Inside Outside Innovation, Ep. 211

Brian Ardinger interviewed me for his Inside Outside Innovation podcast. The focus of our conversation was my book, Living in Information. As part of our conversation, I gave an overview of the discipline of information architecture:

Information architecture is focused on helping make information easier to find and understand. So, think of something like an online store where you maybe are offering your customers a large catalog of goods. There are going to be ways for you to structure that information so that your customers can find what they’re looking for and so that they can do things like compare products to other products or find related products. And establishing those relationships, figuring out what distinctions to enable, is a big part of what information architects do.

A lot of people who are involved with the design of software-based experiences think of design as concerned with the way that things look and how they function. And that is certainly an important component of it. But information architects are concerned with the underlying structures that inform those things. That includes things like categories, navigation systems, the way that search engine search functionality, and such a system is structured and organized. Those are all within the area of concern for information architects.

Now that the pandemic has forced us to move so many of our activities online, the work of structuring information environments is more important than ever. I’m grateful to Brian for giving me an opportunity to share it with folks.

Listen to the episode or read the transcript.

Panel: The Rhythms and Habits of Successful UX Practitioners

I was invited by the good folks at UX Mastery to participate in a live YouTube video panel alongside Laura Klein and Dan Szuc. You can see the panel here:

The three of us delved into the mindsets that have gotten us to our current points in our careers. The whole is worthwhile, but I’ll point out my favorite parts of the conversation:

  • We touched on the importance of aligning your values with your work. This requires you be clear on what your values are; this is something you must make time for. (I recommended Michael Ray’s book The Highest Goal.)
  • Perhaps because of the former point, we delved into the value of philosophy in professional practice. (More on this idea.)
  • Laura brought up an important distinction: the difference between job security and career security; the latter is the only one you can do something about.

UX Podcast Episode 202: “Digital Places”

I was interviewed by James Royal-Lawson and Lisa Welchman for the UX Podcast. Among other things, we talked about a fundamental tension I’m exploring for my upcoming WIAD keynote:

Our default – I’m not going to generalize here – but I think that for many of us our root impulses are to say we want to make this environment as personalizable as possible and we want to make it as accepting to folks from all sorts of different perspectives, all sorts of different backgrounds, all sorts of different abilities.

And I think that’s an incredibly noble and important direction to aspire towards. But I also think that we need to acknowledge that at the end of the day we have to establish some degree of common ground for the place to be able to be coherent and to be distinctive and to set itself apart from other parts of the world.

This conversation that we’re having would be challenging if the three of us were speaking in different languages, for example. We have come together to speak – and we’re speaking in English. That entails some degree of, I guess, giving up of parts of our identity. English is not my native language, and it’s something that I do willingly to be able to participate in this conversation and to have it be a fruitful and flowing conversation. And I think that this notion of accommodating different folks stands in tension with the notion of creating a degree of coherence; of developing some kind of group identity that allows us to identify as a certain bank’s customers or members of a professional community or what have you.

What’s the right balance between accommodating individual identity and fostering group identity? Sometimes these directions can be in alignment, but often they’re not. How do we choose? Information environments reify social structures, so those of use who design them must address these questions.

Listen to the episode or read the transcript.