The IA Summit is a conference that ambitiously questions the architectural underpinnings of our digital interfaces. It has become a place where many attendees discover their home away from home and create unexpected bonds with other professionals who are eager to understand how the things in our world relate. The driving force behind this exchange of ideas is a compulsion to understand the experiential factors of human-computer interaction (HCI) and the informational relationships that give rise to their structure. As our world of digital experience and informational complexity expand, IAS18 seeks to raise awareness of the systemic impact of our UI and UX design decisions and the role we play to tame information environments at scale.
The End of Boundaries
Digital engagement is pressing beyond the screen to provide an extension of our bodies and the augmentation of human experience. For instance, we used to only look at screens on a desktop. We advanced to persistently holding them in our hands. Now manufacturers are ramping up production to evolve our digital behaviors once again with screens that strap to our heads to create a mixed reality; where our screens help to reshape our physical space.
Further, static objects like light bulbs and refrigerators can be outfitted with digital agency and further the proliferation of digital communication. And while the internet of things (IoT) has fallen out of fashion for the moment, we haven’t heard the last of it. Just prepare for its more appropriate reincarnation as the internet of everything.
What was once viewed as an information environment and the modest realm of interface design has become an expansive landscape that cuts across the whole of human experience. Whether our digital context is a product, service, or for a private or public institution, the underlying architecture of our digital-human experiences must become more explicit.
Recently, front-end frameworks and interaction design systems have been used to coordinate visual and interaction patterns. They are indispensable for addressing the complexity found in the diverse modality of digital devices. But the information science necessary for planning intelligent content engagement is playing catch up. Hence, organizations of every size risk losing their ability to plan effective user experience and content management in a sustainable manner.
This is not an option. Architecture must be elevated.
The Role of Architecture
For any man-made environment, the responsibility for systemic coherence rests on a sound architecture. This is true for physical buildings, as well as the physical-digital environments that we now create.
Information architecture is an evolving practice and science that is concerned with how we model and maintain the conceptual relationships that underpin strategy, design, and the structure behind digital user interfaces. Additionally, IA practice aims for sustainable information environments that are imbued with meaning in support of genuine user engagement. This type of architectural and engineering perspective is absent in far too many implementations.
There are several high-level factors to consider when articulating an information architecture. Chief among them is how we frame objectives; how we incorporate human behavior to inform intent; how human cognition impacts performance; and our methods for modeling these in a coherent manner.
When we consider these factors, they help to ground our practice of managing the cohesion of small- and large-scale information environments and their respective user interfaces. Today, this approach is still unrealized in most organizations.
As IA practice evolves and vies for attention in the converging domains of business, technology, and design disciplines, I am confident that its value will become more apparent.
It’s my hope that the attendees of IAS18 will appreciate practical insights that address today’s human-computer interaction challenges at scale and be inspired by promises of a world that embraces the intentional architecture of information and content.
Join us as we continue our historic journey to shape a necessary profession of the 21st century: Information Architecture.
Save on your IA Summit registration today by using the discount code uxbooth.
Editor’s note: This article first ran on the IA Summit website.
Information architecture is an often misunderstood job title. Are they designers? developers? managers? All of the above? In this article we'll discuss what information architecture is, why it's related to usability, and what are the common tools/programs used in information architecture.