partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

Will the Real Dan Brown Please Stand Up?


Yesterday, Dan Brown, User Experience Lead with Computech, came to my “User Interactions with Information Systems” class to discuss “A Day in the Life of…” Dan offers over a decade of related experience and has his hands in many things, including:

The remainder of this post outlines my interpretation of some of the ideas Dan discussed. Please see Dan’s post to view source materials and documentation from yesterday’s presentation.

Dan first emphasized that 50% of his time is focused on client management. As such, he provides a service, not a product. He differentiated between the following related persons:

  • Clients – party responsible for paying for services
  • Customers – party responsible for receiving the services
  • Stakeholders – party with a vested interest

With an IA-mind for classification, Dan breaks down his daily responsibilities into the following categories:

Information Gathering (33%)

Information gathering consists of interviews, research on client competitors and includes:

  • Information about the client – product, people in organization, organization’s governance, business processes, products, mission, goals, culture, what they think about their customers
  • Information about the client’s customers – how the system fits with what the users want, personas, research on the organization’s customer base

Brainstorming (33%)

Brainstorming consists of whiteboards, user models (personas), reviewing requirements, determining constraints, system feel and look.

Documentation (33%)

Documentation means IAs must turn ideas into something presentable (visual, brief) by following these processes:

  • Capturing – format to capture and communicate each idea, but be careful not to lose the detail in translation
  • Sharing – allow others to add their ideas. Ideas are a springboard for more ideas. Don’t be married to your own ideas. Create documents that invite feedback
  • Refining – creating documents and deliverables is an iterative process. Refine your documents after receiving new ideas and feedback
  • Presenting – Have detail ready, but Dan emphasized the need to be able to distill information into a consise presentation

Constructing Personas – Keep This in Mind

Dan brought up some good points about understanding the user that might interface with a web site. He indicated that before IAs create personas, they should first address the following questions:

  • What are the needs of people who might visit the site?
  • Why do people show up at the site?
  • What tasks do users need to accomplish at the site?
  • What are the users’ goals and objectives?

What is an Information Architect?

I asked Dan if he felt that an Information Architect might have responsibilities beyond traditional distillation of information for an information system or web site. Part of the motivation for my question stemmed from a thread on Lou Rosenfeld’s site. Dan indicated that information architecture is more than just structuring the information that will be presented on an information system or web site. He affirmed my suggestion that an Information Architect might also be someone who maps the information resources of an organization, even if some of this information never translates itself into an information system or web site.

Thanks to Dan for taking the time to evangelize the profession to those of us who are interested in this profession.

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Dan on August 5, 2005 AT 09 am

To be clear, Vera had my credentials a little inflated. I did not start DCIA, though I since have become very involved. Our local professional group was the brilliant invention of Stacy Surla, Marcy Jacobs, and Meg Peters, among others.

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