ia/recon 4/6: Then a Miracle Occurs

Part Four in JJG's IA Recon discusses the "credibility gap" the field faces - why aren't our informed professional opinions given more weight? One reason suggested by Jesse: our emphasis on research methods instead of actual architecting.

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Wellllll...

...yes and no. I think that the emphasis on research is a factor, but the really important part is what we don't talk about: the creative work that's the missing piece of the IA methodology puzzle. It's tough to sell the idea of architecture when every reference source on architecture methods doesn't talk about architecture at all.

opportunity cost

there is only so much emphasis/attention/face time to go around. Emphasizing research has an opportunity cost - we lose time we could spend talking about architecting instead...So talking about research impacts the amount of energy we have to devote to other things, including architecture itself.

excessive research...

It's hard not to fight fire with fire. Or maybe I mean ire with ire.

At any rate, when faced with a numbers game -- "We need this many users to reach this page because we told the client we'd get that number there" -- it's tempting to produce a sheaf of your own numbers from usability tests, research testing, heuristical analysis, etc. to refute others or back up your own recommendations.

Interesting: when I consulted I didn't feel the need (and was never asked) to produce umpteen research docs "proving" my recommendations. My obsessive collection of testing results really began when I moved to a permanent, in-house (corporate) position....

What the title means

Because Victor asked:

  • reconnoiter

  • reconsider
  • reconfirm
  • reconnect
  • reconceive
  • reconstruct

Research docs

I rarely refer to HCI research when I do the bulk of my work, which is attempting to organize information for retrieval. For my money, I think the only science is in some of the tools and methodologies I use. The main tool we use at my office is the thesaurus. The guiding principle for that thesaurus is the hierarchy, with some added functionalities to relate terms. How the terms in that thesaurus are added is purely subjective. How the terms are applied is also largely subjective. Instances where machine indexing is applying our thesaurus after applying some search rules are also subjective.

The main use I have for research is for informing decisions and suggestions. Where I work, IA and UI decisions usually come after discussion and sharing of opinion and experience and is always informed by some understanding of our audience. Information organization has always, in my opinion, been a soft science, if a science at all.