Chapter 22. Models and Making

I always prefer making frames: making context rather than content.


A Fresh Look at Our Methods

THE METHODS WE USE for information architecture—and for design practice generally—are mostly sound and valuable. Attending to context doesn’t mean we throw everything out and start over. In fact, most of our tools and processes are suitable for figuring out context anyway, even if we haven’t been thinking of it that way until now.

Personas, Scenarios, Site Maps, Card Sorts, Journeys, Service Maps, Content Inventories—most of these tend to be focused on the elements they represent—the objects and events—but not as much on the relationships between those elements. We might mention them, but they’re often treated as the negative space between touch-points and interactions, not explicitly analyzed in the foreground.

Additionally, there are assumptions baked into a lot of our methods, models, and documentation. For example:

  • The typical approach to mental-model task analysis—extracting tasks from interview transcripts—not only leaves a lot of the really important context in the transcript, but also doesn’t account for ethnographic observational data and the distortions of user self-reporting.

  • Card Sorts, if considered from an embodied perspective, are really about how people sort words on cards, not how they will find their way through an environment using those labels as infrastructure.

  • Personas tend to identify goals, but as we’ve ...

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