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IA Lenses: A New Tool for Designing Digital Structures

A talk by Dan Brown at IA Summit 2018

About the Talk

March 24, 2018 3:00 PM

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

After doing this for 20 years, I realized that on every project I was using little IA heuristic evaluations with every structural decision. Most recently, working on the navigation for a large institution’s public web site and intranet, as well as a handful of esoteric web-based applications, I was able to articulate these little tests. With each decision, I would ask myself questions like, “Does this set a dangerous precedent?” and “Does this prioritize one user’s needs over another?” and “Will this inappropriately challenge the company’s status quo?”

Each of these questions is a lens, through which I examine the structure. I choose a label for a category and ask myself, “What’s missing from the implied contents of this label?” I nest one category in another and I ask myself, “Even though this belongs here, does it bury an important concept?” I develop a set of top-level categories and ask myself, “What story does this tell about the organization?” The purpose of these lenses isn’t so much to determine correctness, but more to look at my decision from all angles. They let me dig deeper into my decisions to make sure my thought process is robust.

In this session, I’ll share some of the lenses, how they’re used, and how you might apply them to different IA challenges. As a consequence of articulating these lenses, I’ve also spent time developing a small vocabulary to talk about IA challenges. Since the lenses are new, the intent here isn’t to be prescriptive, but instead to get feedback from the IA community, and to gauge their broader applicability.

This session will review:

A framework for talking about IA problems An introduction to IA lenses Three examples of IA lenses An exercise for using a lens with an IA problem It’s been 20+ years since the advent of IA, isn’t it about time we had more tools for our work? Enter IA Lenses, a new tool to help IAs evaluate and interrogate their concepts by looking at them from unique perspectives.

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