Information architect on Web Worker Daily

The role of information architect is featured at Web Worker Daily today:

Web Worker Payoff: Information Architect

User account security measures offer annoying barriers without a reasonable payoff

Random internet browsing brought me to a choice user response to "internet security measures":

Like, I know they are there for good reason, but so many web sites require so many different variations of passwords, I just can't keep up with them all. My bank for example...It's one of those "password must contain atleas 8 characters, upper and lowercase and atleast one number". Okay, I did that, I've managed to remember it...but then, I have to have 8 different security questions. It doesn't always promt me with one, but about every 5th time I log into the site they throw me one of the questions. I can't keep up with all the answers. There are multiple answers to most of the questions. I don't have a fave band, I have several. I don't have a fave candy, or movie or any of that other crap.... So, if I answer wrong 3 times, they disable my account and make me re-register it.....*grumble*

Demographics: female in her 20s on a social networking site (LiveJournal) with novice to intermediate internet savvy (i.e. email, web, url copying, picture/video uploads, IM, etc.)

I think the most interesting thing here is that a lot of internet security measures put up lots of barriers to entry but don't offer a comparable value to the usere either in terms of real security, or in perceived security.

Nielsen drops page view ranking

From USA Today, Nielsen drops page view rankings in favor of weighing time on site as more important.

Article specifically cites online video and Ajax as reasons why page views are meaningless.

Time on site is also skewed. Measuring content views would be a more precise measurement of user engagement. (You can track content views for both video and ajax.)

(Link via Mr. Eddie James)

Joost offers innovative(?), new ad models

From Joost Unveils Stellar Brand Ad Launch Lineup, Partnership With IPG:

Joost is offering advertisers a range of formats beyond the traditional 30-second spot. Ten-second and 15-second pre-, mid-, and post-roll options are all available, all with interactive capabilities for users to delve deeper into ad messages if they desire.

Another alternative is a roughly 5-second "Brought to You By..." "introstitial," according to Elders. "We're going to be doing a lot of experimenting around our three core principles of targetability, measurability, and interactivity," he said. "There are a lot of unknowns, and we really don't know yet what viewing patterns are going to be like."

In addition, rather than interrupting programming, Joost will run ads alongside content known as "hand-raisers," which users can click for more information either within Joost's platform or on a brand's own Web site.

Hand-raisers are a great idea. With the potential to be highly contextual and relevant, the clickthrough from ads to really engaging and useful experiences (with sales at the end or not) could be really amazing.

Or it should be really amazing. But knowing how us monkeys like throwing our wrenches in things, I'm sure we can monkey it up.

Things You See - A conversation between Bob Goodman, Peter Jones, Eric Reiss and GK VanPatter

NexD Journal has a follow-up article to GK VanPatter's Unidentical Twins that triggered much discussion a few months ago. The follow-up is a 4 way conversation between Bob Goodman, Peter Jones, Eric Reiss and GK VanPatter.

I feel like I should post a witty summary, but it is too long to summarise, covers too much ground and (for me) is somewhat hard to grasp (though much easier than the first article).

So I'll pull out just one tiny part that made me chuckle:

"GK: Perhaps we could each talk a little about what the most significant challenge facing us in practice is today and how we grapple with that challenge?

Eric Reiss: The problems facing our practice? In general, I’d say it’s folks who push their personal agendas rather than pursuing the greater good. And how do I “grapple with that challenge?” Well, I listen, learn…and give them lots of rope…"

Things You See: Four Views into the Transformation Room

Vision for a new video world

Online Media Daily quotes Jeremy Allaire's views on web video and advertising in Brightcove Founder Lays Out Media Vision For A New Video World.

His remarks were part of his keynote to the Outfront conference. (There's a link to the entire keynote you can watch, as well.)

Interesting comments fmor a smart gyu. Go read. Tasty bits to moisten your lips:

Open distribution and "self-service models" where content can be created and distributed with no cost of entry are leading to an explosion of new programming outlets and niche networks because anyone can create a TV network today--production companies, publishers, or consumers.


The idea, says Allaire, should be some "blended distribution strategy" that includes a branded content site, strategic syndication to affiliate sites, and viral distribution through widgets or players such as Brightcove's that "empower the consumer to distribute it for you." For advertisers, you're looking at extending reach by 50%, 60%, 70% or 80%, he said.

Advertising must be bound to content in this world, Allaire said, and because consumers are more likely to be "snacking"--or clicking around and sampling multiple videos to see which they want to sit through--the existing standard 15-second pre-roll with banner is a complete turnoff, as it forces repeated viewing with a resulting negative effect.

On Wireframing Tools for Microsoft Environments

Let's start with Boyd's IP Theft (oops, I mean Dictum) on Prototyping Tools: it is easier for someone who knows what they are doing to transfer a design concept on the back of a business card with a crayon than it is for someone without a clue to perform the same task with any other medium.

In other words, the important part is transferring the design concept not look at the size of my tool.

Sure, some tools make things easier. Some tools are more efficient than others.

You've got a heap of choices. Rightly or not, most client sites in Canberra are Microsoft shops, so for portability purposes there is an argument to use XP-friendly prototyping tools. I'm not saying it's right, just easier.

Some I've looked at include:

  • Axure: I use Axure because the engagement I was on was in a Microsoft shop and it was the best available at the time. I've grown used to it's good and bad points. Familiarity has bred content. It produces rapid HTML prototypes but unusable HTML - that said, I like the Microsoft Word specification output, because Word is the easiest way to get documents around the current client site.
  • Visio: if there is a Hell for IAs, Visio is the tool that they used to design it. The best thing that can be said about it is that it works - one screen at a time. You can do a bit of work with masters and reuse them, but it is all manual and harder work than it could be using one of the add-on sets - like Intuitect.
  • Intuitect: Intuitect is a great idea, but has some flaws because it sits over the top of Visio (but I understand that they're working on it, and I look forward to seeing it grow). It is extensible, and can use real CSS (which in turn can be substituted for other real CSS, so "reskinning" should be easy).

There's a lot more to prototyping tools than this - a lot more. This article is a starting place for yet another discussion on the subject.

The Forces of User Experience

Richard Dalton has a new blog, and an excellent post called The Forces of User Experience in which he extends Jesse James Garrett's elements of user experience diagram to represent the effect of strategy on other planes.

Good stuff.

Semantic analysis: Making sense of the chaos of free text

Matt Hodgson has posted a summary of a presentation he did for our local IA group recently. This is a truly awesome piece of IA work - he analysed a large volume of unstructured text and designed a framework to rewrite it in a consistent, machine-readable, human-readable way: Semantic analysis: Making sense of the chaos of free text

Watch this space

IAslash partner, the IA Institute, cherishes this resource and wishes to see it come back to life. Therefore, in my capacity as Institute director charged with web and technical initiatives, I have volunteered to undertake a rejuvenation of this site.

Over the next few weeks we will be cleaning up the aggregator subscriptions (retiring some venerable but defunct newsfeeds and adding some fresh new exciting ones) and working on developing a regular posting schedule.

Our goal is to enable you to rely on IAslash as a useful and informative filter and source of interesting news from the realm of IA and the related disciplines and practices of user experience (UX), interaction design (IxD), product management, design management, social web design, and internetworked business and entrepreneurship.

Discourse around Emergent Information Architecture

A couple of great blog posts by Peter Merholz – Emergent IA and Gene Smith – How do people co-create information environments? touching on topics surrounding emergent IA. There is also some follow up discussion in the IAI mailing list.

Christopher Fahey writes an interesting series on the “Smoke & Mirrors” of user research.

As designers look towards user research for the objective truth, Christopher questions the motives behind the research. He follows with a series of articles, the first of which discuss user research as a pseudo science pointing to absolutes that do not exist. He continues the discussion stating that tools such as eye tracking provide results that are already apparent to good UI designers. His latest article explains that a value of user research is often to cut through the politics and convince stakeholders to make good design decisions. His upcoming article: “Research as Bullshit”

10 Ways

If you haven’t already seen Getty Images' 10 Ways, it’s worth a look. Getty collaborated with 5 designers to create some very creative interactive experiences. They attempt to capture the compelling visual language of photography.

I’m not too sold on them as educational tools but they are neat interactive pieces none the less.

IAI Summary Question 1: To Content Inventory Or Not To Content Inventory

Inaugural Question of the Week for the IA Institute Member Mailing List

Leisa Reichelt of posted earlier this month against content inventories, positing that they immerse you in the status quo of the content types and approaches.

Her position is interesting, but we'd like to hear from you about how you react to this post. How have content inventories affected your process and creativity on projects? Is completing a content inventory as one of your first major IA tasks good or bad?


The responses to this question gave a nice blend of ideas, mainly that the initial runthrough of the content at the start of a project can be thorough, but likely should not be the final, detailed audit.

Also, there is a desire to clarify the terms at work here. One person’s “content survey” is another’s “content inventory.” Or, one person’s “content inventory” is another’s “content audit.”

The responses to this question suggest the following continuum for the level of detail:

(Least detail) Content survey > content inventory > content audit (More detail)

Response Summaries

  • Content inventories inspire as much as strategy and users. Understanding content helps drives the content strategy and begins the modeling process for migration to a content management system.

    They key to avoiding content myopia is to look at content produced not only for the website, but also via traditional means, feeds, competitive research, and adding in the desired additional functionality.

    Look for ways to take content, add effective markup, and allow people the ability to build upon it – very Web 2.0.

  • Use content inventory as a preliminary analysis for a more formal content analysis. Then, the latter is a validation of the observed informal patterns.

    The existing content provides lots of insight into what has come before, informs your ideation for the project, and indicates where issues may arise.

  • This issue may be one of terminology – one’s “inventory” may be another’s “survey.” The original post may be saying not to complete a formal analysis/audit first, but rather to examine all the content without getting stuck in the current paradigm.

    An IA that becomes “indoctrinated” by existing content is not doing a good job. One way to learn about your client company (not the users) is to examine what content is on the site. Time and budget are factors here.

    The interesting thing here is the discussion around the differences, if any, between a content “survey” and content “inventory.” This shows that the practices is still in the formative stages and that there should be an agreement at some point in the future.

    In the end, which you do is determined by the project and the client (whether internal or external – ed).

  • Use tangible futures and backcasting; create inventories based on user needs (internal and external) and add ideas projected by the strategic direction. Compare the current to the future inventory for a gap analysis.

    Content inventories should be considered roadmaps, and it will become apparent when old content is not needed.

  • The idea is not to START a project with a full content inventory. Get a sense of the current content, but don’t obsess with the details. Doing so could create a vortex towards waterfall thinking.

    Sketch earlier to create artifacts and shared context. Many artifacts are much simpler to create and digest than content inventories - prototypes, comics, sketches, participatory design, games, etc. Numerous UX professionals are now doing so with much success, and the idea was promoted about 50 years ago - see Henry Dreyfuss’ 1956 classic "Designing For People."

  • Any artifacts related to design research will provide evidence and help quell (fairly common) debates about decisions that don’t need to be made. Besides a shared context and language, artifacts can serve as keepers of key truths and decisions already made. If the “truth” changes, the artifacts change. They serve as the shorthand of the vision.
  • Distinguish between artifacts and deliverables. While a deliverable is part of a projects contract, the artifact is an ad hoc piece of visual information necessary to illustrate a particular point.
Information Architecture Institute: Question of the Week

Hello, Information Architecture fans.

To share the insights gleaned from years of deep dives into Information Architecture and the various User Experience areas of practice, every two weeks we will pose a question to the Information Architecture Institute's member mailing list, collect the responses, then summarize the key discussion points right here on

Look for the first summary in the next couple days.

IA Summit summaries

So, summaries from the IA Summit have been coming out - the most recent at Boxes and Arrows, now in its 5th year of Summit coverage. See session-by-session descriptions and reflection for
- Overview and Preconferences
- Saturday
- Sunday
- Monday

UXMatters also has a summary posted, a reflective take from one summit attendee that's illuminating.

Finally many presentation slide decks and posters have been linked on the IA Summit site itself (with many thanks to Donna Maurer).

Austin Govella sparks a conversation about the Come to Me Web

With the idea of the Internet of Things, emergent architecture, and other things being proposed as the 'Come to Me' web, Austin Govella writes a great post and gets awesome commentary from the likes of Adam Greenfield, Dan Brown, and Thomas Vanderwal.

30 Years of Apple - UI Retrospective

C|net is running four galleries of early Apple UI evolution, from the early days documented in Andy Hertzfeld's Revolution in the Valley

Video: SXSW interview with Peter Morville

The extraordinary Liz Danzico interviewed Peter Morville at SXSW. If you want to dig into some Ambient Findability goodness, there are 3 flavors of QuickTime video of the event.

Realtime IA Advice

So, at the IA Summit we had an open-mic mentoring booth, where anyone could sit down and offer advice, and anyone could sit down and ask. A conversation there was one of the highpoints of my Summit.

Today, Tues. March 29 Dan Brown is trying an experiment where he's got a campfire chat open in the same vein - pop on in and ask IA advice in realtime. The room will be up for a few hours, and may make its return if it's successful (which means y'all should go ask Dan a question, instead of just smalltalk chatting).

UPDATE: the room has moved to another location that I'm still tracking down, and there is a transcript from yesterday that I'm still trying to pick up too. Dan? Pointers?