#ia2012gent: Understanding users in Information Architecture

Last Saturday the first World IA Day was hosted, gathering Information Architects in 14 cities across all corners of the globe. I attended the event in Ghent (in Dutch) where a creative crowd shared their experience and ideas in this field. Information Architecture is the skill of spotting recurring patterns, organizing meaningful categories, giving things names people will recognize and placing information where people can easily find it (The Architects of the Information Age).

Research meets Information Architecture

Allthough I thought I’d be an unusual suspect as a market researcher on an IA event, the reality was far from this. On a daily basis, information architects are trying to get inside the mind of consumers by designing websites, applications and software fitting the mental model of their users. Although empathy and user testing are already integrated in their workflow, there are opportunities to connect with users earlier in the process, to take inspiration from consumers and fail faster.

Understanding users, designing research results

In my presentation I elaborate on how you can collaborate with your consumers instead of just using them as a test panel. Users are very excited to have an impact on the products and services influencing their daily lives and are an essential addition to the project team. During the launch of Yelo for example, Telenet connected with a group of 100 users in an Online Research Community to discuss user experience, improvements, web care and content.

Learning from information architects

There’s a great fit between IA and market research, from recognising patterns and making sense of data to designing research output for maximum impact. My two favourite presentations of #ia2012gent? The story on the mental model of timelines by Wouter Walgraeve was both recognisable and inspirational, providing tips on how to visualise timelines matching the perception of users. Koen Claes shared a refreshing view on User Experience design, explaining why we should not focus on the user experience itself, but on the memory it creates. In shaping memorable and conversational experiences, it’s key to understand how the mind of your user works.
I’m sure #ia2012gent will be remembered as an inspirational event and I’m already looking forward to the next edition.

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