Customer Experience and Design

11 Takeaways from World IA Day Los Angeles 2016

On Saturday February 20, 2016, 57 cities in 28 countries all over the globe celebrated an annual meeting of information architects, content strategists, user experience designers, developers and students. This year’s theme was “Information Everywhere, Architects Everywhere.” The thought is that information is pervasive and it is “architected” by people everywhere whether or not they have the “information architect” title.

PerficientDigital was a gold sponsor at the 2016 World Information Architecture Day held in Los Angeles. A group of us including Gideon Banez, Grace Lau, Robert Lee, and Jeff Tang represented the Irvine Perficient office and fielded questions about who Perficient is and what we did as UX architects, or, in Gideon’s case, as a front-end developer. Grace Lau and Jeff Tang were also part of the Los Angeles team of volunteers, helping pull together snacks and refreshments as well as supporting the live stream of the event on YouTube.

This year’s sessions reiterated some old insights as well as introduced some new ways of thinking about design research and information architecture. Here’s a quick rundown from the day’s sessions.

  1. JD Buckley, in her session “A Brave New World: IA Research and Emerging Technology,” reasserted that no matter how much the technology has changed, how products differ from each other, how innovative the experience, they all start from the same model of understanding content, context and users.
  2. Todd Masilko, in his session “Designing for Behavior,” introduced the concept of using design storms as three-day multidisciplinary hackathons where the expected outcome are low-fidelity prototypes, sketch models, and scenarios to help think through complicated interactions not limited by screens. The project “captivated by her” is one designstudio experiment inspired by the Spike Jonze film “Her” that pulled themes out of the movie such as intimacy and artificial intelligence and participants developed scenarios through acting. Play studio is another design approach in which students take a behavior and then design for it.
  3. Sensor Salon was an interesting take on wearable technology in the form of sensors installed on nails. Did you see the 3D printed cat on one of the fingers?! Jenny Rodenhouse went through their methodology and insights gathered as they explored the steps of sensor installation and client therapy.
  4. Audience modelling, introduced by Hunter Ochs from Capital Group, was another new take on an abstract type of user research that doesn’t go deep into the persona level of understanding users. Incidentally, it resonated well with me personally as it was an approach we took recently on a major healthcare project for user research recruiting and taxonomy development.
  5. Roel Punzalan talked about his on-boarding experience at ADP to share how effective domain modeling is for complex topics, such as employment taxes. Other lessons he shared are to know the target audience for your design problem and know when the appropriate time is for following standards and doing what you’re told versus being creative.
  6. Burcu Bakioglu provided her background in game research and ethnographic observations of gaming jerks (aka trolls) for conducting effective user research in a big corporation. Trolls are aware of their context and their impact on the game experience to maximize laughs. How could we apply these Art of War principles to user research?
  7. Erik Hanson talked about innovation not being focused on screens and products, but on teams, process, communication, and methods. It’s important to look for the local maximum as the bigger opportunity and understanding the difference between optimization and innovation. He asked what kind of companies are willing to take the risks to innovate. Innovation, he asserted, is not about changing a corporate culture but being able to articulate and bring the voices together to tell stories.
  8. Jod Kaftan and Chris Chandler presented a more philosophical approach to understanding 3 main types of people: the Big No, the Big Shrug, and the Big Yes. These three types explained how people relate to their approach to design work, their solutions, and their work relationships.
  9. My biggest takeaway from Jahmeilah Roberson’s “UX in Gaming” session was this League of Legends login sequence that Riot Games created for their April Fool’s Day prank last year that she used to illustrate her point: “Champion the social and emotional aspects of your product to inspire your audience.” (Please excuse me while I proceed to listen to hours of this as my background work music.) In all seriousness, Jaimeilah’s session provided some key user experience patterns that have been utilized in gaming such as progressive onboarding. “Leverage what users love, address what they don’t.”
  10. Nate Bolt from gave a very moving story of CalFresh’s transformation from an online application form that took 90 minutes to complete to under 11 minutes. He showed us the evolution of design research over the last 60 years and different examples that design research (also known as information architecture) has impacted us.

With celebrations like World IA Day Los Angeles, we get a sense of the broad industries that Southern California represents from financial services to gaming. It was an honor that PerficientDigital was a sponsor for this event so that we can come together and share how Perficient enables information architecture in our projects.
To end this post, let me share this last takeaway with you: the sun is never too far away in Southern California!

About the Author

Grace is an Information Architect at Perficient's Experience Design agency, PerficientXD in drought-ridden, sun-baked Southern California. She received her MLIS from UCLA, where her graduate portfolio focused on information-seeking behavior in online communities, gaming, and communities of practice. Since then, she has 9 years experience working in-house and as a consultant doing both strategic and tactical design. She has worked on large intranets and websites, eCommerce and search systems, a content management system, and a mobile app.

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