Designing the Hidden Structures of Digital Products
It is the Age of Product. Product owners, product managers, and product designers dominate the org charts of digital teams. Where does that leave the information architect? Just because these digital spaces are more transactional in nature and they do not emphasize classification and wayfinding does not mean they are absent a structure.
In fact, the work of information architecture is even more crucial to product design. Products mediate the exchange of information between people. A sound information structure ensures processes run smoothly and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. Structures manifest in the product’s user experience to set expectations about how people will work together in these spaces. They facilitate not only finding the information that’s needed, but how it is collected and connected.
Unlike structures in content-led systems, information architecture in products tend to be more abstract, buried even deeper in the product’s experience. They are more intertwined with other parts of the system, like the data model, and the user interface. Moreover, the structure of a product is heterogeneous, with interlocking parts to deal with the various kinds of data and functionality. Permissions and access, business rules, and activity logging are all essential parts of enterprise products. These and other features come with their own structures that must interact with the information structure of the product’s domain.
In this workshop, information architects will practice applying their IA skills to the design of products. We will look at five key structural decisions involved in designing products: Semantics, Classification, Composition, Abstraction, and Transformation. All of these decisions are crucial to designing effective products, all all require an IA’s perspective to get them right.