Chapter 11. Research

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

Zora Neale Hurston

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • Integrating IA into the development process

  • How and why to study people, context, and content

  • Research methods including stakeholder interviews, heuristic evaluations, user testing, and card sorting

In the early days of website design, many companies employed a one-step process called “Code HTML.” Everyone wanted to jump right in and build the site. People had no patience for research or strategy. We remember one eager client asking us in the middle of a planning session, “So when are we going to start the real work?” Fortunately, after several years of painful lessons, there’s a growing realization that designing information environments is hard work and requires a phased approach, such as the one shown in Figure 11-1.

The process of information architecture development
Figure 11-1. The process of information architecture development

Now, you may be thinking, “This looks an awful lot like a waterfall process—and we’re agile!” In the case of information architecture, we believe this to be a false dilemma. Agile processes work best when the team knows the goal they’re reaching for. (“Are we building a cathedral, or a garage?”) Following the process outlined here helps the team understand the big picture that they are building toward. As with other aspects of the design, the information ...

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