A few weeks ago I read a tweet from Peter Morville (@morville) quoting a comment at the end of this post discussing an absence of discussions around information architecture in new “user experience” books.
The post itself is fantastic, but the comment, “I think the smart move actually, is to double-down on information architecture…” gives metaphor to the thoughts that have been kicking around in my brain for the past several months as I’ve struggled to identify with the muddying of the content strategy and user experience fields.
I strongly believe that we DO need to “double down” on information architecture, its foundations and guiding principles. All of the information I’m seeing around content strategy and IA seems so focused on findability, usability, a specific screen or, in many cases, (especially the content strategy/content marketing world) influence.
To be more effective information architects, content strategists and digital professionals, we have to help solve human problems through the understanding of users AND organizations. While I was unfortunately absent from IA Summit this year, I know this is a topic that Karen McGrane talked a lot about during her closing plenary (you can read more about it here if you missed it too).
In short, we have to put more focus on the what before we focus on the how.
On top of this basic disregard for the user, tech proliferation is changing the game by creating new contexts. If you believe the big tech guys (Ericsson, Cisco, IBM), there will be more than 50 billion “connected” devices on this rock by 2020. We need IA now more than we ever have. And we don’t need it to sell more things, or get people to “web pages.” We need IA to make sense of what content “means,” how we “arrange” data and how we choreograph it for systems and people.
Reader, I’m not just saying these are important things I’ve been thinking about. I am, quite literally, “doubling down” on IA. From now on, my energy will be solely focused on understanding the “what.” Friday will be my last day at Team Detroit. After a very brief vacation, I will join The Understanding Group, as an information architect (and yes, being an IA still allows me to “be” a content strategist). I can’t begin to express how thrilled I am to have found a collection of people that I so passionately identify with.
Leaving “agency” life and advertising will definitely be an adjustment for me, but I believe in TUG’s mission; especially its focus on “understanding” (both of users and organizations) and meaning. TUGers are steady and sturdy in a stormy sea because they particularly skilled at listening both to what’s being communicated and what was left unsaid. It shows in their work and in the way they have helped instrument change for their clients. I couldn’t be more thrilled, nervous and a little terrified to be working with such an impressive group (many of whom I have admired or considered to be inspirations for many years).
The most difficult decision related to joining TUG was most certainly leaving my post as director of user experience and content strategies at Team Detroit. I have a passion for the work that my team of 12 has been doing on behalf of Ford and will definitely miss working with some of the most knowledgeable and intelligent clients I’ve had the pleasure of serving. Ford is truly a forward thinking organization that has a bright future and I have no doubt that they’ll continue to do amazing work alongside TDI.
I’ll continue to post my thoughts here and hope to bring more of my ideas to TUG’s blog and newsletter (you can sign up for it here) in the coming weeks. I’ll just need a little time to pick up steam (< --see what I did there?) before I'm back to a regular writing schedule. Hope you'll all double down on IA with me.
Tug Boat photo by: xeeliz. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0