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The Impact of Information Architecture

On February 18, people worldwide participated in events for the annual World IA Day, a celebration of the practice, growth, and evolution of information architecture. As a local sponsor, Universal Mind partnered with both the Dallas and Denver events and had the opportunity to present ideas and strategies to each respective community.

IAatPlay

In its second year, the Denver event hosted a variety of speakers from different backgrounds. Topics ranged from service design to card-sorting methodologies, to various perspectives on the use of personas. Some presentations focused on actual practices, and others introduced higher level strategic approaches for aligning business processes with user needs and expectations. The diversity of topics and speakers showed the broad scope of an area like information architecture and the differences in approaches across industries and companies.

With a growing demand from customers for businesses to offer experiences, customers moved beyond the role of passive consumers and played an increasingly active role in the shaping of their experiences. A new challenge has been presented to companies as their offerings need to account for their customers’ experience goals. Several presentations touched on the proper way to identify and communicate these goals to all the involved parties, discussing the use of personas or user roles and their corresponding benefits and shortcomings.

It became evident as the event unfolded, that discussions around information architecture, user experiences, and strategic alignment are a necessity for companies. For a topic with this degree of complexity, there is no silver bullet for our clients. More than ever, it is up to consultancies to work closely with clients to identify gaps between internal processes, metrics, and user expectations. Each business will face different challenges in these areas, and the first step in any initiative will be identifying areas of friction and opportunities for improvement. Defining the problem plays as much of a role as problem-solving, and various presentations showcased methodologies covering this area at the event.

Mapping both customer journeys and the corresponding internal processes and background systems was pinpointed as an efficient way to identify problem areas within a company’s offerings and operations. Visualizing interdependencies with different internal and external parties is vital to understanding the variety of touchpoints and stakeholders involved. Both of these influence the customer experience, which needs to be accounted for as different factors.

As a result of these many influences, customer experiences rarely follow a linear narrative, but take place throughout a network of touch points, with different start and end points. Thinking of services as linear experiences does not allow for the necessary flexibility a service system needs to offer. Consider world building as an alternative approach. World building is a Methodology derived from the creation of literary universes, in which rules, characters, and their roles, rituals, and processes are defined under the guidance of an overarching theme.

With the increasing complexity, and a desire to work collaboratively with clients as part of longer strategic engagements, many discussions touched on the necessity for proper documentation of findings and different developments and iterations of those conclusions. It becomes challenging to ensure continuity and consistency when partnerships potentially span multiple projects.

We are happy to be involved in these critical discussions within our community and hope to continue our contribution to this crucial dialogue to help our customers find adequate solutions to their unique challenges.

MarcM WorldIA