2010 Main Conference Talk
Is there any theoretical framework information architects can use to inform their design decisions? Perhaps our field is too young to have a mature theory, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a set of immutable principles that give us a sense of quality in IA. There are eight principles that I find, time and again, help me zero-in on good solutions.
These principles are not restricted to the visual presentation of information. As information architects focus more on underlying structures–the rules and frameworks that govern the experience–our theory must influence these aspects of our work.
In this session, I will talk about each principle I use, why it is important, and why it is immutable. For each principle, I’ll show examples from around the web, and from my own work. The eight principles are:
- Paradox of choice: It is more difficult for users to choose from many options.
- Progressive disclosure: Reveal bits of information at a time to create a strong scent.
- Context through content: Exemplars can clarify categories.
- Multiple front doors: Any page on the site may be a “home” page.
- Scale and growth: Expect content to grow and create navigation systems that accommodate growth.
- Multiple classification systems: Give users more than one way of finding information.
- Navigation by function: Establish a purpose for a navigation mechanism.
- Abstraction, templating, modularization: Sites are composed of templates and components.
I’ll conclude with a rationale for a comprehensive theory of IA, exploring why design principles are crucial, and why every designer must have them, even if they’re not these same eight principles.
About the speaker(s)
In 2006, Dan Brown co-founded EightShapes, a boutique UX design firm based in Washington, DC. EightShapes designs digital products and systematizes design standards for clients in finance, healthcare, education, and government. Dan’s first two books, Communicating Design and Designing Together, deal with communications and collaboration on design teams, and are widely considered to be essential reading for UX designers. UX teams all over the world have played his game Surviving Design Projects, to improve their conflict management skills. IA Lenses, a new deck of cards, captures the essential questions for information architects working on difficult design problems. His new book Practical Design Discovery deals with the very first phase of a project, in which the product team seeks to understand the design problem. Follow him on Twitter @brownorama.