Disciplines

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

Notes from UXnet panel, How UX Plays (and Works) Together

I recorded some notes from the UXnet panel on UX disciplines held in New York City last night. Lou Rosenfeld led the discussion and on the panel were Whitney Quesenbery, Marilyn Tremaine, Conor Brady, Mark Hurst, Josh Seiden and James Spahr. The requisite issue of defining UX pervaded the discussion, although many people were also interested in how we might identify and bridge gaps in our understanding of the processes of the many disciplines under the UX umbrella. There was also some interest in identifying what disciplines are not currently included in our UX world that should be.

UX Salary Survey

2004 UX professionals salary survey has interesting data , though since most respondents were from the US, information on other countries is limited.

What being user-centered means for UX professional groups...

Tog's initial branding argument for Interaction Architects has touched off a lot of discussion (even a mailing list dedicated to defining the damn thing). So far, it's generated a lot of heat and little light.

However, three more formal responses have been interesting:

  • Lou Rosenfeld discusses how defining the damn thing is a waste of time. (Not) Defining the damn thing - Discussions of how we should label ourselves and define our work are like flu epidemics. They break out from time to time, follow a fairly predictable course, and often make us want to barf. [Boxes and Arrows] Update: Lou dropped a note to let us know that he wrote this article before Tog's article was posted. Still very applicable.
  • Mark Hurst thinks that usability professionals should disappear...that a good UX professional is invisible like a good interface - we just facilitate things. While the point that the whole defining the damn thing discussion is narcissistic and not user centered at all, the notion of a disappearing act seems naive - unseen functions become re-engineered functions.
  • Finally, and most interesting, is Beth Mazur's notion that the key need is not a new dedicated specialist organization (as Tog is proposing), but an umbrella organization to evangelize user experience with executives, analysts, government, and media. Her nominee: spin off AIGA-ED from AIGA.
    I completely agree - the Interaction Architecture Association is all well and good, as is a new Information Design professional group, if some people have their way. But they don't address the real reasons the UX disciplines are seen as tactical. It's not a branding problem. It's an understanding problem...and largely for UX professionals not understanding business, and not speaking to business on its own terms.
    An umbrella organization can address executives and other decision makers and influencers with language and messages tailored to those audiences, and educate practitioners about how to do the same. That's being user-centered, instead of navel-gazing terminology debates. That's something to get excited about. I hope it happens soon.
Value of Experience, Web Teams

Adaptive Path relaunches their site. Details on the redsign are at Stopdesign's blog.

Of particular interest to me is the shift to value as the key message(note the lack of the word "design" as Peterme recently discussed). Those who read ia/ regularly may have noticed my own focus on value-centered design, so it's gratifying to see others in more influential positions than myself popularize this view.

Along with a new look comes a new article detailing Jesse's web team model (first shown at the DUX open house- correction - at the AP workshops).

Team models are particularly useful because they show the different skillsets required for a project. While using the "Elements" diagram to explain that user experience works at a deeper level than pretty pictures is fine, it requires a lot of effort for business folks to absorb the staffing implications (or RFP implications). Jesse's team model breaks it down into chunks that are easier to relate to team requirements.
thanks asterisk

One title to rule them all, one title to bind them....

Well, over on Beth Mazur's IDblog Dirk Knemeyer suggests that information design should assume a director role over all the other disciplines in a project and that IA isn't a discipline, but a tactical practice. Hope he wore asbestos undies ;-)

Seriously, I'm not sure that one can argue for ID, IA, or interaction design as the 'director' without also making the case for the other two disciplines. Experience Architecture or Design seems a better fit for said director role. I've said more to that effect in the comments on Beth's blog.

(thanks Gunnar)

Lace up your Adidas - time for some UX Cross Training

What's UX Cross Training you say? It's simple: Often the best place to learn about user experience isn't at DUX or CHI or the IA Summit - it's through other disciplines (72kb gif).

This week, I've really enjoyed learning from industrial designers. Take some time in the workshops section of the Design and Emotion Society, particularly the furniture section (requires Flash). One of the main contributors to the society, Pieter Desmet has some great stuff too (with some frustrating broken links, but I've emailed a request to fix them).

Lessons Learned Now it's all well and good to pursue becoming a T-shaped person, but driving improvements to practice should be part of our cross training efforts. To that end, here's my top 3 take aways:

  • Sometimes, designing for the wrong goals will teach you as much as designing for the right goals. At first I was puzzled, and then intrigued with designing furniture that would make people sad. What will we discover if we sketch ideas on how to make it difficult to find information? Hard to use functionality? Obtuse infographics?
  • My own approach creates sustainable products and services driving shared value at the intersection of business goals and user goals by delivering an offering through some channel. But I've realized that with value-centered design, I haven't thought much about the value of emotion. I need to do more to highlight emotion as part of the goals and context of users and design sponsors. Often, the real metric of success is how my clients and their users feel - emotions trump ROI.
  • Other disciplines are a great source for stories - and stories are one of the best sales tools UX practitioners have. I'm sure telling about a shower that turns into a vehicle will come in handy soon, since scope creep is always just around the corner.
Review: Elements of User Experience

Jeff Lash reviews Jesse James Garrett's new book, "The Elements of User Experience" in Boxes and Arrows. The book can be ordered from Amazon through Jesse's book site.

The enemies of usability

Peter Morville calls for a unified front in the UX community to take on the Enemies of Usability in his latest Semantics column.

Wodtke on being T-shaped

Christina posted a wonderful essay titled "Leaving the Autoroute" on B&A on the importance of being T-shaped -- having the knowledge and understanding a generalist in your industry would have and the wisdom and experience of being a specialist in your particular discipline (or perhaps within an area of your discipline). I couldn't agree more that this is what makes a thoughtful team member and producer on a project.

UCD list

User-centred design, user interface design, web design, HCI and usability list started by William Hudson of CHI-WEB. Subscription info. and archives here.

TOC for the IA issue of JASIST

The table of contents is available for the Information Architecture issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (JASIST). Full text is available to members who have opted for electronic access only.

The Age of Information Architecture

In a new issue of Digital Web Magazine and a brand new column entitled IAnything Goes, Jeff Lash takes an in-depth look at just what is the big deal with IA: what it is, why it's needed, who should do it, and how it came about. The Age of Information Architecture. Also in this issue David Wertheimer writes about going Beyond the IA Guy: Defining information architecture in his Wide Open column.

Whitepaper: The Importance of Information Architecture

Found over at Christina's, this whitepaper promises "Answers to the 10 most critical questions". Here's the blurb from the NavigationArts site

With the overwhelming quantity and demand for information, organizations are starting to think about the nature of their business's institutional knowledge, content and information and its increased burden on today's organization to find an effective means of collection and distribution. To best meet this need, information architecture helps to organize, prioritize and manage the generation, capture and distribution of information. This white paper addresses the ten most critical questions about information architecture in respect to its value in today's evolving business environment.

There's a rumor that dan wrote it, but I'm not sure which dan that exactly is. but I'll guess this Dan...if I'm wrong, let me know in the comments.

IA, usability, controlled vocabularies, findability and more.

Digital Web Magazine interviews Jeffrey Veen and Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path and Christina Wodtke writes about using controlled vocabularies to improve findability in Mind your phraseology!

IA and urban design

Lately I've been interested in the connection between information architecture and urban planning, city culture and design, and related areas. Not the connection between IA and (traditional) architecture, but city structures and urban development. (“Information architecture is to the Web what urban planning is to cities.”) I'm obviously not the first one to make this connection, what with things like How Buildings Learn and A Pattern Language popping up on mailing lists and IA book surveys. I recently came across a handful of new (to me) links and thought I'd share:

  • An Information Architecture Approach to Understanding Cities: “Cities are systems of information architecture. Here, "architecture" refers not to the design of buildings, but to how the components of a complex system interact. ... This paper argues that a city works less like a commercial electronic system, and more like the human brain. ... An effective city will be one with a system architecture that can respond to changing conditions. This analysis shifts the focus of understanding cities from their physical structure to the flow of information.”
  • Legibility Enhancement for Information Visualisation (PDF): “Navigation in computer generated information spaces may be difficult, resulting in users getting ‘lost in hyperspace.’ This work aims to build on research from the area of city planning to try to solve this problem.” (1995)
  • Enterprise Architecture: Infrastructure and Integration: “Enterprise Architecture in large organizations is more like City Planning than constructing a building.” (Link is to a page with an abstract and a downloadable ZIPped PPT.) This talks more about enterprise (read: IT) architecture than IA as we know it, but it touches on IA and information management as well. There are some interesting urban design metaphors and correlations.
Know of any more?

Information architecture concepts

New to me is this IBM developerWorks article "Information architecture concepts: Misconceptions expained" by Thomas Myer which aims at educating web developers about IA's and their role in the development of team-designed web sites.

An information architect is a vital member of a Web development team, playing a critical role in how content is organized on a Web site. This article seeks to clear up some of the misconceptions about information architecture and help define the role an information architect plays in Web site development.

Thanks, Digital Web

Information design: What is it? Who needs it?

The AIGA Design Forum has a few articles on Information Design by Eric Spiekermann, Terry Irwin and Nigel Holmes. Hopefully some discussion will follow on the forum.

Thanks, WebWord

Scott Berkun's best of CHIWEB and SIGIA-L

Scott's "best of" lists have been updated.

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