“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Exploring the intersections between IA and IxD

Navneet Nair is a frequent poster on the IxDG Discussion List. This time he posts a question about how to organize a specific set of information. In doing so he set up two things for me to comment on.

  1. That there are clear lines possible to make between IA and IxD
  2. That an IxDer has some great points-of-view that can help answer findability questions

The question:

Here comes the challenge. Are there any patterns examples that help in organizing relatively disparate ‘how-to’ articles?

So at the core of this we can all agree it is about the structure and organization of discreet pieces of information. But notice the use of the word “patterns”. This is not the usual way an IA would ask this question and it speaks a lot to our differing backgrounds. In that IxDs tend to be more influenced by architecture more directly (dispite the lack of the use of the term) because we are more influenced by the design disciplines more generally. (Oy! am I ever going to get it here.)

Later on, Navneet describes his experience with a major example:

A sample MS Outlook ‘How to’ page looks like this:

To me this looks highly un-organized. And I have to use the page search to see if my keyword appears on the screen. And if I’m looking for the wrong keyword, I might not find anything at all.

So again, the example is about organization, but it also talks about “use” and interacting with the total environment. The BEHAVIOR he describes is interesting in that it requires a certain level of savvy to even know you can do an intra-page search (something I do a lot), but more generally that there are behaviorial aspects to finding what we need. So in essence he prods us to think merely beyond the taxonomical, facetted world and into how we might add behaviorial aspects into a more wholist solution.

Then Navneet closes with just pure IA questions and suggestions:

Amongst the thoughts I had, here are some of the approaches I thought of:

1. Arrange on the basis of roles that would undertake the task
2. Based on complexity of task
3. Based on modules

Are there more such possible organizations? Are there any best practices? Any patterns?

What about the use of “search”, why not suggest to people (especially mozilla users where it is so well done) to click and try to find your words on the page. I mean it is there, and quite honestly it works? Is there a way in the browser page itself to invoke the browser search? that could be nifty. Or maybe just take an Ask Jeeves approach and offer a natural language search.

I’m not really trying to give an answer here. Jus trying to point out two discreet points–some questions ARE IA questions and almost any single question is best when explored by people from various backgrounds.

Lastly, I think it important to note that an IA is best prepared to answer this total question, because of their familiarity with the problem set. An IA with experience in other disciplines will even ben better prepared to answer this very simple question. So while I’m thinking about the IA Summit in ’05, as I’m on the planning committee, I think it iimportant for all the discipline specific conferences to think about how they can become better practitioners of their domains by having exposure to x-discipline information, practice, and case studies. It is not that common for a true IA and a true IxD and a true visual designer to all get to work together on a project (usually the VD is on every project, but not the other two). Which brings me to my very last point. Presentation is probably the other main aspect to Navneets upcoming solution. Since I’m not an expert in this domain (yet) I will leave that to others. Edward T, maybe will comment on my blog.

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  • http://www.odannyboy.com Dan Saffer

    Maybe this will help? The relationship between IA and IxD as Told Through Products


  • http://www.onclipevent.com/enterframe Navneet Nair

    Hi David, In fact, before posting I was thinking if this would be more appropriate post in an IA list. The relationship graph that Dan has is a very interesting way to look at the intersection between IA and IxD. This problem, as illustrated by the graph, seems to lie squarely between the realms of IA and IxD, so it would be nice to see how an IA list would react to a similar question…

  • Austin

    As an avid and excitable IA, I always think of patterns. As an example, I’ve developed IA patterns for educational websites, surveys, financial services, job boards, and I’m working on patterns now for election websites.

    I do everything with patterns.


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