Much progress has been made in recent years with the way websites handle context changes responsively at the page level. Yet we often continue to use a single, static information architecture to express meaning across diverse (and sometimes divergent) contexts. Responsive Information Architectures explores what a more “responsive” IA might look like – and offers some tactics for how to create one.
Just when it seems we’re starting to get our heads around the mobile revolution, another design challenge has risen up fiercer and larger right behind it: the Internet of Things. Just as the challenges of mobile computing were explicitly addressed by responsive web design and adaptive content, we must carefully evaluate our approach to integration, implementation, and interface in this emerging context if we hope to see it become an enriching part people’s daily lives (and not just another source of anger and frustration). Read my take on this in “Architecture, Design, and the Connected Environment,” now up on O’Reilly Radar.
Image by Dan Klyn. Used with permission.
There is an architectural concept called the “kitchen triangle” that I often use in talks and presentations. I use it to point out the difference between arguments and articulations of arguments. The gist of it is this: in order to create an effective kitchen, the sink, the stove and the refrigerator must each be placed no closer than 4 feet to each other, but no further than 9 feet apart. There must also be limited or no traffic through the center of the triangle.
In this example, the triangle is the argument: it presents a solution for how we use space to accomplish a task. It is based on the dimensions of the human body (the length of our arms, of our steps, of our ability to twist and pivot) and on the process of food preparation (which requires, among other things, that access to key areas not be disrupted by household traffic flows).
The articulation of this argument is the design of a kitchen in particular: a kitchen in a Craftsman style home looks very different than the kitchen in my college apartment. Both look different than the kitchen in a hotel room or in a handicap accessible condo. The kitchen argument — the solution for how we use a space to accomplish a task — can be articulated in different ways and still achieve the same result. In fact, in these cases the kitchen argument needs to be articulated in different ways to accomplish the same result. It has to adapt to context to be effective. [Read more...]
Although many designers are loathe to do it (and with good reason), designing with code helps us articulate the various ways in which our content relates to itself. This, in turn, helps us think more pragmatically about the systems we design. Check out my new article “Designing with Code” on UX Booth to learn how (and why).
Much virtual ink has been spilled in the last year or two over the importance of thinking about information design in terms of systems as opposed to thinking of it as a set of carefully laid out maps.
In a 2012 blog post on Embodied Responsiveness, Andrew Hinton observed that “rather than trying to pre-program and map out every possible scenario, we need systems that respond intelligently by the very nature of their architectures.” Stephen Hay (Responsive Design Workflow, 2013) and Sara Wachter-Boettcher (Content Everywhere, 2012) have likewise called out the need to stop thinking about web design in terms of pages and start thinking about it as a system, as a cohesive, interrelated whole.
As each of these authors state in turn, we no longer get to decide who consumes our content on the web, where it is consumed, or in what context it appears. The fixed-width honeymoon of predictable browsers on stationary desktop behemoths is over. Our content and our carefully designed information hierarchies are now popping up everywhere: desktop, phones, treadmills, refrigerators, third-party readers and aggregators, watches, Glass — the list goes on. [Read more...]