World Information Architecture Day 2017: Redesigning the User Experience

On World Information Architecture Day, a one-day annual celebration hosted by the Information Architecture Institute, IA practitioners came together at 58 locations in 24 countries to discuss the trends and technologies reshaping their industry. In keeping with this year’s theme of Information Strategy and Structure, much of the day was focused on rethinking how to architect and manage information to maintain a competitive and organizational edge – both in business and in our everyday lives.

New York City IA Day, hosted by Bloomberg at its headquarters in Manhattan, featured talks focused on such topics as the importance of integrating emotion into user experience (UX) design and the future of user research. “Information Architecture is the most exciting place for us to work,” said Pam Pavliscak, founder and CEO of design research consultancy Change Sciences. “We are building the infrastructure to help organizations make decisions to improve products and services.”

In her opening keynote ‘Toward Emotionally Intelligent Design,’ Pavliscak kicked off the day by imagining a “zero-click” future in which technology has faded into the background and digital interfaces are “clean, pure, rational, frictionless and invisible.” The inherent challenge in creating this vision relates to overcoming the emotional connection we have with technology – for example, we touch our phones countless times each day. So how do IA designers bring the feelings and rich emotional texture of this relationship into the design process?

She urged designers to think about the multitude of ways humans express emotion when considering the technology in new sensors that capture our voice and facial expressions – and even the rhythm of our heartbeat. In her view, emotion is both grounded in our personal well-being and is part of a broader social context. The complicated – and sometimes messy –components of our personalities must be connected to technology.

In a presentation entitled ‘Designing Teams for Emerging Challenge,’ Aaron Irizarry, director of user experience at Nasdaq, spoke about the need to create a framework to help UX design teams adapt to fast-changing technologies and consumer attitudes.

For her part, Shannon McGarity, director of user experience at Cooper, a design and business strategy consultancy, focused her talk entitled ‘Leading Creative Ideation’ on ways to inspire design teams to “unlock a fresh wave of ideas.” Noting that there’s more than one “right way” to design, McGarity encouraged participants to explore different tools and methods in their process. “Ideation makes innovation possible,” she said. “It opens doors to new connections, insights and perspectives.”

The event was also an opportunity for Bloomberg to showcase its growing expertise in UX design. With a team of more than 100 working on the company’s financial products, including interaction designers, visual designers, prototypers, UX researchers, consistency reps and technical writers, Bloomberg is “one of the premier UX design shops in the city,” said Anthony Viviano, a UX designer at the company, who also helped organize the New York IA Day event.

Information architecture has long been central to Bloomberg’s mission. “We take a ton of raw data that’s out there and help turn it into meaningful information that makes our customers smarter and more successful,” explained Fahd Arshad, head of UX design for financial products. “UX design problems are not unique to our Bloomberg world. We participate in the greater UX community because it’s mutually beneficial. We learn and share how common UX methods can be applied across various products and user populations.”

In his closing keynote entitled ‘Beyond Research,’ Louis Rosenfeld, founder of Rosenfeld Media and co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute, suggested the future of user research will advance beyond the current methods of observing and understanding user behaviors, needs and motivations. While companies and organizations today agree that user research is a must-have, he said the field remains too narrowly focused, biased and disconnected from other types of research.

Rosenfeld believes the key challenge is synthesizing all the information, data and observations discovered through user research to discover new insights. That synthesis will require greater collaboration between the many “teams and tribes and users and approaches” involved in the process.

“We accumulate so much data, but we don’t have the quality we should have,” he noted. “We won the battle, but there’s still so far to go.”