:17am

Read­ers active in the enter­prise, intranet, por­tal, and syn­di­cated con­tent & func­tion­al­ity spaces might be inter­ested in The Build­ing Blocks of Effec­tive Por­tals that appears in the Novem­ber / Decem­ber issue of Intranets Today.
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Intranets is one of the lead­ing pub­li­ca­tions focused on these top­ics, with reg­u­lar con­tri­bu­tions from the likes of Rachel Alexan­der, Jane McConnell, and James Rober­ston.
You will need a log-in to read the com­plete arti­cle on-line, but per­haps you were think­ing of sub­scrib­ing, and this will pull you in.

Comment » | Building Blocks, Enterprise, Information Architecture

Frameworks Are the Future (Slides From EuroIA 2008)

October 8th, 2008 — 6:28am

In case you couldn’t make it to Ams­ter­dam for EuroIA 2008, or if you were in town but pre­ferred to stay out­side in the warmth of a sunny Sep­tem­ber Sat­ur­day than ven­ture into the mar­velous Tsuchin­ski the­ater, I’ve posted the slides from my talk Frame­works are the Future of Design.
Enjoy!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Ubiquity and Chrome: Modular Is the New Black

September 19th, 2008 — 10:23am

The recent launches of Ubiq­uity (Mozilla Labs) and Chrome (Google) show how sexy it is to be mod­u­lar on the web, from the user expe­ri­ence [Ubiq­uity], to basic appli­ca­tion archi­tec­ture of the browser [Chrome]. This shouldn’t be a sur­prise to any­one, but it’s not some­thing I hear much about in the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity. The frag­men­ta­tion of the web into a ver­i­ta­ble bliz­zard of ser­vices, feeds, wid­gets, and API’s that cre­ate tidal waves of portable and sharable socially rich objects makes think­ing about mod­u­lar­ity indis­pens­able. In all design con­texts.
It’s time the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity embraced this way of think­ing, not least because it has excel­lent pedi­gree. Fifty years ago, in his famous talk There’s Plenty of Room At the Bot­tom, physi­cist Richard Fey­man said, “What I want to talk about is the prob­lem of manip­u­lat­ing and con­trol­ling things on a small scale.” His point was sim­ple: think about *all* the lev­els of scale and struc­ture that are part of the world, from very small to very large. Feyn­man wasn’t talk­ing about design­ing ser­vices and expe­ri­ences for the web or the wider realm of inte­grated expe­ri­ences(nice to see the com­mu­nity pick­ing up my ter­mi­nol­ogy…), but his mes­sage still applies. Work­ing, think­ing and design­ing at [sm]all lev­els of scale means doing it mod­u­larly.
The micro­for­mats com­mu­nity has under­stood this mes­sage for a long time, and is very suc­cess­ful at cre­at­ing small, use­ful, mod­u­lar things.
So how are you think­ing mod­u­larly about user experience?

Comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture

Frameworks are the Future of IA: A Case Study and Example

August 20th, 2008 — 7:43am

Sep­tem­ber in Ams­ter­dam approaches: in addi­tion to the inevitable mix of clouds, rain, more rain, and tiny sliv­ers of sun­light, Sep­tem­ber means EuroIA 2008, where yours truly will speak about design frame­works.
In case you can’t make the con­fer­ence, here’s a text only sum­mary of my talk. Pic­tures will fol­low the pre­sen­ta­tion — promise!

It’s a DIY Future
The Web is shift­ing to a DIY [Do It Your­self] model of user expe­ri­ence cre­ation, one where peo­ple assem­ble indi­vid­ual com­bi­na­tions of con­tent gath­ered form else­where for expres­sive, func­tional, and (many) other pur­poses. The rapid growth of wid­gets, the resur­gence of enter­prise por­tals, the spread of iden­tity plat­forms from social net­work des­ti­na­tions to blog­ging ser­vices, and the rapid increase in the num­ber of pub­lic APIs syn­di­cat­ing func­tion­al­ity and data, are all exam­ples of the DIY shift.

Archi­tects of the Future
For design pro­fes­sion­als, the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of DIY future is co-creation: the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a broad spec­trum of peo­ple in cre­at­ing expe­ri­ences. In this new world, the role of design­ers is to define the tools co-creators use to assem­ble expe­ri­ences for them­selves and oth­ers. These tools will increas­ingly take the form of design frame­works that define the mod­u­lar com­po­nents of famil­iar struc­tures such as social net­works, func­tional appli­ca­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tion plat­forms, per­son­al­ized dash­boards, and man­age­ment con­soles.

Why Frame­works?
Frame­works are the future for three rea­sons. First, every­one can cre­ate sophis­ti­cated infor­ma­tion struc­tures now, and design­ers no longer serve as a gate­way. Sec­ond, the def­i­n­i­tion of frame­works allows design­ers to con­tinue to pro­vide valu­able ser­vices and exper­tise in a cost effec­tive man­ner: It’s some­thing design­ers can sell in a com­mod­i­fied dig­i­tal econ­omy. Third, design­ers have an good com­bi­na­tion of human insight and archi­tec­ture design skills; this hybrid way of think­ing can serve as a dif­fer­en­tia­tor and strength.

One exam­ple of the sort of design frame­work infor­ma­tion archi­tects will cre­ate more of in the DIY future is the Por­tal Build­ing Blocks sys­tem described herein. Prov­i­den­tially, this design frame­work addresses many of the prob­lems inher­ent in the cur­rent archi­tec­tural schema for DIY self-assembled expe­ri­ences.

His­tory Repeats Itself: The Prob­lem With Por­tals
The rise and fall of the Web 1.0 por­tal form offers a use­ful his­tor­i­cal les­son for cre­ators of the new gen­er­a­tion of design frame­works under­ly­ing DIY self-assembled expe­ri­ences.
Despite early promises of util­ity and con­ve­nience, por­tals built with flat portlets could only grow by expand­ing hor­i­zon­tally. The result­ing expe­ri­ence of low-density infor­ma­tion archi­tec­tures was sim­i­lar to that of nav­i­gat­ing post­war sub­ur­ban sprawl. Like the rapid decline of many once-prosperous sub­urbs, the incon­ve­nience of these sprawl­ing col­lec­tions of portlets quickly over­whelmed the value of the con­tent they aggre­gated.
The com­mon prob­lem that doomed many very dif­fer­ent por­tals to the same fate was the com­plete lack of any pro­vi­sion for struc­ture, inter­ac­tion, or con­nec­tion between the self-contained portlets of the stan­dard por­tal design frame­work.
Look­ing ahead, the co-created expe­ri­ences of the DIY future will repeat this cycle of unhealthy growth and sprawl — think of all those apps clog­ging your iPhone’s home screen right now — unless we cre­ate design frame­works that effec­tively pro­vide for struc­ture, con­nec­tion, and inter­ac­tion.

The Build­ing Blocks — An Exam­ple Design Frame­work
The build­ing block frame­work is meant to serve as a robust archi­tec­tural foun­da­tion for the many kinds of tools and func­tion­al­ity — par­tic­i­pa­tory, social, col­lab­o­ra­tive — that sup­port the vision of two-way flows within and across the bound­aries of infor­ma­tion struc­tures. This means:

  • Allow for rapid growth and struc­tural change
  • Estab­lish a com­mon lan­guage for all co-creation perspectives
  • Encour­age con­struc­tion of scal­able, reusable structures
  • Cre­ate high-quality user experiences
  • Enable shar­ing of assets across boundaries
  • Enhance social dynam­ics, such as 2-way con­ver­sa­tion flows

The Build­ing Blocks frame­work defines two types of infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture com­po­nents in detail — build­ing blocks (or Con­tain­ers), and nav­i­ga­tion com­po­nents (or Con­nec­tors) — as well as the sup­port­ing rules and guide­lines that make it pos­si­ble to assem­ble com­plex user expe­ri­ence archi­tec­tures quickly and effec­tively.
The Con­tain­ers and Con­nec­tors specif­i­cally pro­vide for struc­ture, inter­ac­tion, and con­nec­tion at all lev­els of the infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment; from the user expe­ri­ence — visual design, infor­ma­tion design, inter­ac­tion design, infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture — to func­tion­al­ity, meta­data, busi­ness rules, sys­tem archi­tec­ture, admin­is­tra­tive processes, and strate­gic gov­er­nance.
Case Study: Evo­lu­tion of an Enter­prise Por­tal Suite
The Build­ing Blocks began life as an inter­nal tool for low­er­ing costs and speed­ing design dur­ing the course of sus­tained por­tal work done for a For­tune 100 client. Over a span of ~24 months, the Build­ing Blocks pro­vided an effec­tive frame­work for the design, expan­sion, and even­tual inte­gra­tion of nearly a dozen dis­tinct por­tals.
The design frame­work evolved in response to changes in the audi­ences, struc­tures, and con­tents of por­tals con­structed for users in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, dif­fer­ent oper­at­ing units, and sev­eral orga­ni­za­tional lev­els.
The por­tal suite went through sev­eral stages of evo­lu­tion and growth:

  • Exper­i­men­ta­tion
  • Rapid expan­sion
  • Con­sol­i­da­tion & integration
  • Sta­bil­ity and continuity

Lessons In Design­ing Frame­works
Suc­cess­ful co-created expe­ri­ences — Flickr (com­mer­cial) and Wikipedia (non-commercial) — com­bine delib­er­ate top-down archi­tec­ture and design with emer­gent or bottom-up con­tri­bu­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in a new kind of struc­ture Kevin Kelly calls the “hybrid”. Frame­works sup­port hybrids!
Hope to see many of you in Amsterdam!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Information Architecture

Speaking at EuroIA 2008 In Amsterdam

June 20th, 2008 — 11:37am

I’m happy to announce I’m speak­ing at EuroIA 2008 in Ams­ter­dam, Sep­tem­ber 26 — 27. My ses­sion is titled ‘Frame­works Are the Future of IA’. If the excit­ing title isn’t enough to sell you on attend­ing (what’s more com­pelling than a case study on an open struc­tural design frame­work for self-assembled user expe­ri­ences and infor­ma­tion spaces…?), here’s a descrip­tion:
The Web is shift­ing to a DIY (Do It Your­self) model of user expe­ri­ence cre­ation, where peo­ple assem­ble indi­vid­ual com­bi­na­tions of con­tent and func­tion­al­ity gath­ered from many sources to meet their par­tic­u­lar needs. The DIY model for cre­at­ing user expe­ri­ences offers many ben­e­fits in pub­lic and con­sumer set­tings, and also inside the enter­prise. But over time, it suf­fers many of the same prob­lems that his­tor­i­cally made por­tals unus­able and inef­fec­tive, includ­ing con­gested designs, poorly planned growth, and inabil­ity to accom­mo­date changes in struc­ture and use.
This case study demon­strates a sim­ple design frame­work of stan­dard­ized infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture build­ing blocks that is directly applic­a­ble to por­tals and the DIY model for cre­at­ing user expe­ri­ences, in two ways. First, the build­ing blocks frame­work can help main­tain find­abil­ity, usabil­ity and user expe­ri­ence qual­ity in por­tal and DIY set­tings by effec­tively guid­ing growth and change. Sec­ond, it is an exam­ple of the chang­ing role of IA in the DIY world, where we now define the frame­works and tem­plates other peo­ple choose from when cre­at­ing their own tools and user expe­ri­ences.
Using many screen­shots and design doc­u­ments, the case study will fol­low changes in the audi­ences, struc­tures, and con­tents of a suite of enter­prise por­tals con­structed for users in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, oper­at­ing units, and man­age­r­ial lev­els of a major global cor­po­ra­tion. Par­tic­i­pants will see how the build­ing blocks pro­vided an effec­tive frame­work for the design, expan­sion, and inte­gra­tion of nearly a dozen dis­tinct por­tals assem­bled from a com­mon library of func­tion­al­ity and con­tent.
This case study will also explore the build­ing blocks as an exam­ple of the design frame­works IA’s will cre­ate in the DIY future. We will dis­cuss the goals and design prin­ci­ples that inspired the build­ing blocks sys­tem, and review its evo­lu­tion over time.
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The con­fer­ence pro­gram includes some very inter­est­ing ses­sions, and Adam Green­field (of Every­ware reknown) is the keynote.
Ams­ter­dam is lovely in Sep­tem­ber, but if you need more rea­son to come and say hello, Pic­nic 08 — with a stel­lar lineup of speak­ers — is just before EuroIA.

1 comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture, Social Media, User Experience (UX)

IA Summit Slides: Effective IA For Enterprise Portals

April 17th, 2008 — 3:34pm

I’ve posted slides for my recent Effec­tive IA For Enter­prise Por­tals pre­sen­ta­tion at the IA Sum­mit in Miami. Por­tals are not a tra­di­tional space for user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers, so many thanks to the packed house that turned out, and stayed as we both started late to accom­mo­date the crowd, and then ran long.
These slides include a sub­stan­tial amount of case study and exam­ple mate­r­ial that I didn’t cover directly in the talk. For the repeat ses­sion on Sun­day, I showed addi­tional exam­ples beyond those included here in the start­ing slides.
Stay tuned for a more detailed writeup of both pub­lished and unpub­lished exam­ple mate­r­ial — one that shows the build­ing blocks in action at all lev­els of a multi-year por­tal effort from ini­tial strat­egy through design and into gov­er­nance / evo­lu­tion — in part six of the Build­ing Blocks series run­ning in Boxes and Arrows, due out once the post-summit flurry set­tles down.

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

"Enhancing Dashboard Value and User Experience" Live at Boxes and Arrows

March 5th, 2008 — 5:12pm

Boxes and Arrows just pub­lished Enhanc­ing Dash­board Value and User Expe­ri­ence, part 5 of the build­ing blocks series that’s been run­ning since last year. This install­ment cov­ers how to include high-value social and con­ver­sa­tional capa­bil­i­ties into por­tal expe­ri­ences built on top of archi­tec­tures man­aged with the build­ing blocks. Enhanc­ing Dash­board Value and User Expe­ri­ence also pro­vides an explicit user expe­ri­ence vision for por­tals, meta­data and user inter­face rec­om­men­da­tions, and as tips on mak­ing por­tals eas­ier to use and man­age / admin­is­trate.
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Thanks again to all the good peo­ple who vol­un­teer their time to make Boxes and Arrows such a high qual­ity publication!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Information Architecture

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