Shaping stories around real world interactions

Whether in narrative form, a more visual storyboard, personas and scenarios, or even sprint user stories,  it's easier to first break down real world problems or goals than to showcase UI controls, navigation frameworks or abstract models.

Simple, straightforward and well told stories are great for:

  • Generating buy in for change initiatives then later scoping or modelling the desired scale of change
  • Comparing different perspectives on a problem in design meetings or client - agency presentations
  • Exploring alternative user journeys or interaction flows for a given site
  • Workshops that bring design concepts to life exploring and understanding new opportunities

Interaction stories and design directions or opportunities can be verbalised or visualised without cutting off opportunity by defining too much too early. The right balance of words to pictures will depend on your team and your audience. 

Platform-agnostic content planning, prototyping 

From Ethan's primer on how to apply responsive design to Luke's description of better performance through responsive design with server side components, articles abound on how to design for multiple devices, user agents and screen resolutions. Responsive and adaptive front end techniques & tricks evolve daily. Guidelines, principles and patterns play catch up. Content can often share the same communication goals across Print, Web, Mobile and Apps whilst the experience of that content needs to flex and adapt. Information wireframes, showing the content priorities first before new design look and feel are a quick, practical way to concept or visualise rough impressions of a service across multiple platforms and devices. Interactive prototypes can visualise navigation models, search and filtering opportunities. 

Architecture, Search and Discovery

Information Architecture and Natural Search Optimisation can both be about pinning down subject matter. Improve indexing for findability, implement logical paging, paragraph and heading structures, determine which content types should go where, de-duplicate and remove ROT.  Typically, user-centered design fosters good practice for indexing at the top of search engines. Occasionally you come across a site where the implications of IA overhauls versus content strategies or better labelling efforts are trickier to predict. I've worked on tactical improvements to natural search, not just site redesigns and am interested in how best to model and predict the future impact of design changes on findability and conversion. 

These principles can all work but the challenge is clearly communicating and reaching agreement on the action plan that should take precedence, where different measures yield contrasting rationale or insight:

  • Determine the structure that works best for people, then consider how and what to optimise for search
  • Use sharing APIs and social platforms to propagate content
  • Increase link authority with editorial or meaningful current content worth linking to
  • Consider implications for content types, not just content topics
  • Refine and update XML sitemaps
  • Use use rel=canonical to identify duplicate content
  • Provide real transcripts for You Tube, don't rely on guestimate auto-captions - they can often tell a completely contrary story 

Re-integrating words, pictures and movement

Information Architecture project work can describe a better framework for managing multiple streams of content or re-consider how to present or reframe information in a more contextual, personalised or just a more straightforward, user focused manner. A good framework is imperative when working with large and frequently changing bodies of content. However, dissociating the framework from content that will flow into it too much can separate out different kinds of media unnecessarily.  Telling a story with carefully integrated combinations of words, pictures and movement can make it feel more alive and more meaningful but too rigid templating forces unnatural separation of images,  copy and animations. 

Interconnected global but local sites and services

I follow  W3C's Internationalization working group  and am interested in how we can design services for multiple territories or locales more carefully and strategically. From Global Facebook pages to site localisation strategies and from  the impact of language & lexicon on brand interpretation to managing left-right to right-left languages for translation, I've worked on the IA and customer experience challenges that are brought about by working multi-nationally. I'm interested in shaping  a set of considerations for planning multi-locale sites and digital platforms as well as recommending pragmatic approaches for managing both editorial and commerce across locales.