Driving Knowledge-Worker Performance with Precision Search Results [Webcast]

Driving Knowledge-Worker Performance with Precision Search Results
Earley & Associates

This recent webcast from Earley & Associates on search based applications caught my eye for two reasons.  First, I greatly respect this organization. It consults and coaches on taxonomies, IA, and search solutions, and I have benefited from their webcasts over the years.  Secondly, I was just wrapping up a series of posts on search, and this nicely illustrated many of the things I had been talking about.

The webinar starts by explaining how the nature of solutions for knowledge workers has changed over the years due to changes in technology, a more sophisticated understanding of information, and a richer understanding of knowledge worker goals and what success looks like to them.

These are elaborated in subsequent sections.  I particularly liked the material on componentized content and structured authoring. Unlike adding metadata externally to a document,  this provides internal structure based on the semantics of the document, allowing pieces to be created, searched for and retrieved at a more granular level than the entire document.

The webcast finishes with two cases studies that both talk about delivering information to knowledge workers how and when they need it, though detailed analysis of the user goals, tasks and information resources available.

These are leading edge solutions, and give those of us who are more mainstream a mouth-watering glimpse of treats in store.

Designing The Search Experience [Book]

Designing The Search Experience: The Information Architecture of Discovery
Tony Russell-Rose & Tyler Tate

This is an excellent and stimulating book!  I recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how people search, and who strives to exploit this understanding in their solutions design.

The first part of the book, a Framework for Search and Discovery, is a well-referenced presentation of some behavioural attributes of information seekers, and different ways that they interact with information. It introduces concepts such as information scent, information foraging, and sensemaking, and follows this with sections on context and search modes.

This section has been consciousness-raising.  I have kept the framework in mind as I observed myself interacting with a variety of search tools; it has proven valuable in articulating my own behaviours and identifying how well (or not) my search tools support (or could support) these behaviors.

The second part of the book, Design Solutions, provides a wealth of attractively presented examples of user interfaces showing how the insights from the first part have been applied.  Some of the examples expose design decisions that we see every day in our experience with the large search engines. Others describe search interfaces that push(ed) the envelope in different directions.  Some of these no longer exist in the form presented.  Some no longer exist. But the ongoing struggle for improved search experiences is well represented.

So is this book for you?  If you’re looking for a paint-by-numbers book, afraid not. The struggle for improved search experiences is the theme of the entire book, and the authors are thoughtful practitioners and part of this ongoing struggle. If you share some of those characteristics, need to contribute in this space, and are looking for a quick journey to the leading edge, you will benefit greatly from this book.

By the way, from a coverage point of view, most of the examples come from search engines or consumer facing sites.  I personally work a lot in creating solutions for knowledge workers within an organization. The ideas presented in this book still apply.  In fact, with the ability to access our users, and the opportunity to define information structures tailored to their goals, I suspect we can meet their needs very convincingly.

Nice job!

There is a third part to the book on Cross-Channel Information Architecture which I haven’t read yet.





Content Everywhere [Book]

Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future Ready Content
Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Now here’s a book that I loved reading.  Lots familiar, lots new.

The author’s thesis is that the “content = web page” model is no longer the only approach to delivering content, and that you need a content strategy if you want content to be repurposed, in whole or in part, in different places within your organization, and even outside it.  Oh, and by the way, here’s how to do it.

A lot of the book talks about breaking content down into smaller chunks that can be managed and deployed in new and useful combinations.  Most IAs who have been a business analyst or developer will understand the concepts and the lightweight notation used.  And team members on the content or visual design side will pick it up easily enough.

The strength is in the examples.  Although not presented this way, they comprise a set of case studies that it is well worth studying and assimilating.

Other sections of the book talk about how to repurpose content in a varity of ways, including discussions of markup, and responsive and adaptive design from the content perspective.  Especially interesting to me was the discussion of web API, linked data, and mashups.  I knew the concepts but hadn’t realized just how far they had come.

I thoroughly recommend this book. I found myself Googling many of the examples and references, making it a much broader (a.k.a. later night) learning experience than I first anticipated.

Excellent job!

Pervasive Information Architecture [Book]

Pervasive Information Architecture: Designing Cross Channel User Experiences Andrea Resmini & Luca Rosati

The jury is still out on whether this is a brilliant book or not, but there is no doubt it is a very different one.  The authors are Italian IA practitioners and academics, trying to give us principles to deal with cross channel experiences.  These are experiences where multiple channels are needed to fulfil  a user`s needs, for example, seeing a TV ad for a product, doing product reviews, checking availability locally, and picking the product up at a store.  How can we design the set of touch points so that they hang together as a recognizable coherent experience.

The authors are trying to give us a vocabulary to do this.  They compare the task with the evolving languages of urban design and film, and the ability of the inhabitants of cities and audiences of films to understand new constructs.

We are not there yet. The authors give hints and concepts from many disciplines, such as placemaking, wayfinding, designing services, and the psychology of creating categorization schemes.  Some of these yielded nuggets upon deep reflection, others not at all.

This is definitely not a how-to book, but if you have an intellectual streak, you might enjoy some of the glimpses of what the discipline might contain.

One other thing.  As far as your reading experience is concerned, be warned.  The book is a mix of stories, theoretical concepts, guest contibutions, lovely illustrations, with the authors not in the background at all, but decidedly mugging for the audience,  with wayfinding sometimes a bit difficult, and relevence often not obvious.

So, brilliant or not? You decide.