Category: Information Architecture


The Architecture of Discovery: Slides from Discover Conference 2011

April 16th, 2011 — 1:11pm

Endeca invites cus­tomers, part­ners and lead­ing mem­bers of the broader search and dis­cov­ery tech­nol­ogy and solu­tions com­mu­ni­ties to meet annu­ally, and show­case the most inter­est­ing and excit­ing work in the field of dis­cov­ery.  As lead for the UX team that designs Endeca’s dis­cov­ery prod­ucts, I shared some of our recent work on pat­terns in the struc­ture of dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions, as well as best prac­tices in infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion that we use to drive prod­uct def­i­n­i­tion and design for Endeca’s Lat­i­tude Dis­cov­ery Framework.

This mate­r­ial is use­ful for pro­gram and project man­agers and busi­ness ana­lysts defin­ing require­ments for dis­cov­ery solu­tions and appli­ca­tions, UX and sys­tem archi­tects craft­ing high-level struc­tures and address­ing long-term growth, inter­ac­tion design­ers and tech­ni­cal devel­op­ers defin­ing and build­ing infor­ma­tion work­spaces at a fine grain, and

There are three major sec­tions: the first presents some of our tools for iden­ti­fy­ing and under­stand­ing people’s needs and goals for dis­cov­ery in terms of activ­ity (the Lan­guage of Dis­cov­ery as we call it), the sec­ond brings together screen-level, appli­ca­tion level, and user sce­nario / use-case level pat­terns we’ve observed in the appli­ca­tions cre­ated to meet those needs, and the final sec­tion shares con­densed best prac­tices and fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples for infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion based on aca­d­e­mic research dis­ci­plines such as cog­ni­tive sci­ence and infor­ma­tion retrieval.

It’s no coin­ci­dence that these sec­tions reflect the appli­ca­tion of the core UX dis­ci­plines of user research, infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture, and inter­ac­tion design to the ques­tion of “who will need to encounter infor­ma­tion for some end, and in what kind of expe­ri­ence will they encounter it”.  This flow and order­ing is delib­er­ate; it demon­strates on two lev­els the results of our own efforts apply­ing the UX per­spec­tive to the ques­tions inher­ent in cre­at­ing dis­cov­ery tools, and shares some of the tools, insights, tem­plates, and resources we use to shape the plat­form used to cre­ate dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences across diverse industries.

Ses­sion outline

  1. Under­stand­ing User Needs
  2. Design Pat­terns for Dis­cov­ery Applications
  3. Design Prin­ci­ples and Gudielines for Infor­ma­tion Inter­ac­tion and Visualization

Ses­sion description

How can you har­ness the power and flex­i­bil­ity of Lat­i­tude to cre­ate use­ful, usable, and com­pelling dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions for enter­prise dis­cov­ery work­ers? This ses­sion goes beyond the tech­nol­ogy to explore how you can apply fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion, ana­lyt­ics best prac­tices and user inter­face design pat­terns to com­pose effec­tive and com­pelling dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions that opti­mize user dis­cov­ery, suc­cess, engage­ment, & adoption.”

The pat­terns are prod­uct spe­cific in that they show how to com­pose screens and appli­ca­tions using the pre­de­fined com­po­nents in the Dis­cov­ery Frame­work library.  How­ever, many of the product-specific com­po­nents are built to address com­mon or recur­ring needs for inter­ac­tion with infor­ma­tion via well-known mech­a­nisms such as search, fil­ter­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, visu­al­iza­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion of data.  In other words, even if you’re not using the lit­eral Dis­cov­ery Frame­work com­po­nent library to com­pose your spe­cific infor­ma­tion analy­sis work­space, you’ll find these pat­terns rel­e­vant at work­space and appli­ca­tion lev­els of scale.

The deeper story of these pat­terns is in demon­strat­ing the evo­lu­tion of dis­cov­ery and analy­sis appli­ca­tions over time.  Typ­i­cally, dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions begin by offer­ing users a general-purpose work­space that sat­is­fies a wide range of inter­ac­tion tasks in an approx­i­mate fash­ion.  Over time, via suc­ces­sive expan­sions in the the scope and vari­ety of data they present, and the dis­cov­ery and analy­sis capa­bil­i­ties they pro­vide, dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions grow to include sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of work­spaces that indi­vid­u­ally address dis­tinct sets of needs for visu­al­iza­tion and sense mak­ing by using very dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of com­po­nents.  As a com­pos­ite, these func­tional and infor­ma­tion­ally diverse work­spaces span the full range of inter­ac­tion needs for dif­fer­ing types of users.

I hope you find this toolkit and col­lec­tion of pat­terns and infor­ma­tion design prin­ci­ples use­ful.  What are some of the resources you’re using to take on these challenges?

User Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture For Dis­cov­ery Appli­ca­tions from Joe Laman­tia

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

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)

"Beyond Findability: IA Practice & Strategy for the New Web" - IA Summit 2010 Workshop

February 12th, 2010 — 4:16am

Beyond Find­abil­ity: IA Prac­tice & Strat­egy for the New Web” the full-day work­shop that debuted at the 2009 IA Sum­mit, is back for 2010.   Fea­tur­ing an expanded lineup that includes Andrew Hin­ton, Matthew Milan, Chris­t­ian Crum­lish, Erin Mal­one, Cindy Chas­tain, and me, the work­shop explores lead­ing edge the­ory and prac­tice to equip expe­ri­ence archi­tects for the chal­lenges of design­ing social expe­ri­ences, the DIY Inter­net, engag­ing busi­ness strate­gi­cally, and more.

Read the full descrip­tion here, and then reg­is­ter here!

Bonus: All work­shop atten­dees will receive a free copy of Social Mania — the social pat­terns design card game unveiled at IDEA09.

Last year’s ren­di­tion was pos­i­tively invig­o­rat­ing, with par­tic­i­pants from experience-based busi­nesses like Zap­pos, and prac­ti­tion­ers from lead­ing firms like Adap­tive Path.  But this one goes to eleven: we hope you’ll join us!

Comment » | Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Two New UX Books: Modular Web Design & Card Sorting

July 22nd, 2009 — 5:39am

So many good books come out every year — even in the design and tech­nol­ogy fields — that it’s hard to ‘make a selec­tion’ as they say in Europe. To help through the dif­fi­cult choices, let me sug­gest two new user expe­ri­ence books worth adding to your library.

modularwebdesignMod­u­lar Web Design: Cre­at­ing Reusable Com­po­nents for User Expe­ri­ence Design and Doc­u­men­ta­tion, by Nathan Cur­tis, of eight­shapes fame. Com­po­nents, frame­works, and mod­u­lar­ity are near and dear to my heart (when applied in the right times and places for design pur­poses), so I can say with con­fi­dence that Mod­u­lar Web Design is the best explo­ration of the what, how and why of mod­u­lar design cur­rently avail­able. It should change the way you think about archi­tect­ing expe­ri­ences of all kinds, and — if you’re on board already — help you put this approach into prac­tice with clear exam­ples, advice, and guidance.

cardsorting-mdCard Sort­ing: Design­ing Usable Cat­e­gories, from the good peo­ple at Rosen­feld Media. Card Sort­ing is a thor­ough treat­ment of one of the most flex­i­ble, afford­able, and light­weight meth­ods in the user expe­ri­ence toolkit. Use my tool, but for chap­ter and verse on card sort­ing, read Donna Spencer’s book.

Buy both, and enjoy!

Comment » | Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Search Me: Designing Information Retrieval Experiences

May 15th, 2009 — 10:50am

I just posted slides from my talk at the recent Enter­prise Search Sum­mit in NY “Search Me: Design­ing Infor­ma­tion Retrieval Experience”

Here’s the abstract from the session:

This case study reviews the meth­ods and insights that emerged from an 18-month effort to coör­di­nate and enhance the scat­tered user expe­ri­ences of a suite of infor­ma­tion retrieval tools sold as ser­vices by a major invest­ment rat­ings agency. The ses­sion will share a method for under­stand­ing audi­ence needs in diverse infor­ma­tion access con­texts; review a col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns, look at con­cep­tual design meth­ods for user expe­ri­ences, and review a set of longer term pat­terns in cus­tomer behav­ior called life­cy­cles, and con­sider the impact of orga­ni­za­tional and cul­tural fac­tors on design decisions.

This ses­sion will presents reusable expe­ri­ence design tools and find­ings rel­e­vant for con­texts such as enter­prise search and infor­ma­tion access, ser­vice design, and prod­uct and plat­form management.

Thanks to every­one who came by!

Comment » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Join Me For 'Beyond Findability' the IA Summit 09 Workshop

February 23rd, 2009 — 5:40am

If you’re keen to help shape the way that the user expe­ri­ences of the future are con­ceived and defined, join Andrew Hin­ton, Matthew Milan, Livia Labate, and yours truly in a full-day work­shop / sem­i­nar titled “Beyond Find­abil­ity: Refram­ing IA Prac­tice & Strat­egy for Tur­bu­lent Times” at the 2009 IA Sum­mit in Mem­phis.
We’ve got a lot of great mate­r­ial to share — and shape — on where this new[ish] dis­ci­pline is headed, from four com­ple­men­tary but dis­tinct pro­fes­sional per­spec­tives (dig­i­tal agency, in-house ser­vices group, man­age­ment, design con­sul­tancy), shared by lead­ing prac­ti­tion­ers.
Here’s a quick descrip­tion:
“Changes are hap­pen­ing fast in tech­nol­ogy, the econ­omy, and even the var­i­ous User Expe­ri­ence pro­fes­sions. In the midst of such tur­bu­lence, con­ven­tional Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture can have trou­ble seem­ing fully rel­e­vant. Some may see it as a com­mod­ity, or a nar­row spe­cialty that has lit­tle to do with the game-changing emer­gence of social media, ubiq­ui­tous & mobile com­put­ing, and the rest.
This full-day work­shop will address such con­cerns with a boundary-pushing foray into IA craft and strat­egy. We’ll show how core IA skills are more rel­e­vant and strate­gi­cally impor­tant than ever, and we’ll explore how we can extend IA to its full poten­tial in 21st cen­tury UX design.“
Read more about Beyond Find­abil­ity here. Reg­is­ter here.
See you in Memphis!

Comment » | Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Discount Code for Indi Young's 'Mental Models' Webinar

December 10th, 2008 — 6:04am

Design­ers, prod­uct man­agers, and any­one who aims to cre­ate rel­e­vant and beau­ti­ful expe­ri­ences would be wise to check out Indi Young’s upcom­ing webi­nar, Using Men­tal Mod­els for Tac­tics and Strat­egy, on Decem­ber 11th. Indi lit­er­ally wrote the book on men­tal mod­els for user expe­ri­ence — read it, if you haven’t yet — and this webi­nar is part of the Future Prac­tice series pro­duced by Smart Expe­ri­ence and Rosen­feld Media, so expect good things for your mod­est invest­ment.
Even bet­ter, our friends at Smart Expe­ri­ence and Rosen­feld Media are offer­ing a 25% dis­count on reg­is­tra­tions, which is good for these tough times.
Use this dis­count code when reg­is­ter­ing: LAMANTIAWBNR
Enjoy!

Comments Off | Information Architecture, 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.
Intranets_logo.gif
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)

User Experience: About To Be Commoditized?

October 2nd, 2008 — 7:02pm

Read­ing about the recent release of Social­Text 3 I was struck by the strong par­al­lels between the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of enter­prise envi­ron­ments in 2003/2004, and the emerg­ing pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. The essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics of many enter­prise envi­ron­ments are:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: streams of mod­u­lar con­tent and func­tion­al­ity broad­cast widely to sub­scribers within the fire­wall, such as enter­prise data feeds, ERP, BI capa­bil­i­ties, CRM, cus­tom capa­bil­i­ties shared via SOA
  • Ser­vices (e.g. envi­ron­men­tal, like the bees we used to have for pol­li­na­tion): iden­tity, secu­rity, pub­li­ca­tion, data man­age­ment, cloud stor­age, imap email, etc.
  • Social Struc­tures: tan­gi­ble net­works & com­mu­ni­ties of like-minded peo­ple, ori­ented around a com­mon prac­tice, pur­pose, process, or pain; think of all the matrixed, hor­i­zon­tal org struc­tures and ad-hoc net­works encoded via inter­nal email lists, IM, sprawl­ing intranets, cor­po­rate direc­to­ries, etc.

These same attrib­utes are emerg­ing as the hall­marks of the pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. This is how the three S’s man­i­fest for Web 2.0:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: A lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive tor­rent of con­tent in the form of blogs, RSS, feeds, streams, APIs, for social objects of all types, as well as cat­a­logs of rentable content
  • Ser­vices: This layer is grow­ing rapidly for the pub­lic inter­net, with OpenID / OAuth, map­ping, visu­al­iza­tion, backup, cal­en­dar­ing — the list is nearly infi­nite, and still expanding
  • Social Struc­tures: The Web (and soon the mobile uni­verse) is pro­foundly social now, and will con­tinue to become ever more so.

I think you can eas­ily see the strong par­al­lels. It’s this sim­i­lar­ity between the older enter­prise envi­ron­ments and the emerg­ing Web 2.0 envi­ron­ment that user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers, — and espe­cially any­one prac­tic­ing infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture — should note.
Why? As I’ve writ­ten before, mod­u­lar­ity is every­where in this new envi­ron­ment, it’s appar­ent at all lay­ers of the infor­ma­tion world, from util­i­ties like pro­cess­ing power, to ser­vices, to the ele­ments that make up the user expe­ri­ence. The effects of mod­u­lar­ity in syn­di­ca­tion, ser­vices, and social struc­tures on devel­op­ers and IT have been pro­found; prac­tices, processes, orga­ni­za­tional struc­tures, and busi­ness mod­els have all shifted in response.
This wave of change first affected the devel­op­ers who build and work directly with code and sys­tems. But inevitably, dis­ci­plines fur­ther up the stack are feel­ing the impact of this shift, though many of us (and I’m putting user expe­ri­ence in this class) may not know it yet.
How will we feel that impact? One obvi­ous way is in the pres­sure to adopt agile and other mod­u­lar prod­uct con­struc­tion prac­tices cre­ated by and for devel­op­ers as the pre­ferred way to struc­ture user expe­ri­ence and design efforts. This is a mis­take that con­fuses the dif­fer­ent stages of soft­ware / dig­i­tal prod­uct cre­ation (as Alan Cooper explained well at Agile2008). Design is not con­struc­tion, and shouldn’t be treated as if it is. And one size fits all does not work when choos­ing the process and toolkit used for cre­at­ing com­plex dig­i­tal prod­ucts, ser­vices, or expe­ri­ences.
One result of this mod­u­lar­ity rules all approach to user expe­ri­ence is the ero­sion of bounded or well-structured design processes that bal­ance risk effec­tively for the var­i­ous stages of design, and were meant to ensure the qual­ity and rel­e­vance of the result­ing prod­ucts and expe­ri­ences. Ero­sion is vis­i­ble the trends toward com­pres­sion or elim­i­na­tion of rec­og­niz­able design con­cept explo­ration and usabil­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion activ­i­ties in many design meth­ods.
More imme­di­ately — in fact star­ing us right in the face, though I haven’t seen men­tion of it yet in m/any user expe­ri­ence forums — is the grow­ing num­ber of sit­u­a­tions wherein there’s “No designer required”.
Exam­ples of this abound, but just con­sider this fea­ture list for the Social Text 3 Dash­board:

  • You decide what matters
  • Cre­ate your dash­board in minutes
  • Include 3rd party infor­ma­tion and applications
  • Track & attend to what’s most impor­tant to you
  • Sta­tus updates flow auto­mat­i­cally, as you work

If that’s not spe­cific enough, here’s what comes out of the box, in the form of pre-built widgets:

  • My Con­ver­sa­tions — changes oth­ers have made to any Social­text work­space page you authored, edited, or com­mented on
  • My Col­leagues — recent updates made by peo­ple you are sub­scribed to
  • Work­spaces — work­spaces you have access to and their activ­ity metrics
  • Work­space Page — any page from any of your Social­text workspaces
  • RSS Viewer — results of an RSS feed you configure
  • Work­space Tags — a tag cloud of all tags in a par­tic­u­lar workspace
  • All Peo­ple Tags — a tag cloud of all tags on peo­ple in Social­text People

No archi­tect required for most peo­ple here… and this trend is every­where.
And then there’s the awe­some spec­tre ofcom­modi­ti­za­tion. Lis­ten­ing to a friend describe the con­fus­ing expe­ri­ence of try­ing to select a short list of design firms for inclu­sion in an RFP made the link­age clear to me. I’ll quote Weil’s def­i­n­i­tion of com­modi­ti­za­tion from the paper ref­er­enced above, to make the point explicit.
Please recall that com­modi­ti­za­tion denotes the devel­op­ment of a com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment where:

  • Prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is very difficult;
  • Cus­tomer loy­alty and brand val­ues are low;
  • Com­pe­ti­tion is based pri­mar­ily on price; and
  • Sus­tain­able advan­tage comes from cost (and some­times qual­ity) leadership.
  • Com­modi­ti­za­tion is dri­ven by excess capacity.

Please note that I’m not imply­ing user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers face overnight obso­le­tion.
But I am say­ing that I doubt our cur­rent dis­ci­pli­nary world­view and toolkit ade­quately pre­pare us for the real­i­ties of the new envi­ron­ment emerg­ing so rapidly. Code, by con­trast, is and always will be mod­u­lar. (After all, that is the defin­ing attribute of our alpha­bets.)
But user expe­ri­ence is holis­tic, and has to learn to build in its own way from these smaller pieces like a writer com­bin­ing words and phrases. Even­tu­ally, you can cre­ate works of tremen­dous depth, rich­ness, and sophis­ti­ca­tion; think of Ulysses by James Joyce, or the Mahab­harata. These are richly nuanced expe­ri­ences that are the result of work­ing with mod­u­lar ele­ments.
My sug­ges­tion for one response to the oncom­ing wave of mod­u­lar­ity and com­modi­ti­za­tion is to focus our value propo­si­tion in the cre­ation of tools that other peo­ple use to define their indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. In other words, shift our pro­fes­sional focus to higher lay­ers of abstrac­tion, and get into the busi­ness of defin­ing and design­ing frame­works, net­works, and sys­tems of expe­ri­ence com­po­nents. Prac­ti­cally, this will mean things like observ­ing and defin­ing the most valu­able pat­terns aris­ing in the use of sys­tems of mod­u­lar ele­ments we design, and then advis­ing on their use to solve prob­lems. This is the direc­tion com­mon within enter­prise envi­ron­ments, and in light of the appear­ance of pub­lic pat­tern libraries (Yahoo’s UI), I think I see it hap­pen­ing within parts of the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity. I’m not sure it’s hap­pen­ing fast enough, though.
I hoped to com­mu­ni­cate some of these ideas in my talk on why frame­works are the future (at least for any­one prac­tic­ing Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture) for the 2008 EuroIA Sum­mit that just took place here in lovely Ams­ter­dam. I’ll post the slides shortly. In the mean­time, what do you think? Is user expe­ri­ence ready for the mod­u­lar­ized, enterprise-like envi­ron­ment of Web 2.0? How are you respond­ing to these changes? Is com­modi­ti­za­tion even on your radar?

2 comments » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, Tools, User Experience (UX)

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