Monday, February 28, 2005

If you know you need 53 deliverables...

When I read this story about a Request For Proposals with 53 deliverables specified I wasn't sure what to think about it.

Is the client very smart and do they know exactly what they want? If they really were smart they would have to be very knowledgeable about the process and methods (since they can specify the full list of deliverables necessary) so the question is why can't they create the deliverables themselves?

Is the client moderately smart and have they hired a consultancy to listen to them, help them analyze the problem, and educate them about possible solutions? If so, who came up with the list? Was it the client, or the consultancy? If it was the client, the consultancy must have done a good job educating the client, but apparently not enough to have them create the deliverables themselves. If the consultancy came up with the list, is it a standard list, or one that was tailored to the client?

Or is the client dumb and did they pick the first list of deliverables they found on the Net? (On this note: Congratulations to Boxes and Arrows on being the first hit on Google!)

In my opinion a project team can come up with a list of deliverables only after an assessment study exploring the key areas of risk (probably more deliverables) and known territory (potentially less deliverables), where the risk factor is a combination of unfamiliarity with the client, the solution domain, the technology and of course the users.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A piece of IA pie: little, micro, lite or guerrilla?

Instead of Big IA (excuse me: UX) this time a look at the smaller pieces of the pie.

First we had "little IA" versus "Big IA" from Peter Morville's column "Big Architect, Little Architect" back in 2000. Then last month, implicitly we had to to adopt "micro IA" as opposed to "macro IA" because that's Andrew Dillon's new term for Big IA. And now there's "IA lite" (vs. "IA classic"?), Dave Rogers' nickname for the IA that a webdesigner could learn easily, according to Joshua Kaufman.

The first two adjectives ("little" and "micro") refer to the same activities: deep IA work focussing on structures, search, semantics, metadata, ontologies, taxonomies, or controlled vocabularies.

The third one ("lite") is new, and well chosen I think. I shudder when I think of Lite Beer and similarly so when I think of Lite IA or IA Lite. But part of that is snobbery: Lite Beer has its place in the spectrum of beers and so may IA Lite find a place as well. As I said in "Big IA is now UX":
Related fields, placed in the horizontal line of the T-model, have interests that overlap with our shallow subjects.
IA Lite focusses on these shallow subjects, like navigation, labeling, and layout.

Maybe IA Lite can morph into the IA version of what Jakob Nielsen called Guerrilla Usability:
[..] simplified usability methods [that] can be a way for a company to gradually build up its reliance on systematic usability methods, starting with the bare minimum and gradually progressing to a more refined lifecycle approach.
It's a shame that Guerrilla IA seems to be taken by Lou Rosenfeld to mean something else, otherwise we could use the same words that Jakob used and define Guerrilla IA as:
simplified IA methods that can be a way for a company to gradually build up its reliance on systematic IA methods, starting with the bare minimum and gradually progressing to a more refined lifecycle approach.
Who knows, if IA Lite catches on, maybe one day IA will fall pray to what fellow Design Engaged participant Tom Coates called
"The Mass Amateurisation of Everything"
and we have the IA processes, methods and tools in place so that everybody can be an IA.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Come to Montreal, help break a record!

If you're an Information Architect, (excuse me: UX practitioner) you should come to the IA Summit next month in Montreal, Canada. Judging by the number of people who have registered until now, we should have a great crowd, possibly record-breaking!

Yes, I know it's halfway February and the conference less than 3 weeks from now. That's not my fault, is it? You should have known about this. How? By following these organizations' publications:See you in Montreal, or at the next event!

Friday, February 11, 2005

I want Steve Krug to do my PR

A quote:
[..] there's the feeling that so much of what I do is basically common sense--something that almost anybody should be able to do, to some extent. Of course, people like me who've been doing it for years and years will [probably] always be a little better at it and know more about it (I like the rule of thumb that it takes ten years to become an expert at anything), but I still feel that with some guidance people who are motivated to learn about it can get pretty far on their own.

And they have to. After all, even for companies that can afford to hire a consultant like me, I can't be there every day with everyone on the team as they make the thousands of large and small decisions that affect usability. So even if they hire me, I feel like most of my job is educating people to make the right calls on their own.
(from an interview with Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think!", by Management Consulting News)

That's what I think consulting is about: You listen to clients as they explain their problems, study their context, and educate them about the choices they have to make so they can judge the solutions that will be offered to them on their merits. Oh, and make sure that all the deliverables that you create with them (problem statements, RFPs, requirements documents, sketches of high-level solutions, visionary prototypes etc.) are useful input to those taking the next step.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Taking over the world

If only I could attend Victor's next appearance at which, so he promises, he will "give designers instructions for taking over the world":
[..] moving from user experience practitioner up the ladder and across the organization is easier said than done. Realizing these opportunities becomes possible when we view ourselves as leaders.

Victor Lombardi, a principal at The Management Innovation Group, will discuss how he and others have moved into more influential positions and what steps they took to get there. He will also discuss how to create better teams, processes, and organizations that in turn lead to better design, which will appeal to anyone wondering how to best manage the design process.

In the additions EzGov made to the Rational Unified Process we included work streams for all kinds of designers. The RUP itself has a stream for project managers, but what kind of activties and deliverables would you find in the Design Director's stream, or the SVP of Design's stream?

I am glad that Victor acknowledges that better design processes lead to better design. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk about the other aspects at the IA Summit where two of his partners-in-crime, Christina and Scott (I know he has a blog, but where?), will be talking about "The Business Strategy of Information Architecture" during AIfIA's Leadership Seminar.

Until then, I'll be dreaming about taking over the world...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

NYC declares war on cyclists

As someone who lives in Amsterdam, a city that couldn't function without bicycles, and who is thinking of moving to New York, the following quotes were pretty scary:
So you guys might be interested to hear that I was arrested Friday night for riding my bicycle here in New York City. Yes, you heard me right; I was arrested for riding my bike, IN A BIKE LANE, in Manhattan on Friday night. I was riding during the monthly Critical Mass bike rally, which the city of New York seems to have deemed a criminal activity.
I made it about 4 blocks before I was swarmed by cops on scooters who grabbed me off my bike and put me in handcuffs. Let me make one point particularly clear: I WAS RIDING IN THE BIKE LANE at the time of my arrest. The mass was small so we it wasn't taking up the whole road and everyone was riding off to the side.
(From NYC bicycle abuse by Cameron Marlow)

Maybe I should reconsider my plans for moving there?