Archives for the Month of April 2008 on Roger Zender's Blog

IA Summit 08: Content Page Design Best Practices

Content Page Design Best Practices
Luke Wroblewski

This was an amazing session. Luke clearly laid out some of the best practices for laying out content to fit the diverse ways in which people arrive to your site. The examples were clear, and the difference between bad and good were stark. (notes limited, see slides)

We optimize websites for the traditional tree structure, where as the web lives in a more random way. Using his website, he showed how only 5% of people experienced his site in the traditional tree structure, versus coming in via direct links, tags, etc.

Web Ecosystem:
- Communication
- Display Surfaces
- Content Creators
- Content Aggregators
- Search

Communication: IM, email, twitter, mailing list archives, etc.
- Direct communication, personal suggestions, etc.

Display Surfaces: Profiles such as Facebook, Yahoo Mash
- Spaces that you define your interests

Content Creators: Blogs
- Posting original content

Content Aggregators:, digg

Search: Google, Yahoo!
- Most crucial

This ecosystem shows how people may come to your site from many different environments. What happens when they arrive at your page?

A basic page is broken up in 3 different areas, Content, Context, and Related (see slides for layout relation)


Set good expectations
- HTML & Page title should be the same (consistency)
- Make good on promise of content, % of page dedicated to content should be significant (versus examples showing only 25%)
- Utilize visual hierarchy to manage attention (scanability, bullet points, white space)


- Showed BBC as a great example, that when searching for a story on the Iraq war, the left side becomes populated with related content. They even embed related video content in the actual story. But can be overdone, similar to the WebMD example for children's health.

- When given too many choices, the easiest choice is to not choose (the back button). Limit options.

Best Practices
- if you an make good on content promises, people are more likely to welcome related calls to action
- post related content on the site, based on the search that brought them there (his site is an example)


- This is the menu bars, etc. Make minimal

Slides coming soon

IA Summit 08: Taxonomy is User Experience

Taxonomy is User Experience
Dave Cooksey
GSI Commerce

Dave talked about how the establishment of a taxonomy is directly tied to how users experience a site... His examples revolved around a redesign of the Dicks Sporting Goods & Ace Hardware websites.

Some notes...

Taxonomy is a framework
- Taxonomy is classification & labeling
- Metadata is data about terms in the taxonomy both structured & unstructured (attributes for facets)
- Logic, systems that represent understanding i.e. mapping - did you mean this?

5 Good ideas for Taxonomy objects

1. Leave your cubicle
- engage everyone from client to designers & developers
- limit engagement with timelines & hard stops
- work collaboratively
- create conversations
- keep interactions in mind
- help plan implementation

2. Focus on Interactions
- taxonomy enables finding & decision
- facets & filters need good data
- crucial in highly interactive experiences
- make the connection, clearly demonstrate how data drives experience

3. Speak their language
- use shared references (the long tail)
- talk about results (analytics, quantitative UX indicators)
- celebrate success

4. Test using *real* users
- taxonomies must be user-centric
- involve users (implicitly / explicitly)
- keep it simple

5. Plan the future
- taxonomy guidelines
- plan maintenance

Taxonomy is strategy

Slides coming soon

IA Summit 08: Inspiration from the Edge

Inspiration from the Edge: New Patterns for Interface Design
Stephen Anderson

This was an inspiring session, encouraging participants to look at interface design of non-web applications for new web user experiences (notes cut short here). We were presented with a host of innovative interfaces, from applications, mobile devices and gaming as inspiration.

Where do you get your ideas for interface design?

Default Thinking (don't do)
- Look at competitors

Look at interfaces outside of basic web interfaces... (do)
- from architecture, film, gaming, etc.

1. W/ new technologies almost anything is possible
2. Natural behaviors are superior to learned behaviors (A scrollbar, really?)
3. ...except when the learned behavior makes me feel better and more efficient (Quicksilver)

Think outside the UI Box
- pop up windows, similar to windows opening in OSX (Text, Fonts, etc)
(where windows communicate with each other, a window pops up to enter in your profile info, but when closed, it pushes the changes back to the main window

Slides coming soon.

See his other slides posted here:

IA Summit 08: The Business of Experience

The Business of Experience: The Experience Impact Framework
Jess McMullin

In this session Jess discussed how to work within an organization to get the best results, using his experience impact framework. We have tools to understand our users, but there's need to understand the business to have a successful project.

1. Identify audience. Look at business persona / influence network

8 types of people:
- Advocate (on your side)
- Superior
- Peer
- Frontline people (front desk)
- Critic
- Validator (could be person, research or competitor)
- Gatekeeper (finance / legal)
- Maverick

2. Understand motivation

- Risk
- Reward (what is it?)
- Power
- Inertia (how things are going to be in the future)
- Vendorship

3. Understand activities

- Lead (insight, direction, resources, constraints, outcomes)
- Manage (people, process, money, materials, infrastructure)
- Execute (discover, develop, produce, market, sell, deliver, support)

4. Target your methods

Methods trump methodology
U.S.E. / Understand, Solve, Use (in cyclical motion)
- Understand (qualitative, quantitative, analysis, synthesis, modeling)
- Solve (model, architecture, flow, prototype, interface, specification)
- Evaluate (analytics, heuristics, usability testing, metrics)
Must have empathy for business needs

5. Commit to action

- Build Trust
- Open Questions (open ended)
- Closed Questions (looking for specificity)
- Will You? Questions


IA Summit 08: How to be a User Experience Team of One

How to be a User Experience Team of One
Leah Buley
Adaptive Path

Leah gave a lively performance detailing her experience of being a UX design team of one, and had many great ideas on how to make this situation work for you. Some may sound simple, but I think that's what makes them so powerful.

Generative Design - generate ideas... lots of them.
- the refine, pair them down to the best ideas

Not about using Dogma or a Methodology...

1. Brainstorm a lot
2. Assemble an Ad Hoc team (non UX co-workers who have a stake in the project)
3. Pick the best ideas

Using as an example, she walked through the process of how to build a better user interface.

1. Brainstorm within constraints

Using conceptual frameworks:
- Spectrum
- 2 x 2
- Grids

Experiment with Word Associations, them mix and match words

Keep an inspiration library, grabbing screen shots of sites you like.
- good for competitive analysis
- good for warshack analysis

2. Assemble an Ad Hoc team

Make Sketchboards
Host open design sessions, giving people a pen, paper and pizza
Run template-based workshops
Decorate your space with good ideas
Don't be an artist, be a facilitator

3. Pick the Best Ideas

- Business needs are good, but user needs are better
- Business needs + User needs = Design Principles (use susinct statements that summarize needs)

How to get started?
- Start sketching - force yourself to draw 5
- Schedule workshops - get other people involved
- Draft design principles

Why it Matters?
- Personal satisfaction - feel good about your ideas


IA Summit 08: A Management Fable

A Management Fable: The Little UX That Went a Long Way
Dan Willis

In this session, Dan used an impressively illustrated slide show to tell the story of the little UX that went a long way. It's was essentially using the fairy tale genre to describe the process that a UX designer has to go through when working on a project. It was an interesting story and here were some of the points of interest:

UX designers seek success without ownership
- frequently someone else owns the content
- frequently someone else owns the requirements
- frequently someone else owns the implementation

Acceptance is not buy-in. Everyone loves the user until it gets in the way of their personal desires.

- Put the user experience in the definitions
- Adjust the requirements to help make the user unavoidable
(include user tasks, address user goals, define the ideal user experience)
- Offer solution for every problem you raise
- Be ready to work harder than all the other people
(take ownership of the minutia nobody else wants)

Powerpoint & podcasts coming soon

IA Summit 08: Exploratory Search and Folksonomy

Exploratory Search and Folksonomy: Exploration Paths in Social Tagging Systems
Tingting Jiang
University of Pittsburgh

This was the more academic of the presentations yesterday. Not that entertaining, but an interesting analysis of the different types of classification, information seeking behavior, and 3 elements involved.

Hierarchical Classification / LCC, DC, Google Directory
- comprehensive, fixed, non-overlapping
- heirarchical, numerative
- universal, local
- high investment
- professional, formal

Faceted Categorization / Flamenco
- set of small heirarchies
- conceptual dimension
- less investment
- still professional
- navigational searching
- flexibility
- query
- fixed collection

Tagging Dyamic Clusters / Grokker, Clusty
- dynamic, post-retrieval, unique
- clustering algorhims
- automation, less complex & less costly
- ambiguity, instability
- vivisimo customization

Folksonomy /, Flickr
- flat, inclusive
- anyone, any language
- liberal, distributed, dynamic
- inexpensive, responsive
- vocabulary problem (different terms to describe the same things)

Information Seeking in tagging systems consist of 4 activities.
- Browsing
- Searching
- Being aware (tagging only)
- Monitoring (tagging only)

3 elements exist:
- Resources - information space
- Users - social structure
- Tags - information structure

Being Aware uses Resources & Tags)
- recent / popular searches
- recent / popular tags

Monitoring uses Users & Tags
- users of interest
- tags of interest

Searching uses Tags, Resources & Users
- tag
- username
- resource keyword

Browsing (dominates information seeking in social tagging)
- resource description
- user central place (where people store tags, etc.)
- tag navigation

Check out the presentation (coming soon) to see the graphical representation of how these concepts interact.

IA Summit 08: Integrating Web Analytics

Integrating Web Analytics into Information Architecture & User-Centered Design
Hallie Wilfert
SRA International, Inc.

This session showed how web analytics play a role in understanding user centered design. What's important are that the numbers generated from analytics only show what people do, but not why they do it. This requires analyzing trends, which are more important than the numbers. She demonstrated examples of how changes were made to pages based on analytics. One example was looking at how one page was receiving an inordinate amount of hits, and how they were able to discover it was because that page was recently linked from a Wikipedia article. This illuminated how the website owners could then go and use these other sources to affect usage of their site in the future. Analytics also showed drop off rates on web processes, showing where users stopped, giving the UX designers the ability to pinpoint trouble spots and allowing them to re-envision the process.

Tools she uses:
ACSI / Forsee
(can't use Google Analytics w/ government clients)

Relevant Association:
Web Analytics Association

Slides & Podcast coming soon

IA Summit 08: Journey to the Center of Design

Journey to the Center of Design
Jared Spool
User Interface Engineering

Jared is quite the entertainer, though not apparent at first glance (stereotyping here). He had a refreshing look at the birth and history of User Centered Design.

I really liked the continuum of how people create great designs, which was separated and defined as: Tricks / Techniques / Process / Methodology / Dogma. Check it out in the slides below:

Podcast Coming

Favorite Quote:
What gets measured gets done / What gets rewarded, gets done well

IA Summit 2008

iasummit_logo.jpgThis year I'm lucky enough to be attending the IA Summit 2008 in Miami, FL. I'll be using this blog to document the sessions I attend, as well as link to their presentations & podcasts. Right now I'm not finding the podcasts (and not all the presentations), so I'll fill in them in as they become available.

So far I'm very impressed... After the first day, I've really enjoyed most of the presentations. And on a side note, I have to say that I've been really impressed with the slides. This is the first conference that I haven't seen any standard PowerPoint templates... in fact, each presentation seems to have some crazy, customized slide set. I guess you should expect that from a conference like this.

One of the other impressive aspects is the use of Crowdvine as a conference social network app. It's nice to get the benefits of a social network using all your existing content sources (via RSS feeds), instead of requiring you to create all new content (while that is also possible).

Miami isn't bad either. I arrived a little early on Friday and was able to spend some time in South Beach. Got a little sunburnt, which I think is good timing... It's keeping me from wanting to spend more time in the sun.

On the downside, I'm having some problems with my laptop battery, so I'm mostly taking notes by hand (which sucks), so I won't be getting as descriptive as I'd like with the following posts.