March 09, 2006

Slip of the finger

In an IM chat to a colleague, I almost typed it as "sanctum santorum."

Which strikes me as deeply oxymoronic.

Posted by peterme at 10:10 PM | TrackBack

Information Architecture + Service Design + Web 2.0 = crazy delicious!

So, here's what's been rattling around my head for a while.

If I identify with any one specific field, it is information architecture. The IA Summit continues to be my favorite conference, the IA mailing lists continue to be my favorite discussion places, and conversations with other IAs continue to be my favorite mental gymnastics.

My passion for information architecture has lead to my seat on the board of the IA Institute, my organizing of events like the workshop with MAYA last December, a forthcoming Big Event in October (details to come), mentoring up-and-coming IAs, and the closing plenary at the IA Summit this year.

One of my current points of "voice advocacy" (as GK put it) is the application of information architecture practices and principles to domains other than the Web. Complex information environments are all around us, and all can benefit from thoughtful information architecture.

Another point of current passion is service design. The more deep research I do, the more it becomes clearer that to best serve users, you have to look beyond specific artifacts or domains, and to all the interactions ("touchpoints") people have in an experience. I'm sitting on BART train as I write this, and believe me, BART could stand to have some explicit service design -- the signage, the vending machines, the turnstiles, the web site, etc. etc.

Something that strikes me as missing from the bulk of service design dialogue is an appreciation of information architecture. Service design seems to borrow a lot of tools from interaction design (heuristics, personas and scenarios, prototypes), but little from information architecture.

This is why the MAYA case study was so exciting to me -- being set in a library, it was painfully evident that information architecture needed to be applied to that physical space and those experiences. I would argue, though, that, say, BART could also benefit -- from things as basic as controlled vocabularies of terms to items as complex as better serving tourists encountering the system for the first time.

The other thing that frustrates me about the current discussion in service design is that it favors a strong, top-down, architectural approach. "We are going to study a whole service, and then we are going to design explicit solutions to satisfy that whole experience." Anyone who's ever designed anything complex knows that there are inevitable breakpoints -- that you can't design failure out of a complex system.

But what you can do is leverage principles from another emerging field -- Web 2.0. (Now, I know it might seem counterintuitive to talk about Web 2.0 in a non-Web context, and this is why I've always hated that term. But we're stuck with it for now.) Look at the defining attributes that Brandon identified: user contributed value; long tail; network effect; decentralization; co-creation; remixability; emergent systems.

I think there are real opportunities for service design to embrace these bottom-up approaches. I encourage designers to fight their desire to *control* the experience and instead find opportunities for the actions of the users of the service to contribute value -- to figure out what the "architecture of participation" means in the service world. This could definitely include the use of the web to augment an experience service. But I'm sure creative folks can identify solely "real world" activities (one that comes to mind, with the approach of the IA Summit, are Birds of a Feather sessions planned on-site.)

Retail strikes me as a huge opportunity here. At bookstores, for example, Instead of store-planned book discussions, author readings, and the like, to give tools to the people that pass through the space to create their own events. Sure, it will feel a bit chaotic, but man, would you have remarkable customer loyalty.

And then, an open question for me: how do you apply bottom-up approaches to mass transit systems like BART?

Posted by peterme at 10:56 AM | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

Design Appropriateness - When is Ugly Okay?

Robert Scoble got some blogosphere buzz over his post on "the role of anti-marketing design." He makes some excellent points about the 'authenticity' of ugliness. It resonates with commentary that my business partner Jesse James Garrett makes in his discussion of MySpace:

If the default presentation and the common areas of MySpace had cleaner, more professional designs, users might hesitate to customize their spaces, feeling intimidated by having their amateur design work side-by-side with the professional-looking defaults. Instead, the unpolished style invites users to try things out, telling them they don't have to be professional designers to participate.

I think Scoble makes a mistake, though, calling out that we're "sick of committee-driven marketing." I don't think we're sick of it; we just know when it's appropriate and when it's not.

When we seek ideas for music to listen to, we don't worry about too much about site appearance -- the person's voice and authenticity suffices.

But if I'm looking for medical advice, I'm wary of site's that look like they were designed by a 10 year old. And I know this because there's been a study. BJ Fogg, Sliced Bread Design, and Consumer Reports assessed the credibility of financial and health care web sites for expert and non-experts. What they found is, in retrospect, not all that surprising. Visual design cues are an important indicator of credibility for non-experts. Whereas for experts, it's simply about the content.

This makes sense. A non-expert cannot judge the credibility of the content, so he relies on other elements that help him estimate a source's credibility. It's no different than the professional wearing the $2,000 suit.

Now, you don't want folks in $2,000 suits serving your coffee at your favorite coffeehouse, or suggesting movies at the video store. You want the person who "looks like you." The same thing goes with websites.

Websites that rely on content created by others (such as MySpace and eBay) have realized the benefits on "ugly" design -- it's more approachable for dealing with people on a one-on-one basis.

But if I'm buying enterprise software, if I'm about to throw down $500,000, you better believe that I'm looking for "committee-driven marketing," and I'll be happy when I see it.

Posted by peterme at 09:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


See Me Travel
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
Archives from June 13, 2001 to January 2003
Archives from before June 13, 2001
Recent Entries
Slip of the finger
Information Architecture + Service Design + Web 2.0 = crazy delicious!
Design Appropriateness - When is Ugly Okay?
Subscribe to my feed:
Powered by
Movable Type 3.2