My Blog

How do you do IA?

17 May, 2019    

Being an information architect is hard. I think two of the biggest challenges to working as an IA are that we often work independently and every project is different. It’s hard to learn from others and getting experience takes time. There are definitely things that each IA can learn from looking at the practice of others. When I read books and go to conferences about IA, I always get most…

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Confidence, competence and curiosity

20 March, 2019    

Here are about 3,000 words about the growth mindset, confidence, competence and imposter phenomenon. This is the culmination of thinking I’ve done about how to support myself and others to be more engaged and thoughtful about development and the things that stand in the way of growth. I presented some of these ideas at The IA Conference in 2019. Versions of these sentences were published on Medium in 2017. I…

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Intentional architecture

28 January, 2019    

Why do information architects make an intentional effort to architect things? It’s to make them easier to make sense of and use.

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What did linked data ever do for us anyway? – from BBC Academy

3 September, 2018    

Linked data is the super-structure over which content is stretched and experiences flow. It can switch our taxonomic thinking into ontological thinking. So we can move beyond classifying content using just hierarchies and start describing the real world richness that connects our content together. Linked data can power the online journeys of the future, and turn the telescoping corridors of the web into grand cathedrals. Here’s how… Light at the…

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Navigation, content and interactions – a model using intention and ability

2 June, 2017    

At the start of the year I wrote lots and lots and lots and lots about a range of behaviours connected to information seeking and navigation. The stories and sets of behaviours I described have been useful for teams thinking about the different modes and behaviours that users might flow through and between as they complete tasks and use our services at the BBC. But I’m not sure the model I proposed is…

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Pace layers, effort/impact and futures cones — three diagrams to help you plan as a UX architect

2 June, 2017    

How do you think about and plan your portfolio of projects when you’re part of an internal design team? It’s sometimes hard to spot achievements in my job. It can also be tricky to plan where I can have most impact. Much of the work of an IA is relatively invisible. IAs spend their time exploring edge-cases, identifying and adjusting variables, mapping dependencies. It’s rarely sexy. It’s rarer still that…

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Reflective practice in information architecture, IA Summit 2017

28 March, 2017    

Photo credit Peter Morville Using the model At IA Summit in 2017 I shared a model that I’ve been using to consciously focus my attention on the challenges I face and the value I bring to teams and projects. The model is in the shape of a fish — a rough approximation of the divergent and convergent process I go through on most projects. I use the fish as the basis for reflective practice…

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Behaviour sets and stories

16 March, 2017    

The Moleagle is comfortable with zoomed-out strategic thinking and they love to dig down into the detail too. I’ve described how taking a zoomed out view as you consider a Primary mode of information seeking helps you understand the core of your information offer. Once you’ve identified your Primary mode you can move a little lower towards the details that will help you design. You’re probably most like a squirrel at this…

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Designing navigation and supporting seeking

8 March, 2017    

What’s the point of coming up with information architecture or a model to describe behaviour if it isn’t useful? Models should help you understand and make decisions – they’re a means to an end. IA is a means to an end too – it helps people make sense of stuff. I’m going to share with you how we’re using my model of navigation that I’ve written about previously. The legendary Moleagle…

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Not necessarily navigation

21 February, 2017    

If you want to understand something, look towards the boundaries* The edges of things are interesting. IAs should be comfortable identifying that distinct boundary that marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. We know the power of thinking about the ‘thingness’ that makes a thing the thing that it is. But we also know the power of the seams and loose joins we can use to…

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Foggy finding – navigation with persistence

21 February, 2017    

You can’t always get what you want… Information is a delicate, immaterial thing. Information-rich environments present challenges – to designers and actors navigating them. Environments intersect and overlap. Actors have different needs at different times. Information changes. Content and the spaces that contain it alter and evolve. The means to access information vary. Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things….

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Delightful discovery – navigating the unknown

8 February, 2017    

The world is full of wonders yet to be discovered. Good navigation often results in discovery – ask John Mandeville. Sometimes we want to encourage and support an explorer mindset in our audience. We create new content, features and services. Information architects must be able to empower actors to find them. My second category focuses on discovery. Delightful Discovery sees actors getting knowledge, learning, gaining sight or finding out about…

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Motivated movement – navigation with intent

30 January, 2017    

I know what I want and where I want to go. There are times in life when we have a clear goal in mind and a fairly good idea of how to achieve it. We’re highly motivated. But we also have enough information to make informed decisions. We’ll know when we’re getting ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ as we move through a space or structure. We’ll usually have strategies for efficiently getting…

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A model for navigation and information-seeking

27 January, 2017    

Navigation is both a noun and a verb. Navigation describes the activity and behaviour of moving with intent. And, at least on the web, it’s the word we most often reach for to describe the tools that enable this movement. As an information architect I want people to be able to move through and across the structures I design. I care about navigation – both the behaviour and the bits…

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