I have just gotten back from a jam packed weekend of presentations and drinking in Sydney at the annual Oz-IA conference. Information Architecture is a relatively new industry, however there was a good turn out with people not only coming from Sydney, but also Canberra, Perth, London, New York, New Zealand, and even Canada with about 120 attendees in total.
There isnâ€™t much of a web development industry in Townsville and even less of a community for information architecture specialists, so it was really good to get out and meet people with the same interests.
One of the key presentations that got everyone talking was Rashmi Sinha from SlideShare who talked about ten things that they learned by using agile design methods when developing SlideShare. Information Architecture usually requires a lot of research, planning and testing, however they took an entirely different approach and it appears to have worked well for them. I hadnâ€™t previously heard of SlideShare, but put simply, they are an online sharing site for slideshow presentations. People can upload their PowerPoint presentations which can then be tagged and shared easily through the online medium.
Some of my other favourite presentations (in no particular order) included:
Designing sites people love â€“ balancing emotion with business reality
Discussed the recent revamp of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Australian newspapers) websites including their reasoning for the new layout and changes in content focus. I visit smh.com.au everyday and didnâ€™t really like the redesign when I first saw it, but it has since grown on me, and after seeing the presentation, I could understand why they have done what they have, and I think that it should be beneficial for users in the future.
Is length still an issue?
This was a well backed up presentation discussing whether it is still important for content to be â€˜above the foldâ€™. Was really nice to see a bit of the research that has been done, and in my opinion, length isnâ€™t so much an issue anymore, with most users realising that they need to scroll to see the full extent of a page, but of course like most things this depends on the context of the page. If you are a news media website with a lot of content and articles, you need length to get all the information to your users. If you are a small business with a single product, you might be able to fit everything you need to say/show on one page. Overall good presentation, that was well backed up with research.
Analysing quantitative data
One of the most brain-intensive presentations of the whole weekend, but Steve has a very fun approach to keep users interested. At first I wasnâ€™t really sure where he was going, and as I have previously done some studies regarding statistics, it wasnâ€™t too much new information, and found myself drifting off a bit, but at the end it all came clear (and intriguing) and enticed me to want to learn more. Would have been nice to see a bit more as to what algorithms can be used in what situations etc, but I think I heard a rumour that Steve might be writing up a paper on this so I look forward to hearing more .
Love in an elevator â€“ selling the value of IA to business
This was a fun presentation, with lots of pictures to help us all wake up from the after lunch slum. Now to convince my boss that information architecture is important…
Get out your pinking shears, itâ€™s time to cut a few patterns
I had heard a bit about patterns, and worked with programming patterns in Java, but I hadnâ€™t really done (or considered doing) patterns for design. This was a real eye opener for me. I have had the book Designing Interfaces: Patterns for effective iteration design on my Amazon wish list for quite some time, but hadnâ€™t really considered it a priority book. But after hearing Sharon explain what patterns are and what they can do, I am very interested to learn more. Expect to hear some more about patterns in the future.
Exploring multidimensional tagging frameworks
As far as I am concerned tags are great. I expected to get a bit more out of this talk, but overall it was good to get an idea of where tags might be heading in the future.
Semantic analysis in IA
Interesting presentation showing how linguistics and semantics to make information machine-readable.
Ethical issues and information architecture
Any talk by Donna is going to be good, and this was no exception. Was good to see some insight to the way she works, and provide some generalistic guidelines for what we should and shouldnâ€™t do.
Open your mind â€“ map it
I donâ€™t really use mind maps, Iâ€™m more of a lists kind of person, but it was interesting to see some of the cool stuff you can do with mind mapping software. Definitely made me want to try it out (especially the functionality to turn it into a report later).
What else did I get out of this weekendâ€¦?
- Met lots of new people with similar interest groups
- Learned a bit more about the Information Architecture industry in Australia
- Got to see the sights of Sydney and do a little bit of shopping
- All the walking around (and the early mornings) got me a bit more motivated to start jogging again… maybe tomorrow I shall start again, but we will see.
- Potential opportunities to move south to improve my experience and job opportunities. There appears to be quite a bit of work available down here, and it wasnâ€™t as cold as I imagined it might be.
- Joined twitter