Tag: modularity

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)

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)

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.
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.

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)

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

Scatterplots As Page Shapes?

March 1st, 2006 — 4:25pm

The Feb­ru­ary edi­tion of Usabil­ity News reports on a usabil­ity study (Where’s the Search? Re-examining User Expec­ta­tions of Web Objects) of user expec­ta­tions for Web page lay­outs that con­tains a sur­pris­ing but inter­est­ing visu­al­iza­tion of page shapes, based on quan­ti­ta­tive user research. (Note: I found the study via the UI Design Newslet­ter, from HFI.)
The study looks at users” expec­ta­tions for the loca­tion of com­mon web page com­po­nents, such as site search and adver­tis­ing. The authors find that expec­ta­tions for page lay­outs are largely the same now, as com­pared to those found in an ear­lier study, Devel­op­ing Schemas for the Loca­tion of Com­mon Web Objects, con­ducted in 2001.
More inter­est­ing is the way the researchers report their results; visu­al­iz­ing them as heat map style grid plots for the expected loca­tion of each ele­ment vs. a blank grid. Here’s two exam­ples, the first show­ing expected loca­tions for ‘back to home’ links, the sec­ond for the ‘site search engine’.
Fig­ure 1: Back to Home Link Loca­tion
Fig­ure 2: Site Search Engine Loca­tion
These heat maps look a lot like page shapes, expressed as scat­ter­plots.
I like the com­bi­na­tion of quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive per­spec­tives at work in these page shapes ren­dered as scat­ter­plots. I think it could allow for grounded dis­cus­sion and inter­pre­ta­tion of user feed­back on design options, within a clear and sim­ple struc­ture that doesn’t require an HCI degree to appre­ci­ate. If I try it out, I’ll share the out­comes.
In a more tra­di­tional style of visu­al­iza­tion, Eric Scheid found another another good exam­ple of page shapes a while back in Jonathon Boutelle’s post­ing on blog lay­outs called “Mullet”-style blog lay­out. Jonathon was advo­cat­ing for a new default blog page shape that increases infor­ma­tion den­sity and scent, but hews closely to pre-existing expec­ta­tions.
Fig­ure 3: Typ­i­cal Blog Page Shape
Fig­ure 4: Sug­gested Blog Page Shape
And that’s the last time I’m men­tion­ing m.u.l.l.e.t.s this year, lest Google get the wrong idea about the sub­ject mat­ter of this blog :)

2 comments » | Information Architecture, User Research

CMS Schematics, Page Shapes, Wire Frames

September 7th, 2005 — 6:43pm

A recent post on the IAI mail­ing list asked how com­mon it is for IAs to define page shapes or “…wire frames from 10,000 feet, with names for each of the “zones” (n.b. not “ele­ments”, “zones”). …Any given site may have a hand­ful of page shapes, and each page shape has a hand­ful of page zones. Each page and each shape would be named for easy ref­er­ence.“
I’ve used a very sim­i­lar approach based on the defin­ing a lim­ited num­ber of ‘screen types’ that show stan­dard­ized page struc­tures and lay­outs for doc­u­ment­ing browser based appli­ca­tions. I’ve posted an exam­ple of this kind of schemat­ics or wire frames packet done for a small con­tent man­ag­ment sys­tem. This packet includes a con­cep­tual overview of the user domain, as well as a set of defined screen types, screen flows, and wire frames. Here’s the full packet, exported from Visio as html.
Page shapes or screen types look like this:
Or this:
These are the accom­pa­ny­ing wire frames or schemat­ics:

Comment » | Information Architecture

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