EuroIA: Closing Keynote

by Luke Wroblewski September 25, 2011

In her closing plenary at EuroIA in Prague, Margaret Hanley shared what make Information Architecture unique and valuable for user experience design. Here's my notes from her talk:

  • There still seems to be a lack of understanding of basic IA skills: navigation, modeling, etc. Recently came into a project where there was a prototype but no information architecture work had been done.
  • IA history in books reveals a transition from broad to narrow. Today’s books have a deep and narrow focus: card sorting, search analytics. IA went from broad to narrow, to even more narrow. It’s ok to be a field of practice but it’s not ok to not know a practice.
  • User experience ended up being multiple fields of practice: IA, visual design, interaction design, etc. That’s ok.
  • Themes of EuroIA: it's all about structuring information and knowing what the relationships are. IA is making decisions about structure.
  • IA is connecting content to content (navigation), content to user, and user to user (social). But the biggest change is understanding context. Context is about understanding time, location, device, people etc. We we should look at how we can make connections in context.
  • Know different organizational structures and be able to consciously choose between them.
  • Create models of your structures: navigation, application, and data. This allows you to test things out before you put content in.
  • Understand deep IA: content objects, CVs, and semantic Web. Know when to apply each of them.
  • Understand how people seek information. Information science has a field called information seeking in the physical world.
  • Know how search works. Especially internal search engines so you can direct engineers on information display, facets, etc.
  • Take back IA as a valuable field of practice. It is a valuable part of user experience design and not easy to do well.
  • Take back doing IA before interaction design. Think about the information you need in a system before you create ways to interact with it.
  • Continue with passing on stories not just methods. Teach the problems and the solutions not a set of steps.
  • Do IA user research not just card sorting. For example: information seeking, hierarchy of information, facets, task flows.
  • Being broad is our profession. You can’t design effectively if you don't know something about the disciplines that work with you.
  • Be the glue between editors, business stakeholders, and developers. Because you can understand users and technology you can make these connections.
  • Understand and develop more. Information seeking and sense making are areas ripe for information architects to study. How can people get in and make sense of their world? Continue to look at databases, Apis, modeling processes, and semantic web structures. IAs are increasingly working with structured information more than unstructured information.
  • IA needs to have an equal standing as a UX field of practice. Make it cool again.