A Study in Information Architecture: Pandora

I was curating my Pandora music stations last week (like you do), when it occurred to me: this is information architecture in practice. The purpose of good IA is to make content intuitively findable. My goal in culling my Pandora stations is to assess what sorts of music I have, ensure I don’t have duplicates, and categorize it in a way that will allow me to easily find whatever music is most appropriate for the moment.

What do you categorize and architect?

Continue Reading


Messaging and Literature

If you want to improve your messaging skills, here’s your homework: read Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. Or most any other book intended for young adults, for that matter. Here’s four reasons why:

  1. Authors (generally speaking) are adults, and yet the best young adult authors manage to inhabit the mindset of a twelve or thirteen year old. This is a trickier mindset than inhabiting the mindset of an adult customer or client; an early-teen believes he or she is an adult, but makes assumptions that are altogether different from that of an adult. Continue Reading

I’d Rather Hire a Snowflake than a Unicorn


Image Credit: http://uxunicorn.com/

What is a UX Unicorn? Though the details vary, most agree that a unicorn is a UX practitioner who does a little of everything – visual and interaction design, front-end development, content and IA. The term has been gaining traction over the past several years, as employers seek out designers with expansive skill sets, and designers seek out ways to become more valuable to employers. Continue Reading


International Usability

Travel always opens my eyes to new concepts and UX alternatives. In Warsaw last week, I found a sign on the bus that wowed me with its usability.

This bus sign has three levels:

  • The top level lists out all the stops, consistent with every other bus map I’ve encountered.
  • The middle level (in red) divides the stops by neighborhoods.
  • The bottom level divided the stops by street. As a tourist this was fantastic; I knew I wanted to get as far south on Ujazdowksie Street as possible. This map showed me when I was at the southernmost stop before the bus turned onto Armii Ludowej.
Bus Sign

The Warsaw Bus Map

Continue Reading


Live from STC Summit: Get Out of Your Office: Conducting Successful Site Visits

Get Out of Your Office: Conducting Successful Site Visits, by Rhyne Armstrong




Every client is different, and is motivated in different ways.

Having empathy means we want to understand how they’re motivated, what makes them tick.

What does this give you?

  • Improved content.
  • Improved personas.

Part 1: Getting approval from your own team Continue Reading


Live from STC Summit: Under the Influences: Context as Strategy

Under the Influences: Context as Strategy, by Keith Anderson

Content floats around in space, disconnected from its creators, easily misunderstood.

Content without context is just data. Writers and designers worked together starting with the printing press.

Summit2015_datesThen came the typewriter, and we “untethered” our content. Now we’ve moved to computers, internet, social media, big data… we get more and more information without context for it.

We provide restrictions via platforms, via devices, via siloed channels.

“We promote portable content without providing information on how to maintain context.”

If we are truly to support our organizations, content strategy must include all organizational content, support the long-term welfare of the organization, avoid worship of the stakeholder, identify customers as people, and communicate effectively with our audiences. Continue Reading


Live from STC Summit: Making Sense of Any Mess

Making Sense of Any Mess, by Abby Covert

Summit2015_datesThere’s a real opportunity for those of us in the communication space to deal with (moral, ethical, complicated) messes.

Most of the mess that exists is made of information – both analog and digital. No matter what our job is, our world is full of messes we must make sense of.

Thinking about information as material is hard, because you can’t hold it or delete it. Everything has information, but sometimes it’s physical and sometimes it’s the lack of physical material (when you see a hole between 2 products at the grocery store, you know they are out of that item). We figure out what’s happening in a given moment in three ways:

  • Data – facts, observations, and questions (context, knowledge, assumptions).
  • Content – whatever a user is interacting with, or whatever you’re arranging or sequencing (products, etc).
  • Information – whatever the user interprets from the arrangement and sequence of things they encounter (beliefs, subjective reasoning).