Last week I hit Toronto for three workshops organized by Rosenfeld Media. Since I had to fly to Toronto to do them, it only made sense to do all three. My main purpose was, admittedly, to take Lou Rosenfeld’s Adaptable Information Architecture workshop, but I ended up with three very full days, the central theme of which was essentially to become leaner and more agile, and in the process, more productive.
Anders Ramsay was really an unknown entity for me as I got to day three. Like the other two workshops, this one was based on his book of the same name, though this one is yet-to-be published in 2013. The nice thing about Anders’ workshop is that, where the other two focused on ways of improving existing designs or those in progress, Designing with Agile was really about turning traditional initial design approaches on their collective heads.
Lou Rosenfeld has been a well-known information architect for many years, with a strong and varied consulting background. Back in the 90’s he wrote what is still likely considered THE bible on IA (and a must read for anyone who does this stuff). Organizing content for a web build, designing navigation, labeling, application and user flows, and page layouts are the types of things I’ve probably done for the longest, going back well over a decade, so IA is still what I think of as my bread and butter.
While I have used both open and closed card sorts, and other tools such as personas and basic web analytics to good effect, I’ve always felt my IA toolkit to be a little weak. This workshop really focused on the topic of Lou’s latest book, Search Analytics for Your Site, and gave me some great insights into things I can do almost immediately, to not only improve my practice, but to hopefully have a positive impact on our main web property in a more rapid and iterative fashion.
Steve Krug has written two well-received books about usability, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability and
Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. This workshop was based entirely upon the second book and dealt with making usability testing as simple as possible and weaving it into your monthly design operational cycle. In fact, the book is really the script for the workshop/course that Steve does. The material was pretty much perfect for me, as I’ve been kvetching about not being able to do exactly this as a routine part of our cycles at BCIT.
As my work straddles being a UX designer and project lead, I spend my time in bits and pieces of both without doing either as well or thoroughly as I’d like. My experience leading usability tests has typically been to bring in several users at once and conduct them with at least one observer in the same room. I haven’t typically used screen capture software, but used a combination of observer notes and audio recording, strongly encouraging participants to use think aloud to provide feedback as they complete tasks from the test script.
Design criticism discussions happen all the time on Twitter. Frankly, it’s an occupational hazard if you are in this line of work. Late last week, someone I follow who also does UX work in New York, tweeted sarcastically that someone obviously thought this design was a good idea. This started a discussion between us and a third, back-and-forthing about the design. I wouldn’t normally bring a discussion such as this from Twitter onto my journal, but this is a special case.