Peter Morville Keynote - World Information Architecture Day 2012

Uploaded by WorldIADay on 07.02.2012


Hello, I'm Peter Morville
and I'm very pleased to be with you in all fourteen locations
to celebrate the first ever World Information Architecture Day
in honor of Ted Nelson, the visionary Information Architect,
who invented such wonderful words as hypertext and intertwingularity
this short talk will be a hyper-media adventure
which means I'll be jumping semi-randomly between topics and formats
and the transitions might be a little rough so fasten your seat belts and hang on
Today I'd like to talk to you about three things
and no, it's not users, content and context
though that's a good guess
Instead, I'm going to explain why its still important
to keep defining the damn thing
and why cross-channel means we need to start cross-training
and how we only enhance our value by embracing our values
With the first edition of the Polar Bear book, folks complained that we hadn't
provided any formal definitions of information architecture
and I remember thinking to myself, "Come on people the BOOK is the definition"
To understand IA you have to read the whole thing.
Of course, being a librarian, I was too polite to say that
so for the second and third editions we added definitions which, of course,
caused even more trouble because now people had something to argue about.
Now I personally have very little interest in turf wars between disciplines
and I don't care about job titles on business cards
in fact in my mind everyone is an information architect
but I do feel compelled to keep redefining and reframing
what I do, because the context in which I practice keeps changing.
For instance, while consulting at the Library of Congress I've done a
massive amount of classic IA
but I've also helped to formulate a cross-channel strategy with mobile
and social components
and at Kresge one of my challenges was helping the foundation to formulate
a multi-channel communication strategy
to help everyone understand the relationship
between the website, social media, and more traditional communication channels
such as phone and print
On a more exotic note Vodafone asked me to create personas and scenarios
and sketch a set of user interfaces for the future of mobile search
And in my current work for Macy's
I'm thinking hard about how to improve the user experience across physical
and digital channels
To stay flexible, yet centered, amidst all this contextual flux
I find it useful to play with different ways of framing what I do
Sometimes I'm philosophical and oriented towards the future.
While other times I rely on simple metaphors from the past
What's exciting is that while classic IA is more important than ever
there are new challenges in web strategy and cross-channel service design
and ubiquitous user experience design where information architects
can make a positive impact and have a lot of fun
Of course, the challenges can be overwhelming
I mean, how can we make the complex clear
when it's hard to make sense of it ourselves?
Let me try to answer that with a metaphor
So I've been a long distance runner for years and I know how to train for a marathon
You run and you run and you run.
That approach wouldn't do me much good later this year
when I attempt my first half ironman triathlon
I'll either drown in the lake or fall of my bike
for the triathlon I have to practice sports I'm not good at
and learn from others who are
and thats the only way we're going to get good at cross-channel IA.
Oh and one other thing...
We have to get our heads out of our monitors
because you can't really understand the pros and cons of responsive web design
by simply resizing the browser while sitting on your butt.
So in the spirit of adventure we're going to change channels once more
So hold on, and we'll be right back after the break.
As I was saying, to learn how to design for mobile, you need to play
with a wide variety of mobile devices in real-world contexts
we can't simply imagine ourselves into understanding
For instance, I waited a long time without buying an eBook reader
and when the iPad was announced I thought
"Ha! I'm glad I didn't waste my money on a Kindle, this baby does everything."
So I spent $600 on an iPad, only to realize
that it's simply too heavy for reading books. So now my kids use the iPad
to play Angry Birds
and I read my books on a Kindle.
It only cost $79 and I love it. I can buy eBooks from Amazon
or borrow them from my public library and there are even quite a few available for free
but there are some things I'll miss about print books. For instance,
My dad brought this book from England.
He got it in 1964
and he gave it to me in the United States
in the 1980s when I was a teenager
It's one of my favorites.
And my parents gave me this book in 1977
I was 8 years old.
Look, there's my handwriting.
You see, print books make it easy to save and share
and I worry that that's something we might lose.
Which brings me to my third and final topic.
When out community first came together at the inaugural
Information Architecture Summit in Boston
there were academics and practitioners from diverse disciplines and backgrounds
but we all had one thing in common a prodigious amount of empathy for the user
and I believe that since that event in the year 2000
we've made great progress in the design of systems that help people to find what they need
and understand what they've found.
But we still have a long way to go
and so I hope that today
and during all the World Information Architecture Days to come
that we will continue to remind ourselves
that together we can make business and the world work better
and enhance our own value by staying true to our values
So, that's all from me. Thanks for your attention.
And I wish you all a very happy and adventurous
World Information Architecture Day.