and why it matters to you.
Foreward — I’m a bit OCD.
I remember a time in college when I was having trouble with a particular class, and finally started figuring out new solutions after cleaning up my entire apartment one frantic evening. The problem wasn’t that particular class, it was how I had my daily actions and priorities organized. Once I took a step back and examined my life, re-organization became the only logical step. From that day on I remember feeling a new found appreciation for the little things, and I’ll admit, it made me a little OCD.
My daily operation started to change from the smallest level. From how I started putting tags around saved files with dates and version numbers, to classifying content by creating folders seemed to make life more manageable. I no longer had to name a version .FINAL or [email protected]! before I felt burnt-out. I could simply go one version after the next and save them in the same folder, instead of the old messy desktop where nothing was easy to find. I didn’t have to spend more time looking for the basic things in a bottomless pit, which in return made me more productive.
Not too long ago, I started noticing I had too many apps on my iPhone which was cognitively taxing rather than helping me in any way. As I looked for a solution, I first started putting apps in folders in their self defined categories. A short time after that, I realized I didn’t need that many apps in the first place and I kept my selection to a bare minimum of the things that I actually use. I still download apps that I know I won’t use regularly, but I’ll usually check them out to analyze and learn from their design decisions and delete them once I know I don’t have a need for them.
Luck or Architecture?
Besides luck, success is the end result of how we manage our time that brings the most desired outcomes to ourselves and the world around us. Whether we point fingers or blame ourselves at any failed endeavor, the culprit is usually neither, but how the information is accessed and presented in a way that becomes relatable and useful to everyone. That also applies in our daily lives when we are not fully informed or aware, we are quick to fall into assumptions without hypothesizing our case. In the case of this article, it will ultimately be the reader that will determine its reach and its success. In the case of your life, only you can do it.
Google aside, collectively we have the responsibility of sharing the worlds information with each other in an easy to understand manner. How we decide to organize our lives, our thoughts, our choices and our work might very well be the determining factor of our own success and how it will ultimately impact everyone.
For designers, the term Information Architecture (IA) is the holy grail where the design process, the context and it’s content merges with its users and stakeholders to form a cohesive whole. To put it simply, IA is how we organize content in a way that makes the most sense for everyone.
For users, information architecture solves the most basic problems of finding relevant information to us at any given point, in an intuitive way. Whether looking to find brown rice at the supermarket or navigating your way through a busy airport terminal, Information Architects (specialists) or UX generalists, through user research, label (ontology), organize (taxonomy) and present content (choreography) with their users goals in mind so that cognitive load is minimized and everything simply works as expected. The end result of good Information Architecture is transparency between the product and the customer, where there is no visibility of apparent pain points, and information is presented in a clear and structured way.
“An information architect is the individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear.”
-Richard Saul Wurman, Information Anxiety (1976)
When Wurman spoke of Information Architecture he was speaking of ways of organizing systems and not necessarily how we interpret IA in web and product design used today. Wurman narrowed all elements of data to 5 constraints: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category and Hierarchy,
3 – Time:
As digital systems innovation rushed into our lives, such as the first computers or xerox machines, advancements in IA quickly grew with research in the field by companies such IBM and Xerox in the 1970’s. Making sense of large chunks through the systematic organization of information enabled them to become more accessible to all, leading all the way to the discovery of the web.
My personal OCD’s aside, I think any company or user can benefit from a bit of OCD-ness when it comes to good IA.