Category Archives: Information Architecture

Everyone has to pay their dues…

Sometimes, in my less stellar moments, I wonder if I will always have bad projects. You look at the “stars” of the IA/IxDA community and they always talk about really cool projects, but they don’t really talk about all the bad projects they’ve worked on.

I’m not talking bad as in the client being difficult with the design, but more in terms of:

  • A design can only be as good as it is designed AND implemented. What you might express in your design may not translate if the programmer doesn’t know the latest and greatest.
  • A design can only be as well defined as the vision is. You can sometimes try to get a client to focus, but sometimes it is impossible to get consensus and vision, written requirements. It’s also difficult to get people to stay away from changing visions.

As a freelancer, the years have given plenty of clients and projects. When I have a rash of bad projects (where, for me, I feel I am not creating the best I can create given the situation), I start to feel that “maybe it’s me.” In my quiet, sad moments, I think “Maybe I’m just not that great at what I do.”

And, coming back to those “stars,” they must have been low on the totem pole at one point in time; must have had bad projects (those not worth mentioning but were typically frustrating and de-motivating).

This morning I was trying to console myself with Happy Bunny thinking: “It’s not me, it’s you. If you weren’t so stupid, I wouldn’t hate you so much.” (or something like that)

Imagine a world without UX Designers…

Though this video is pretty funny, it’s definitely something we can all relate to and a great reminder of why simple is always better – its also why we are who we are.




Stop signs are one of the many things we take for granted. It’s hard to believe that there was a time before the stop sign existed, and that someone had to invent it. The Process is a fun short about how things would have turned out if it were designed by committee.

Tell me if I’m a bad Person

After having done years of UI design, requirements analysis, content writing, I’ve decided something: I do not like requirements gathering and writing. Much preferred is the creative work at the beginning – user analysis, business analysis, interviewing users, personas, scenarios, UI design, navigation, content models, planning structures.

But when it comes to the nitty gritty “email validation rules” and “auto-numbering schemes” and “what happens if a and b and c happens…” and “what happens if a and b and z happen,” I easily tire. I’ve always known I’m not a details person, that I much prefer the up front creative work and like to hand off to someone to wrap things up.

Does this make me a bad user experience person? Isn’t the devil in the details? Aren’t the details where people get tripped up? Should I be paying more attention, be involved longer?

What do you think?


The Paper Version of the Web

Hi Strangers!

This article is a few months old, but thought I’d post for posterity. Fun?


People have been sketching user interfaces since the birth of the web (possibly even before) but the sketches usually stay locked away in old notebooks and discarded bar napkins in Austin, Texas. Many of the websites we use started out as scrawlings, and with people like Jakob Nielsen and Bill Buxton spreading the gospel of faster, cheaper paper prototypes, “next year’s Twitter” may already exist on paper.

We don’t usually get to see this handmade stage of the web, but some folks have been thoughtful/narcissistic enough to upload photos of their UI sketches, and I find them fascinating.

This blog is 5% Real

Are any of you “REAL” IA’s? Cause if you’re not…You shouldn’t be messing around with this stuff. Someone could go down the wrong path to get information. Which could result in the destruction of both time and space.

UX Intensive Week

Anyone heading to the UX Intensive Week sponsored by our friends Adaptive Path in a few weeks? It’s only a few blocks from where I work. Not as fun as traveling somewhere else for a conference, but I’m sure it will still be incredibly inspiring. 🙂 It would be great to catch up if anyone is going!

Wireframes and Sitemap Tools

I’ve been doing IA for a while now and have never really managed to get together a really nice set of tools. I started off putting things together with Illustrator and Photoshop. It made sense to create the basics in the same packages that the designers use. This worked for a while but it was difficult to keep track of what layers need to be turned on or off for different pages. Plus, when you’re doing quite complex systems and you want to change multiple instances in multiple places, this can be a nightmare. They did always look pretty though. Next up was Visio, this seems to do everything I need but the interface is so clumsy and difficult to use. When you get quite complex you feel like every time you want to move a shape somewhere, the computer has to have a good long think while it catches up with you. I switched to Mac in this period and decided to give Omnigraffle a go. You can create really attractive things very easily. But, like Illustrator, you run into problems when you want to edit multiple instances of the same object. You find yourself repeating actions like copy-paste. Plus, none of the producers I work with use Macs so they can’t update my wireframes and sitemaps (not everyone would say this is a bad thing, mind). Then I jumped to Flash to build the wireframes, which worked really well. Using movie clips I could update 100 frames at the same time, very liberating. It runs fast because it’s used to crunching much more vast and complex assets. Needless to say this didn’t last, the producers I work with have no no reason to learn Flash and don’t want to have to fork out the license fees. I had a whole framework planned out in my head that would take UML/XML and generate pretty site maps on the fly or create dynamic wireframes. Needless to say that didn’t last. I even started building wireframes using MySQL & PHP with frameworks like Symfony. This is top fun if you are of a geeky persuasion but takes far too much time. More recently I started trying to get back into Visio. There is a plugin from Intuitect that, to me, is the holy grail of IA tools. Although, currently, the system is riddled with bugs and usability problems and is nowhere near production grade.

So, right now I’m left with trying to work with Visio. Here’s some criteria of what I’m looking for:

  • Responsive and fast, even when doing complex stuff
  • A central data store that holds all of the system’s meta data
  • A means of editing patterns, symbols, pane (call them what you will) from one single place

Nice to haves would be:

  • Ability to output as HTML prototype or click-through.

And that’s it. It’s not much to ask.

The best tools I’ve ever used tend to have a stick of lead running through them.

Anybody got any other suggestions?

Design Patterns

I know a few people have been impressed with the Yahoo! patterns library but my word, what about this one? None of the patterns are particularly new but it’s well documented. The chap’s web site could do with a bit of UX magic though.

On the subject here’s a couple more

Yahoo! Pattern Library

Web Patterns: A UC Berkeley Resource

I’m not sure if you’re aware (or even care?) but design patters originated in object-oriented programming, eXtreme programming even.