Collaborative Information Architecture

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Information about Collaborative Information Architecture

Published on September 21, 2007

Author: PatrickKennedy

Source: slideshare.net

Description

A case study describing one team's efforts to redesign a large information-rich website with the help of a mentor.

“ There’s no I in team” A case study in collaborative information architecture OZ-IA, Sydney September 2007 Patrick Kennedy, Step Two Designs

Information architecture can be hard enough, but what if you and your team have no experience?

Collaborative information architecture Information architecture can be hard enough But what if… you and your team have no experience? that team is new and still bonding? your organisation expects prompt solutions? hiring a team of experts is out of the question? What if all of these were the case?

Information architecture can be hard enough

But what if…

you and your team have no experience?

that team is new and still bonding?

your organisation expects prompt solutions?

hiring a team of experts is out of the question?

What if all of these were the case?

A quick agenda Collaborative information architecture Mentoring in a teamwork situation Case study for the redesign of a large website Some discussion around your experiences

Collaborative information architecture

Mentoring in a teamwork situation

Case study for the redesign of a large website

Some discussion around your experiences

Introducing ESA, a government agency with many departments and a lot of information to share!

The organisation ESA is an Australian Commonwealth government agency that deals with scientific data Many divisions or departments, fairly independent Coordination is improving but website reflects silos They knew there was probably a better way of doing it Ownership and responsibility for website are being resolved There was no formal team for the website redesign They recognised there was little knowledge of the audience

ESA is an Australian Commonwealth government agency that deals with scientific data

Many divisions or departments, fairly independent

Coordination is improving but website reflects silos

They knew there was probably a better way of doing it

Ownership and responsibility for website are being resolved

There was no formal team for the website redesign

They recognised there was little knowledge of the audience

The website reflected ESA, and had grown out of control, and the skills to fix it didn’t exist

The website Large information-rich website approximately 20,000 pages many tools and applications Been through several design iterations in the past The website has grown out of control Technical side of website taken care of But few skills in UCD and IA Major redevelopment initiated, including the IA

Large information-rich website

approximately 20,000 pages

many tools and applications

Been through several design iterations in the past

The website has grown out of control

Technical side of website taken care of

But few skills in UCD and IA

Major redevelopment initiated, including the IA

The team assembled for the project was newly formed and relatively inexperienced

The team Newly formed Little experience in working together Staff from different parts of ESA Multidisciplinary Varying levels of experience in web design and IA First coordinated effort at website redesign Limited resources available Reasonable pressure to complete work quickly

Newly formed

Little experience in working together

Staff from different parts of ESA

Multidisciplinary

Varying levels of experience in web design and IA

First coordinated effort at website redesign

Limited resources available

Reasonable pressure to complete work quickly

A mentoring arrangement There was a limited budget for project Recognition of the need for ongoing development Desire to build up skills of team Thus hesitation to rely on outsourcing But needed to make progress, with best results Mentoring was the chosen solution

There was a limited budget for project

Recognition of the need for ongoing development

Desire to build up skills of team

Thus hesitation to rely on outsourcing

But needed to make progress, with best results

Mentoring was the chosen solution

Project outline

Methodology IA was part of a much larger web project Two distinct phases existed: research design Still a work in progress

IA was part of a much larger web project

Two distinct phases existed:

research

design

Still a work in progress

User research was a key part of the process…

Research Many different sources of ‘data’ were used But there was a focus on direct user research Understanding audience needs was our goal: Who are they? What do they do? How do they interact with ESA? What do they use the website for? Interviews were our primary research mechanism and revealed a great deal of information

Many different sources of ‘data’ were used

But there was a focus on direct user research

Understanding audience needs was our goal:

Who are they?

What do they do?

How do they interact with ESA?

What do they use the website for?

Interviews were our primary research mechanism and revealed a great deal of information

… and a new audience model was developed

Research activities Activities included: stakeholder interviews end-user interviews log analysis audience segmentation follow-up survey After a bit of hesitation the ESA team quickly picked up these techniques

Activities included:

stakeholder interviews

end-user interviews

log analysis

audience segmentation

follow-up survey

After a bit of hesitation the ESA team quickly picked up these techniques

Then the design process began in earnest…

Design Focus on findability in the resulting website Attempt to handle diverse audience needs Activities included: content inventory card sorting design sessions usability testing The audience model was used to guide the process For a novice, this is the hardest bit

Focus on findability in the resulting website

Attempt to handle diverse audience needs

Activities included:

content inventory

card sorting

design sessions

usability testing

The audience model was used to guide the process

For a novice, this is the hardest bit

Work in progress The project is still ongoing Next steps include: refinement of IA design visual design electronic prototyping further usability testing Then the project moves beyond the IA

The project is still ongoing

Next steps include:

refinement of IA design

visual design

electronic prototyping

further usability testing

Then the project moves beyond the IA

Collaboration and mentoring

Collaboration can get messy but is essential for good analysis and design

Collaboration As much as possible was done collaboratively Collaboration made use of: whiteboards post-it notes flipcharts sheets of paper many emails scribbling and sketching Activities were conducted by pairs, small groups, and in some cases the full team Where necessary, sub-groups reported back to the whole team to keep everyone informed

As much as possible was done collaboratively

Collaboration made use of:

whiteboards

post-it notes

flipcharts

sheets of paper

many emails

scribbling and sketching

Activities were conducted by pairs, small groups, and in some cases the full team

Where necessary, sub-groups reported back to the whole team to keep everyone informed

Mentoring philosophy The mentoring included… Starting with the broad concepts and then narrowing in Providing some instruction but quickly putting the team into action, practicing what they had learnt Instilling confidence, such that they could do the IA work but also gain traction within the rest of the organisation Encouraging discussion amongst team members A gradual shift from training sessions to workshops

The mentoring included…

Starting with the broad concepts and then narrowing in

Providing some instruction but quickly putting the team into action, practicing what they had learnt

Instilling confidence, such that they could do the IA work but also gain traction within the rest of the organisation

Encouraging discussion amongst team members

A gradual shift from training sessions to workshops

Source of inspiration Principles from The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg were used to guide mentoring For example: Resist the temptation to tell, instead asking questions to prompt further thought Coaching and mentoring are not just beneficial for recipient Assessing the skill and will of team members

Principles from The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg were used to guide mentoring

For example:

Resist the temptation to tell, instead asking questions to prompt further thought

Coaching and mentoring are not just beneficial for recipient

Assessing the skill and will of team members

Training workshops Project and personal goal-setting Overall web design process Qualitative methods for user research Qualitative analysis techniques Survey design and implementation Audience segmentation and persona development Card sorting and usability testing

Project and personal goal-setting

Overall web design process

Qualitative methods for user research

Qualitative analysis techniques

Survey design and implementation

Audience segmentation and persona development

Card sorting and usability testing

Teaching aids The team was provided with instructional material They were also directed to a few key books: The User is Always Right – Steve Mulder Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug Communicating Design – Dan Brown The IA methodology was based on their content This allowed team to ‘read along’ as they learnt And it gave them more ammunition for later Additionally, there were a number of blogs and sites

The team was provided with instructional material

They were also directed to a few key books:

The User is Always Right – Steve Mulder

Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug

Communicating Design – Dan Brown

The IA methodology was based on their content

This allowed team to ‘read along’ as they learnt

And it gave them more ammunition for later

Additionally, there were a number of blogs and sites

Challenges

Challenges and issues Coordinating a new team Inexperienced practitioners Wider organisational issues Virtual mentoring

Coordinating a new team

Inexperienced practitioners

Wider organisational issues

Virtual mentoring

Trying to assemble and a coordinate a new team was difficult at times…

Coordinating a new team The team had little experience in working together Multidisciplinary team brought together from all over ESA Much time spent discussing and clarifying, beneficial within collaborative design projects It took time to bed the team down and begin working effectively Few team members were on the project 100%, struggle for time Team members came and went, reducing continuity and momentum Attempts were made to record discussions to share with absentees Eventually, the team was whittled down to a core group of keen individuals

The team had little experience in working together

Multidisciplinary team brought together from all over ESA

Much time spent discussing and clarifying, beneficial within collaborative design projects

It took time to bed the team down and begin working effectively

Few team members were on the project 100%, struggle for time

Team members came and went, reducing continuity and momentum

Attempts were made to record discussions to share with absentees

Eventually, the team was whittled down to a core group of keen individuals

… especially with inexperienced practitioners trying to find their way…

Inexperienced practitioners Team members had little or no experience in IA and UCD Understanding a large and diverse audience is not easy And the organisation has little experience in this area There is little coordination of the collective knowledge regarding their clients Similarly, designing a large and complex website is not trivial Hence the last few ‘failed’ attempts to redesign the website Thus, the time taken for the project surpassed expectations

Team members had little or no experience in IA and UCD

Understanding a large and diverse audience is not easy

And the organisation has little experience in this area

There is little coordination of the collective knowledge regarding their clients

Similarly, designing a large and complex website is not trivial

Hence the last few ‘failed’ attempts to redesign the website

Thus, the time taken for the project surpassed expectations

… and wider organisational issues put more pressure on the team…

Wider organisational issues There was pressure from other parts of ESA Keeping to the larger project plan proved difficult This highlighted the unrealistic expectations of time required Was also a tendency to bite off more than they could chew Neither of these are uncommon situations Additionally the team needed to be able to explain themselves Part of the solution was instilling confidence in the team Another aspect was providing them with useful deliverables (eg creating different documentation for different circumstances; conceptual wireframe for management vs high-detail wireframe for implementation)

There was pressure from other parts of ESA

Keeping to the larger project plan proved difficult

This highlighted the unrealistic expectations of time required

Was also a tendency to bite off more than they could chew

Neither of these are uncommon situations

Additionally the team needed to be able to explain themselves

Part of the solution was instilling confidence in the team

Another aspect was providing them with useful deliverables (eg creating different documentation for different circumstances; conceptual wireframe for management vs high-detail wireframe for implementation)

… and adding to the pressure was the fact that the mentor was inter-state

Virtual mentoring Limited face-to-face contact between mentor and team ESA is located in Canberra and Step Two Designs in Sydney Trips were reserved for training sessions and workshops Additional discussion made use of phone and email Less than ideal, ultimately it proved successful ESA team were all geographically close

Limited face-to-face contact between mentor and team

ESA is located in Canberra and Step Two Designs in Sydney

Trips were reserved for training sessions and workshops

Additional discussion made use of phone and email

Less than ideal, ultimately it proved successful

ESA team were all geographically close

Benefits and limitations

Benefits and limitations User-centred design Collaborative teamwork Mentoring

User-centred design

Collaborative teamwork

Mentoring

User-centred design will improve the website, making it more useful to the audience…

User-centred design A clear understanding of who will be using the website allows it to be designed more effectively Few people argued with taking a UCD approach In addition to improving the website, this work is likely to increase the level of knowledge about clients throughout ESA Personas have already been earmarked for use beyond web design, communicating ESA’s audience and their goals etc But UCD does take more time up front than ‘expert design’

A clear understanding of who will be using the website allows it to be designed more effectively

Few people argued with taking a UCD approach

In addition to improving the website, this work is likely to increase the level of knowledge about clients throughout ESA

Personas have already been earmarked for use beyond web design, communicating ESA’s audience and their goals etc

But UCD does take more time up front than ‘expert design’

… and working as a team is much better than working on your own…

Collaborative teamwork “Two heads are better than one” Intellectual teamwork compensates for the limitations and biases of any one individual Better discussions result and the design is improved ‘Vigorous’ and circular discussions seem counterproductive but contribute to the problem solving by helping participants develop their ideas The team forged bonds across departmental boundaries But collaboration also takes longer than working solo

“Two heads are better than one”

Intellectual teamwork compensates for the limitations and biases of any one individual

Better discussions result and the design is improved

‘Vigorous’ and circular discussions seem counterproductive but contribute to the problem solving by helping participants develop their ideas

The team forged bonds across departmental boundaries

But collaboration also takes longer than working solo

… particularly when you have someone to turn to for assistance

Mentoring Mentoring builds the skills of the team whilst allowing progress Practical skills and team confidence are developed earlier than Contractors and consultants are expensive and leave the team without the skills to maintain and further develop the website Trying to ‘learn then do’ takes much longer and risks quality But mentoring requires a good relationship to form And it is up to the mentorees to do the bulk of the work, seen as a risk by other parts of the organisation Additionally, mentoring requires mentor availability

Mentoring builds the skills of the team whilst allowing progress

Practical skills and team confidence are developed earlier than

Contractors and consultants are expensive and leave the team without the skills to maintain and further develop the website

Trying to ‘learn then do’ takes much longer and risks quality

But mentoring requires a good relationship to form

And it is up to the mentorees to do the bulk of the work, seen as a risk by other parts of the organisation

Additionally, mentoring requires mentor availability

Conclusion

Conclusions A new team can successfully collaborate on complex design activities in which they have little expertise, with the help of a mentor Collaboration results in better thinking and better design Organisational pressures need to be addressed early Expectations must be suitably set; UCD takes considerable time, and learning as you go increases the time even further In terms of collaboration and UCD, this was ESA’s first time and there is little doubt they will get better at both Mentoring is not necessarily the same as training Mentors end up talking a lot; but being able to ask questions is possibly the most valuable part from the team’s perspective An ‘in house’ mentor would have been much more effective

A new team can successfully collaborate on complex design activities in which they have little expertise, with the help of a mentor

Collaboration results in better thinking and better design

Organisational pressures need to be addressed early

Expectations must be suitably set; UCD takes considerable time, and learning as you go increases the time even further

In terms of collaboration and UCD, this was ESA’s first time and there is little doubt they will get better at both

Mentoring is not necessarily the same as training

Mentors end up talking a lot; but being able to ask questions is possibly the most valuable part from the team’s perspective

An ‘in house’ mentor would have been much more effective

So why are they so unpopular?

Questions? Your feedback is most welcome Patrick Kennedy [email_address] Blog: www.gurtle.com/ppov/ Website: www.steptwo.com.au

Your feedback is most welcome

Patrick Kennedy [email_address]

Blog: www.gurtle.com/ppov/

Website: www.steptwo.com.au

References Brown, D., Communicating Design : Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning , New Riders, 2007 Kennedy, P., Squiggles help find personas , 2007. Online at: www.gurtle.com/ppov/2007/06/14/squiggles-help-find-personas/ Krug, S., Don’t Make Me Think : A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2nd ed), Macmillan, 2006 Landsberg, M., The Tao of Coaching : Boost your effectiveness at work by inspiring and developing those around you , Profile, 2003 Maurer, D., Card Based Classification Evaluation , Step Two Designs, 2003. Online at: www.steptwo.com.au/papers/ext_cardbased/ Maurer, D., Card sorting analysis spreadsheet , Maadmob Interaction Design, 2007. Online at: www.maadmob.net/donna/blog/archives/000760.html Mulder, S., Yaar, Z., The User Is Always Right : A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web , New Riders, 2007

Brown, D., Communicating Design : Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning , New Riders, 2007

Kennedy, P., Squiggles help find personas , 2007. Online at: www.gurtle.com/ppov/2007/06/14/squiggles-help-find-personas/

Krug, S., Don’t Make Me Think : A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2nd ed), Macmillan, 2006

Landsberg, M., The Tao of Coaching : Boost your effectiveness at work by inspiring and developing those around you , Profile, 2003

Maurer, D., Card Based Classification Evaluation , Step Two Designs, 2003. Online at: www.steptwo.com.au/papers/ext_cardbased/

Maurer, D., Card sorting analysis spreadsheet , Maadmob Interaction Design, 2007. Online at: www.maadmob.net/donna/blog/archives/000760.html

Mulder, S., Yaar, Z., The User Is Always Right : A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web , New Riders, 2007

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