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IA Summit ’10 Part Four by:


April 13th, 2010

The IA Summit ’10 has had a great mix of the tactical and the inspirational.  I’d like to share some highlights from a few of the sessions I attended.

Beyond Card Sorting:  Michael Hawley of Mad*Pow gave an overview of techniques other than basic card sorting to get content rich sites under control.  I’m eager to try out several on upcoming projects.

  • Focus Group Card Sorting:  Set up an online card sort on a service like Optimal Sort and get your stakeholders in a room together.  Have them complete the sort on their own, but then pull up the results immediately afterwords and have a group discussion about the outcome.  This method is great for internal projects like intranets and can avoid the problem of one opinionated person leading the organization of content.
  • Findability Testing: You can produce a heat map of where users will first click on a screen when asked to find something.  This is particularly good to do later in the design process to validate labels and hierarchy of content.
  • Triading:  Pick 3 content items at random and ask users which 2 things are different from the 3rd and why.  This is a contextual interview method that is used to discover what the groupings should be for faceted navigation.

Content Analysis:  Don’t just do an inventory of the site content, look at it from a qualitative standpoint as well.  Is the content:

  • Findable and usable?
  • Complete?
  • Clear and accurate?
  • Consistent and appropriate in style?
  • Useful and relevant?
  • Influential?  Does it help users make a decision?

Our clients need to know where the gaps exist in their content, not just how many pages they have and how it is currently organized.

See, Sort, Sketch:  Kate Rutter from Adaptive Path gave a session that echoed the keynote address – that sketching is a tool IAs should be using as part of the process to get from research to design.  Even if you’re more comfortable with writing out words on paper you can show emphasis to words and phrases with line weight and color.  It reminded me of a process I used to convert lots of data from user research sessions into chunks of findings that are actionable.  I wish more projects had the time and budget to allow for this in-depth process.

Design of Strategy:  This was one of the more inspirational sessions – how do you get from what you’re doing now (UX, Design, IA) to the higher level of defining Strategy in an organization?  Harry Max teaches that as UX/Design/IA professionals we already have the tools to drive strategy.  We are good listeners and observers, we ask different kinds of questions.  We just need to transform those skills from envisioning “stuff” to envisioning “ideas”.  These were particularly interesting thoughts when considering how to forge a career path in a field with so many different starting points and so few clearly defined steps toward career advancement.

Tags: Information Architecture, Usability, User Experience, User Research




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