It’s been a little while since the IA Summit 2013. And like many attendees, I returned inspired to be a better Information Architect and energized to become an even better person and member of this fun quirky community. I’ve gotten back in the trenches to do the work at ICF Ironworks but I do want to share my experience.
This was my very first IA Summit and I have @alistapart to thank for getting me there! Conferences are always a great opportunity to step away from work, to network, and to hear the direction your field is going in the near future. And thanks to A List Apart’s contest for a FREE conference pass, I got an opportunity to do just that! As I reflect on my experience, this year’s summit seemed mostly dedicated to practical approaches or techniques to Information Architecture and the exploration of foundational theories for our field from both well-known thought-leaders and inspiring first-time speakers. Throughout the conference, several themes stood out. Collaboration was a key focus with special attention given to strategies for problem solving, improving deliverables, and redefining best practices. As my IA Summit first-timer guide Abby Covert’s summit tattoo (not permanent) says IA is Forever!!! So, it was a good year to reflect on the foundation of our field.
Here are some of the messages from my favorite talks:
Jorge Arango: How do we define or understand a “good” IA? We need better frameworks for understanding, explaining, and critiquing IA.
- An Information Architecture is made up of basic building blocks called nodes. Nodes are made up of other nodes, and are connected to each other by links, which define the relationships between nodes.
- IAs follow ordering principles (balance, symmetry, hierarchy, datum, rhythm, repetition, transformation) to create valuable architectures. But more and more problems are reaching a level of complexity making architectures harder to manage.
- Pattern languages and constructive diagrams are approaches that will allow IAs to solve complex problems. The representation of the problem and the requirements (formal mental picture) need to be so rich that it starts to form the solution and in turn, builds coherence and a better basis for evaluation.
Brown-Dirt UX by Adam Polansky: How do we innovate at the ground level for our clients? Trust forms the foundation for everything we do in business (the dirt is where things grow).
- A trusted advisor understands what is of value to clients, what is needed of users, and the constraints to deliver a solution that avoids pain points.
- We can innovate when we find a balance between these items using the core IA/UX methods we’ve always used to give maximum value to our clients.
Mike Atherton: How do we incorporate branding into UX? A brand is an idea or single business proposition that is instantly recalled and becomes a key part of the experience.
- Branding acts as a decision filter, brings focus to a community, innovates business models, inspires teams and builds culture.
- It is made real by what you do and expressed through your personality. Brand-driven design puts the differentiator into the heart of your product. Brand decisions define your mission or clarify your product character. Then the experience (user experience, customer experience, etc.) becomes a function of the brand.
- To get there, we must guide our clients to know their heart, reframe their categories, define their missions, find their voices, and make their difference shine.
Hooked by Nir Eyal: How do we create the hook? Creating user habits are an important factor in successful products today.
- Businesses must connect their solutions to the
user’s problems that occur frequently enough to form a habit or a ‘hook’. Experience
design can be the vehicle that can build on existing habits.
- When I am bored, I … “Facebook or twitter”
- When I am hungry, I … “Yelp”
- When I am lost, I … “GPS”
- When I am unsure, I … “Google”
- We must understand the link between internal tiggers and external triggers.
- Users inform what to do next through internal triggers. Designers create external triggers that are clear and easy to access (icons on phones that lead to applications). And this translates into action!
- After actions, rewards maintain engagement. Giving the user what they came for translates into investment and the increased the likelihood that the user will return.
So how does what we’ve learned impact our work at ICF Ironworks?
Some of these discussion points are not new for us at ICF Ironworks. In fact, it’s pretty much business as usual here. This just puts into perspective how we view our role as consulting information architects for our clients. We help clients innovate, and to do that we consider many things along the way including user needs and business goals. We use our established but evolving tool set to help clients along the way. Depending on the project, creating a more refined and successful product might mean taking a deeper look at branding and developing a strategy for ‘hooking’ your users, which usually falls into our digital strategy deliverables.
There were many other talks that I missed or did not touch on that are worth a look from the IA Summit. Some topics focused on working in agile environments, selling design, and creating design guidelines. Check Lanyard for IA Summit slides!
And here are some other photos: