The Informed Life with Sarah Barrett

Episode 64 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Sarah Barrett. Sarah is a Principal Information Manager at Microsoft. She’s been writing compellingly about information architecture in Medium, and I wanted to discuss one of her recent posts: Websites are not living rooms and other lessons for information architecture.

Sarah makes excellent points about how the type of thing you’re making changes how you approach its design. As she put it, “you have to be really clear about what you’re building, so you know what kinds of rules to use.”

In particular, we discussed four factors to keep in mind when designing digital systems:

  • Scale
  • Naive geography
  • Wayfinding
  • Abiding by the standard elements of IA

All four are dear to me, but the last one doesn’t get as much airtime as it deserves. As Sarah put it,

your architecture is not the place to surprise people. Like, there are actual architects out there building very innovative homes that no one wants to live in. And I have no interest in doing that. I really want us to use the oldest, most standard, most expected way of doing things.

Since we recorded this interview, Sarah published a follow-up post, titled Understanding Architectural Scale: Tabletops and landscapes. If you’ve read Living in Information, you’ll understand why I’m enthusiastic about these explorations of architectural scale in digital environments. I hope you get as much value from our conversation as I did.

The Informed Life episode 64: Sarah Barrett on Architectural Scale