Lou Rosenfeld (@louisrosenfeld) is best-known for being co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (O’Reilly; 3rd edition, 2008), widely considered the “bible of information architecture”. But like a lot of information architects who get long in the tooth, he’s found himself advising his clients–mostly Fortune 500s–on the more strategic aspects of making information findable. Or, put another way, “information therapy”.
Your site is not a democracy.
If you plotted your site’s documents from most visited (the “short head” on the left) to least (the “long tail” on the right), the drop off would be steep and dramatic–rather than evenly, “democratically” distributed. That means that a handful of your documents are REALLY IMPORTANT, and do most of the heavy lifting, while the rest are rarely visited.
Conclusion: make sure those “short head” documents are the best-maintained, while investing less (or not at all) in the rest.
Bonus: these efforts won’t cost you much.
Double-bonus: same is true for lots of other things, like your site’s search queries.
Find and improve all short heads, and you’ll dramatically improve your users’ experience.
Ban the word “redesign” from your planning meetings.
If your organization is considering a redesign, it’s quite possible that it doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. While your site really might suck, what problems does a redesign solve? If you’re not performing diagnostics–figuring out why your site sucks–then it’s impossible to know what to fix.
That’s when familiar but meaningless crutch terms–like “redesign”–crop up: they fill a diagnostic vacuum without describing specific solutions. If you’ve not diagnosed what’s wrong–if you can’t actually explain what’s wrong in plain language–then your organization will find itself on the wrong end of a hugely expensive cosmetic facelift.
So prevent papering over the problems by banning the term “redesign” from your planning discussions. The short-term pain of talking through painful realities will lead to the long-term gain of getting important things actually fixed.
Siloed user research will kill your company.
The good news is that your organization has finally drunk the Kool-Aid of user research, and is investing heavily in a usability lab. And an analytics team. And some ethnographers. And a Voice of the Customer group. And some outside firm to run Net Promoter Score studies. And some other agencies to do other kinds of user research. And.. And… You can probably see the bad news coming: all those pockets of research are pretty useless if they’re not synthesized.
As in the fable of the blind men and the elephant, each of these approaches to getting at what users’ intentions and behaviors is narrow and incomplete. Unless you synthesize them–get researchers to connect their findings–your organization won’t be achieving true insight.
*SPECIAL THANKS – Gorgeous Blue + White Illustrations
Eva-Lotta is a UX Designer and Illustrator based in London, UK where she currently works as an interaction designer at Google. Besides her daytime mission of making the web a more understandable, usable and delightful place, she regularly takes sketchnotes at all sorts of talks and conferences and recently self-published her second book. Eva-Lotta also teaches sketching workshops and is interested in (something she calls) visual improvisation. Exploring the parallels between sketching and improvisation, she experiments with the principles from her theater improvisation practice to inspire visual work.
These images in particular originally appeared in a longer post Lou contributed to Smashing Magazine.