Saturday, 11 August 2012

Content and flow – isn’t that what it's all about?

It's been a while since we took a hard look at the initial stages of interactive design. Like other things this has changed radically. Defining content used to be the forgotten area unless you were working on interactive training where the outline and detailed design phases used to dominate. But defining the content for all types of interactivity has become a major phase of design. Now we have information architects (IA) who organise content and flow of a website, based on some principles that can be articulated, that have been derived through evidence gathering. (Martin Belam, Inside the Guardian Blog, Feb 2010.)

As well as information architects, jobs have asked for data architects, business architects, solution architects, technical architects and so on. Yes, I hear you, what about user experience (UX), where does this fit in? This has had an explosion of people flocking round the candle flame of UX as supply has out-stripped demand for the skills. Cennydd Bowles decries the watering down of his chosen profession and warns of the demise of UX in his 2011 Summit presentation at Colorado, The rise and fall of User Experience. It's a well thought through and heart-felt article that's worth a look. He comes down on the side of "obliquity", creating personal value, and long-term goals and quality rather than being enslaved to the measurable, quantitative, short-term goals of business and usability that dominate the profession now.

Let's move on to the tools employed by IA/UX people to define and refine the content and flow of interactive applications. How many of these do you recognise and when might they prove useful? Card Sorting, site maps, wire frames, user journeys, funnel diagrams, content audits, task models, prototyping, and so on. If you haven't recognised many of these tools perhaps you can get your company to buy a few IA/UX books or Kindle formats. There are many available that get supposedly good reviews. You can check these out at Amazon such as: So IA and UX seem to be in a state of flux despite being skillsets that are in demand. But from my point of view, anything that has put the spotlight on the initial design of content and flow has given tremendous value to iMedia. We need to heed Cennydd's perspective though and learn from the master so that these invaluable disciplines continue to add lasting value.