You at the IA Summit—on Us

by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

48 Reader Comments

Back to the Post
  1. From a stakeholder - what is #IA? We don’t need that…
    To the project team that asks the Business Analyst or Designer to design a feature and “not to worry how the user will access it.” IA is at the core of how our users interact with the awesome features we put in our products and websites.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. I’ve always believed that the best designers in our profession are able to bridge big-picture thinking with hands-on work. User experience is an encompassing field that includes research, strategy, information architecture, interaction, and visual design.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. Oooo, yes, please.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. I am the online content editor for a collegiate website in the middle of a redesign. I’m really interested to know how we can use IA, UX, responsive design and content creation to maintain a site that makes sense to 17- and 18-year-olds but still satisfies the academic needs of our faculty and administration. I’m fairly new to this job (and these concepts) but I know there has to be a happy medium, and I’m determined to find it.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. I’m trying to help change the online news industry by empowering everyday people and keeping journalists honest through Maater. Maater is a system that acts as a tool to correct inaccuracies and biases in online news articles by leveraging the power of crowdsourcing. Hope this is not too sales-y, but check it out at http://maater.com/
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. I’ve volunteered with the non-profit Girls on the Run program (http://www.girlsontherun.org/) to help them promote their mission and to just give back to an organization in need. I help my local chapter promote their events with print design work, keep their website up-to-date, and provide event photography services as well. I’d love to win the free ticket and take a trip to Baltimore!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. I think that in our current moment in history, the task of making the world a better place includes making the web a better place for its users—and that a good information architect almost always goes some distance towards achieving the latter. I hope I don’t flatter those in our trade by comparing such beliefs to the altruistic passions of architects and industrial designers, automotive crash-test researchers and food-safety investigators. Though they all get paid for their work, the people in these roles must also hope that it leads to some greater good. My work in IA and usability has neither saved a life the way a safe car can nor enriched one quite as much as the best-designed smartphone does (as far as I know). However, I do humbly hold on to the idea that it serves a similar purpose. When we discover order buried in complexity, when we turn confusion into comprehension, we make real lives better. None of us who’s been a heavy user of some site or system through an effective rearchitecting could deny the difference such changes make in our day-to-day experiences of work and leisure. Sadly, we don’t have anything as gratifying as federally compiled automotive safety data; we have only our own usability tests and analytics-crunching and coffee-shop ethnography to help remind us we make a difference. That’s also the value of a conference like the IA Summit: We get exposed to other people who have their own evidence, get to talk to them about how they know. In turn, whether we’re presenting, going for coffee, or just asking good questions from the crowd, we get to help them figure out where they’re headed. And while those connections persist from year to year (thanks Twitter!), there’s no substitute for the in-person dynamism of the conference environment. Hint, hint.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. We web designers, developers and web geeks, we are privileged to have an uncanny ability to navigate one of the World’s biggest and vast resources of info: the Internet. It’s only right. We are the ones that create it, curate it, make lov…uhmmm…you get my point. What I like to do is bring those around me a little closer to a World they may not be able to see clearly. I keep my friends and family, as well as everyone with a web browser, abreast the latest that is happening with Standing Dreams (http://standingdreams.com). I try to keep the site as concise as possible. Music, fashion, tech, cool vids, pics and stuff…it’s all right there for your daily consumption. I feel it’s our job, duty, and rights of passage to ensure that everyone around us “web geeks” know how to utilize the Internet properly and get the opportunity to see what we see and how we see it. Standing Dreams is my attempt at that (as well as being my portfolio and personal outlet.)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. A beautiful website isn’t enough - it must also be usable (and accessible). A user must be able to navigate from point A to point B (and beyond) with complete confidence that they will get there. Now, with desktops no longer the only point of access, we must consider different types of access and use their strengths to give the user the best experince.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. I would fly from Australia for this.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. I am a college student studying computer programming (focusing on Ruby on Rails).  I make a difference by applying my business skills volunteering as “business manager” at a local non-profit.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. I’ve been a Business Analyst for 6 years with a very large logistics/package delivery company. Most of the systems I worked on were mainframe, back-end billing/invoicing systems. Last year, I transferred to the Information Security department and was given the responsibility to re-design our Access and Provisioning application. This is a heavily used, web based application. The original scope of the project was to give the application “a face lift” and make it “prettier”. Being new to the group, and the application, I started to realize that it wasn’t the “look” of the application that was the problem (even though that was pretty drab too). The problem was usability. I am not (or should I say, I wasn’t) a UX designer. Being a BA, I immediately started to document the As-Is process and identified gaps, inefficiencies, and redundancies in the application. There was too much jargon in the content. The work flows were very non-intuitive. If I was struggling to learn how to use the application, what were our users (many of whom are not technical) experiencing? I suggested to my management team that this re-design project needed to be more than a “facelift”. It needed to be a true re-design. It needed to be re-thought from the user perspective, not the application developers perspective (no offense to the many application developers that are UX advocates out there). I also volunteered to be the UX designer and asked the company to send me to UX training and conferences. To their credit, they sent me to Atlanta to attend An Event Apart. The experience was mind blowing. I also attended a 2 day class on UX Design Principles in Boston. Many of the things I had been thinking were being validated by these UX experts. Now, our application redesign has taken on a User Centric approach. We have engaged our users and started to create personas. We are beginning to address our content strategy. We are thinking about things like responsive web design and mobile. We may not be able to achieve all of the things we want with this initial re-design, but I truly feel like I have begun to create a culture of User First in my department. It may not be much, considering how large my company is, but it’s a start.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. Let’s be honest. I work in advertising.  I’m not changing the world by helping sell things.  However, I like to think that outside of my job, I use my time and/or resources to help make a difference.  Volunteering when possible.  Donating when not.  The job pays the bills and enables difference making.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  14. I’m trying to give back to humanity as a whole by using my development skills to tie several knowledge storage and parsing services together in one location. I’m working with a researcher at UCSD to create a way for all human knowledge-based projects to contribute to each other so we can grow and learn as a society much faster. My skills are only so good but the impact they can have is huge!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  15. In the past year, I’ve found that I’ve been cringing at the sound of my own title at my job…Web Designer.  How simple it sounds, almost fanciful and artsy.  My clients, my friends, my family all consider my work to be purely visual. But Information Architecture, User Experience, and Conversion Optimization drive my passion for design.  I care less about how good one of my sites looks, but rather how good it makes someone feel, whether through the small details of microcopy, the ease of navigation, or the accessibility of the content.

    While I could list of a half dozen of the nonprofits I’ve volunteered my skills or provided consultation, I’d like to think that the most important work I’ve done as a Web Designer is to make my small corner of the Internet a happier place.  
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  16. Before I got into user-centered-design and its ilk, I worked with college students.  Back then, it was very easy to understand how my work changed the world… one person at a time. Now that my work is a lot less community-focused, I struggle with understanding how what I do makes the world a better place.  Easier to navigate and understand?  Or course.  But better?  I can only hope.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  17. I believe some of the underpinnings of design thinking -  in particular, active listening, building empathy and understanding, and collaborating on solutions - have a lot to offer humankind in general. I’ve been experimenting with articulating and sharing a lot of what I’ve learned - not just for a design audience, but outside it.  You can see some of that at my blog, zhaus.quora.com Speaking is the arena I have my sights on, once I get my ‘voice’ down as a writer.  I understand that the IA Summit is a place many speakers get their start - and where I hope to get mine when ready. I believe it’s important to share our ideas so that together we have a higher chance to succeed. I hope that I can attend the conference to partake in that.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  18. I think it’s really easy to caught in the details. Check this off the list of tasks and tickets. Implement that feature. I’ve been wanting to grow beyond the daily trenches of implementation and get a chance to see the bigger picture. I’ve seen those same blurring of lines with friends who are IAs or UX professionals. Those particular problem solving skills can be applied across the board, because they’re ultimately about framing the problem at scale.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  19. I’ve had a strong interest in usability and user experience since my college days in the early 2000s.  The class I most looked forward to was human-computer interaction, which I was finally able to take in my last semester, spring 2006.  In light of my local job market, I pursued jobs in programming rather than in my much stronger interest, usability. I spent a little over 5 years as a software developer.  In my last 3 projects, I looked forward to my front-end design - not because it was easier from a coding perspective, but because it had the biggest and best difference on our products’ users.  Each of these teams had brilliant programming minds who, when they were given design work, talked about “the user” as a reflection of themselves and built interfaces that pleased them.  Each company’s sales suffered as a result.  In this environment, I always had a usability-related book on my desk and championed the cause of our real users in organizations that did not embrace UX.  I also performed my front-end design work with an attitude of always leaving the interface cleaner and more professional when my tasks were done. Last year, I left my previous company.  Wanting to relocate in the next 1-2 years, I decided that starting my own company would be the best path and allow me to best budget my spare time to work with charities.  Several changes in strategy later, I’m now working on becoming the amusement industry’s go-to UX consultant/designer within the next several years. I’m currently working on five projects, all volunteer.  I have enough income from one-off projects on the side to pay the bills, but not really any spending money yet.  One of the projects is a redesign of my own site using Zurb Foundation 4.  Three of my other projects are with the same client, which operates a network of fansites for theme parks throughout the eastern and middle US.  The redesigns aim to really raise the bar for roller coaster fan clubs and make them appeal more to the general public. I’m also redesigning my church’s website.  We recently lost our pastor, and many of our members left with him.  I took a 2-month break from that redesign after that happened to focus on helping them stay afloat (I am a deacon there) and then resumed it.  The church has been around for 2 1/2 years, but its original website never got done.  So I took on that project as a pro-bono side project to help our community become more aware of our church.  I could sum myself up as someone who is actively trying to make a difference using UX design, both in my main target industry and for nonprofits that want to have a positive effect on their communities. I’ve been learning quite a bit from each project, blogging about it at http://dalandanconcepts.tumblr.com, and tweeting about it at @DalandanUX.  (By the way, I signed up for ALA via Twitter; email: dalandanconcepts [at] gmail.) I am currently local to Baltimore and quite interested in attending the IA Summit.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  20. I work at a major research university (Emory) where I’ve gradually been able to introduce user-centered design, and I think it’s having a great amount of impact on the way web stuff is built there, which in itself has a potential impact on medicine, public health, the college experience of undergrads, etc. Outside that, I try to share my skills with non-profits, innovative faith communities, and so on. Certainly I help them think about their web efforts, but introducing them to design thinking also helps them think further about what they do and why they do it and how to do it better.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  21. The Boys & Girls Club in my area has an annual competition to honor the young leaders in their programs. As part of the competition, the youth must give a speech. This year, I had the chance to volunteer as a speech coach. I spent a few afternoons listening to a high school senior tell her story of overcoming personal struggles associated with her father’s death and living with twin sisters that have autism. I also got to hear her dreams of a future career that allows her to help others. I helped her identify common themes and a great structure that could appropriately contain the details of her amazing stories. Then I sat by her side while she typed away at the keyboard bringing her speech to life. I’m happy to say that she won the local Boys & Girls Club competition and received $15,000 in college scholarships!! Now she has gone on to the state competition. I got into this type of work because I believe that stories are powerful and I want to help others tell their story. It was an amazing experience to see that belief once again proven true.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  22. These comments are fantastic. Thank you so much!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  23. I work full time in IT but I volunteer almost the rest of my time to work on websites (and do graphic desgn) for a small number of different GLBT and other non-profit oganizations. I’ve been able to re-design their websites so they are accessible on mobile devices and I’ve found a passion for IA/UX. I learn a little bit from everything I do and I’m always trying hard to learn more and to get better (and truthfully I am trying to get into IA/UX as a career). Part of what inspires me is knowing I’m making a difference. After releaseing a new responsive website design for one of my orgs, I actually had someone say “Thank you! Thank you for making this site work on my phone. We can’t afford internet access at our house so all I have is my phone and so for me mobile websites are really important.” I read about the stats (I read everything /laughs) and I know how fast mobile access is growing, but it was incredible to hear that comment for myself - it really hit home and made me feel like the little bit that I do really does make a difference. I’ve been designing websites and other print media since 2007 and I’ve always been obsessed with the end user’s experience with my designs. Turns out IA/UX is a passion I’ve had for a long time - I just never knew it had a name.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  24. I can honestly say day in day out I’m contributing and dedicating my time to a good cause outside of my discipline. I like giving my time to helping. Be it volunteer for the habitat for humanity or package 100K plus meals for kids in Kenya, East Africa. If its labor intensive count me in. Although, I’m not new to UX, I’m fairly new to IA. I would really appreciate the opportunity to attend. Thanks for doing this KMH.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  25. Luckily, years in design (and oddly, art school) teach you a lot of things you can use to make the world better. Here’s a few things I do/have done, that make me feel like more than just my day job: • Lots of work for a kick-ass NGO that educates people in resource-poor places to become community health workers and care for and educate their neighbors. This is a case where design actually saves lives, which is gratifying. • In my own community, I built a giant camera obscura out of a local landmark building and invited people to come and learn about photography on the most fundamental level—and have their photo taken by the building. It’s an art, project, yeah, but art + science + community = good stuff. • This past winter I volunteered to mentor a team of urban farmers working on food justice issues as they went through a start up accelerator program. Years helping businesses to communicate (through design, on the web, etc.) have taught me a lot, and it felt good to pass on a lot of these ways of thinking and organizing and communicating to these two awesome farmer women. They won some money in their final pitch and are now now building an urban farm in a low/mixed-income area, building community vegetable gardens and doing a lot of education around nutrition and food accessibility. I don’t know much about farming, but it was so cool to work with these guys and help them get their message out! Those are what pops into my head first. Good question! Thanks!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  26. I’ve tried to make the world a better place by making the things I work on easy to use so that the people using them can focus on the task at hand and not deciphering the interface. So, for example, a professor using a library website can find the research they need. My efforts also include starting a local chapter of IxDA, helping local non-profits improve their websites,  and talking with anyone who will listen about the many ways each of us can improve the world by thinking about the people who use the things we make, regardless of the discipline.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  27. First off, I loved reading everyone’s comments. We are aiming to leave our mark on the world in a good way, and I love it. Here’s what I’m up to: Designing a conference website dedicated to facilitating a discussion about the face of philanthropy. We are hoping to reach the millennials and impact their thoughts on giving of their time, talents, and money, etc. Working for a foundation giving my time to companies (mostly non-profits) in need for “pro bono”. Giving financially to the local Boy & Girls club, and supporting children there. Supporting local initiatives such as giving away my fancy formal wear to girls in need of prom dresses in the local area. :)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  28. I support http://letsdoitworld.org/ in my country. It is a civil society movement of taking stewardship of the place we call home - our regions, our country, our world. This is the action for clearing waste locations: by mapping and cleaning up the waste littering our countryside, as well as for raising awareness for proper waste management.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  29. Last year was the first time I attended the IA Summit.  What struck me was how many types of thinkers there were. Some attendees are extremely visual, some are excellent verbal communicators, some are team managers and some are more analytic and organizational.  Most surprising was how often the conference asked us to think about the moral and social implications of our work.  I’m just beginning to see how these varied minds can come together and produce greater good.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  30. I work as a ux consultant and began working in this field in order to help improve the daily life of workers around the world. Having a seamless experience with software is the most important thing we can do to increase the efficiency of humans as well as discovering our own pitfalls. Robotics and computers are the future of human civilization and the ability of humans to interface with those systems is the key to advancing innovation and our understanding of our world .
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  31. IA - in various forms - has been a passion of mine since I was very young. Perhaps it was growing up in a chaotic large family that led me to try to impose order and structure around me. The first system I learned, I recall vividly, Myers-Brigg Personality Typing. It opened my eyes to the potentials of various personalities and especially my own.
    I’ve been working the web development field for over a decade. In the various positions I’ve held, I’ve always evangelized good design, tried to spark interest in this in others, and often mentored other developers on my team. My slogan has been, “to the user, the application IS the interface”.
    I’ve always been fascinated with business systems and in my career have helped various businesses streamline their processes through web and data projects.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  32. Information should be “accessible” and available to everyone. I always wanted this to be true so I worked in an initial prototype to help handicap children with hearing loss to improve their speech in a fun way hoping to break a little bit the barrier between these two worlds: the minimum and full hearing!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  33. I’ve spent so many years explaining to people that they’re not ‘stupid’, it’s the design of the app they are using that is making them frustrated. The more work we do in this field, the less barriers there will be to people achieving their goals, and the happier we will all be.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  34. I’ve planned a lot of community events & conferences that went a lot more smoothly as a result of UX experience—everything from curation to wayfinding to content strategy to a planning a fun party where meaningful relationships are formed. In particular, organizing two TEDx events was a great way to create a platform for world-changers to spread their ideas far and wide and raise awareness for their cause. In addition to that, I’ve put my facilitation skills to work helping with a variety of design thinking workshops:
    - encouraging high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods to identify and improve problems in their community with technology & mobile apps
    - gathering community leaders in the civic / maker / hacker community to brainstorm ways to increase engagement and participation in the Schuylkill River trail system
    - helping a major City department begin the processing of creating an Institute to share their nationally recognized environmental initiatives on a larger scale Client work & volunteer work play off of each other nicely, and taking the time out to absorb what your peers are inspired by keeps the momentum going. I’d love to be at IA Summit this year!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  35. Will this comment be my golden ticket to Baltimore?! Either way, keep rawkin’!!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  36. magic, lightning bolts, words, structures: use your powers for good #ux
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  37. Just did a complete redesign for a client that brought up questions about their application processing. This lead to a conversation about revising their policy, procedures, and ranking order because the information was directly relevant to what was being posted to applicants. Therefore, while my task was mostly design related, it led to a greater conversation about they organization’s structure and practices for the better. It’s my hope that it opened lines of communication on that team, in addition to delivering what the client asked of me.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  38. The huge county community college I used to work at did not consider their students to be the primary audience of their website - thus the site was designed for “all things to all people”. I made it my mission during my time there to re-organize and redesign the website to focus on and help these first-generation college students get the information they needed to succeed. I designed and executed testing for the student audience with my team, adopting student terminology for navigation, and giving them a voice in the process. It was never easy, and always political, but it was important. I have since left the organization, but I’ll always be proud that I helped in some small way.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  39. My profession is librarianship. Most of my day to day is spent working on our website and designing marketing materials. In between times though, I get to work with patrons. So far I’ve taught social media to a local business that is fighting to stay competitive, broke down HTML and CSS for parents who want to learn how to code and teach it to their children, and helped a veteran rediscover a land and long-lost comrades he left behind decades ago via digitizing his slides. So while my title is to be a user experience librarian, my real job is helping people succeed. What success is to each person differs, but the crack of a smile on someone’s face when they finally get it—that’s when I know I’ve transformed someone. (I tried to create an ALA account, but the website kept timing out)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  40. I need the networking opportunities IA Summit represents, and also the topics being presented pertain to my work. I am doing a project to increase the number of free accessible WordPress themes: Cities. We need more theme teams. We also need more people engaged in helping to make WordPress accessible. If you have even an hour to devote to improving a great open source resource please join us. Also please follow @WPAccessibility.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  41. Cannot admit to changing the world in a big way, but feel that I have helped a lot of people look at their issues with navigation, search and other information seeking problems just through casual conversations.  For example: my niece works in HR at a large biotech co. She was expressing extreme frustration at how she & her co-workers were overwhelmed with requests for a certain form every year at this time (tax time) when the form is “easily findable on the intranet”. She kept referring to the form by name - the HR dept name - which was some random string of letter and numbers.  I pointed out that the form name sounded pretty random to me and is that the same name people use when they call and email about the form? She said no, they call it the form for dependents or children. I asked what the form was called on the intranet and could see the lightbulb go off in her head. I have a lot of stories like this over the years of talking to people outside of the workplace -  frustrations for them that would be pretty obvious to us with a little context.  I guess that besides giving some insight with these small “unofficial” conversations, we are also widening our potential audience. (Like Amanda - I tried to create an ALA account, but the website kept timing out)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  42. Second attempt to post after the site timed out. I hope I’m as eloquent as I was first time around. Over the past 17 years, I’m mentored and guided younger practitioners. Recently I’ve switched from crushing sacred cows on twitter to speaking at community events. Getting our work actually implemented and changing the world seems to be the biggest challenge we face. This year I’m helping designers actually get their work implemented, teaching influence and persuasion techniques that have served me well.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  43. I’ve been working on a mobile app to promote ridesharing by connecting users in a given city.  The initial research we did showed that commuters are concerned about the environment, but often not enough to seek out greener commuting options.  By lowering barriers to ridesharing and carpooling, we hope to promote more conscious commuting (less traffic would be a nice side effect too, though!). I’m relatively new to the field of UX, but IA is near the heart of what I’m most passionate about in improving products and experiences, and I would love the opportunity to attend this conference.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  44. would love to go!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  45. We have a winner: commenter #27, Tammy Greene! Thank you to everyone who entered—and who posted such thoughtful responses. Hope a few of you find a way to make it to the Summit anyway!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  46. Spaculus is one of the leading Website Development Company from India. We are 5 years old website design, Development and Internet Marketing services provider Company. We are master in website development in Core PHP, Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, Prestashop, Cake php, ASP.Net etc.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  47. I’d really love to attend, and thanks for the offer. I’m about an hour from Baltimore. We develop websites and try to stay current on what interaction and usability designers are doing. I missed the 3/19 deadline for a freebie by quite a bit and I’m sure you must have already announced the lucky winner, but I will try to attend nevertheless. I love ALA for articles like this, not just your long-form tutorials. Thanks for being such a great resource to the community.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  48. Isn’t there an axiom that the design of a piece of software reflects the structure of the organization creating it? So it’s no wonder that organizational issues often show up as IA issues. The question, Why doesn’t our site have a single point of contact with the client? turns out to be another way of saying, Why does our process require two groups to contact the client rather than one? By raising questions like this, the IA person can sometimes be the catalyst for (usually small-scale) organizational change. Let’s not get cocky, though. When the focus shifts from wireframes and taxonomies to process re-engineering, the IA-ers are not likely to be in charge, nor (usually) should they be. But IA-ers and other web professionals can do their own jobs better when they understand how their organization’s characteristics necessarily affect them.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.