Collaboration and Facilitation
Corporate clients aren’t used to collaboration, but it is an essential approach to getting “buy-in” for user experience projects. When I work in a vacuum and then share my work, it’s not well understood and people don’t understand the implications. When I run workshops, meetings, and different kinds of collaboration events, people are at first hesitant but readily adopt to the approach. They have fun while they’re working, which can be a new experience for many people. With a collaborative approach, more people understand the process and the decisions made, and are more willing to agree to the outcome. My facilitation skills also increase the success of a collaborative approach.
UX work always fits into someone’s bigger picture. To make a successful product or service, it’s crucial to understand this bigger picture. The more seamlessly a product service fits into someone’s world view, the more easily it can be used and the more successful it will be. In other words, people use a thing because it helps solve a problem, gives enjoyment, increases understanding in a hobby. A successful product needs to be designed in-context. A User Experience approach gives you that context. In a user experience approach, I use stakeholder interviews, user interviews, personas, and task analysis (among other things) to discover what users are after and how we can enable that in the product or service.
Information architecture organizes information according to user expectations and helps increase efficiency, improve business processes, and make and save money. Information architecture plans the site navigation with site maps, and wireframes. The goal is to get the information into the site and manage it in such a way that users can get it out in a useful, practical, and easy way. Some skills I use during the IA phase include: content inventories, analytics analysis, site mapping, content prioritization, paper sketching, wireframes, metadata and taxonomy. This list isn’t exhaustive, but should give you an idea of how I work.
Taxonomy and Metadata
Taxonomy and metadata are a way to classify or categorize information so authors and users can find it again. You can use the taxonomy values to classify, categorize, or “tag”, your pages, content objects, images, and other various files. A lot of content on websites is lost: authors forget where the content is or they move on to other projects. Using a taxonomy gives authors a great way to find existing content so it can be reused. If you can find existing content, your team doesn’t need to spend time writing, editing, revising, and publishing the same content.
Search and Search Results Design
In many of my information architecture projects, planning and designing the search results page isn’t given much thought. While search engine optimization is a big thing for users to find the site, searching within a site and displaying effective search results are seen as a “plug and play” thing. You simply “turn on” the search feature, the site gives you a ready made page, and this is what you use. Unfortunately, with so much content on a website, a simple search results page normally isn’t good enough. The search results themselves need to be optimized in some kind of way. As an information architect intimately familiar with user experience and taxonomy and metadata, search and search results design is a natural fit.
For content strategy, you might say I do the more technical side of content strategy. Taxonomy and metadata are on this more technical side. In my information architecture work, I also help clients define the new pages and create a migration plan from the old system to the new system through content mapping. In my wireframes, I get into the details of the content on key pages.