IA Summit 2006 Session Reviews

By Russell Wilson

Published: April 14, 2006

The Impact of RIA on Design Processes

Panelists: Jeanine Harriman, Tanya Livingston, Matthew Moroz, Jenica Rangos, and Garrick Schmitt

“They prophesied the death of the information architect, wireframes, and functional specifications, and heralded the evolving importance of the interaction designer, interactive prototypes, and the business-intelligence strategist.”

I didn’t know what to expect from this presentation. I marked it in my schedule, but can’t remember why. And yet it turned out to be one of my favorite sessions. The presenters focused on the long-term impact of RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) on design and development, and based on their findings, made some bold statements. For example, they prophesied the death of the information architect, wireframes, and functional specifications, and heralded the evolving importance of the interaction designer, interactive prototypes, and the business-intelligence strategist.

They gave a real-world example in which they compared Ajax and Flex as the Ninja versus the Sumo, respectively. They talked about a design process of the future that would combine current practices to form a best-of-both-worlds process, in which workflow is central and the interactive prototype acts as the hub for all ideas. And their conclusion was that designers should think holistically, stop focusing on pages, and focus instead on design and data. All in all, the panelists brought a lot of energy to this presentation and their ideas had their foundation in real-world experience and practical thinking.

Content Analysis: Methods and Mentoring

Presenter: Chiara Fox

“Content analysis is all about patterns and relationships.”

I was initially disappointed in the subject-matter of Chiara Fox’s presentation. I was hoping to find some insights into analyzing the content of a complex Web application, but the focus of this presentation was solely on analyzing the content of a Web site. However, I spoke with another attendee afterward who thought the presentation was great and met all expectations. With that said, Chiara did a great job of explaining a simple, practical process for cataloging Web sites. She detailed three primary deliverables: the content audit—a sampling of content that gives its flavor; the content inventory—a meticulously detailed accounting of everything on a Web site; and the content map—a graphical representation of a site. She included real examples and walked through the steps for creating each deliverable. She then discussed the analysis phase that follows data collection and described what she does with the information she’s collected. Content analysis is all about patterns and relationships. Interestingly, Chiara used Microsoft Excel to record her data and produce many of the deliverables. Ironically, this made me think she knew what she was doing; more often than not, fancy tools don’t get you much further than a basic spreadsheet.

IA: Not Just for the Web Anymore

Panelists: Dan Brown, Seth Earley, James Melzer, James Robertson, and Lou Rosenfeld

“The … challenges of Enterprise Information Architecture deal with an enterprise’s overall information management strategy.”

This presentation was really about getting IA out of the closet by applying its methods to the strategic problems that face the C-level executives running an enterprise. Far beyond issues of just Web content alone, the applications and challenges of Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) deal with an enterprise’s overall information management strategy and require input from and collaboration across many different areas of expertise, including record management and data standardization. Of all the sessions I attended, this was the least practical and rightly so. EIA is cutting edge, a big chunk to bite off, potentially extremely valuable, and requires progressive thinking and evangelism, which is what this group of presenters was all about.

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