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Sorting out this mess with Abby Covert & Andrew Hinton

By Jessica Ivins

Sorting out this mess with Abby Covert & Andrew Hinton

One of my favorite podcast episodes of 2015 is “Sorting Out this Mess,” a UX Podcast interview with Abby Covert and Andrew Hinton. It’s an impromptu, unplanned interview, but I was glued to the episode the entire time.

I walked away from the interview with a fresh perspectives on information architecture and UX design. Below are two concepts that resonated with me the most.

Sudden change happens in the virtual world, not the physical world

Andrew explains how human brains are wired to cope with the physical world and not the virtual world. In the interview, Andrew “nerds out” about why we struggle with sudden change in a design, such as a drastic website redesign:

On an evolutionary scale, we did not evolve to learn how a certain kind of thing behaves in the world, and then have to learn how that same thing suddenly is a different thing. It just doesn’t exist in nature. A tree’s going to act like a tree. All the branches go this way and that’s how they are. You’re not going to turn around the next day and it’s Tree 2.0. Suddenly the branches are internal, and you have to peel the bark and the branch comes out, or to get to the fruit you have to dig. That’s not going to suddenly happen.

Andrew says that sudden change in our designs creates a cognitive problem for our users. Things in the natural world rarely change suddenly. But because we can suddenly change things and move things around in the virtual world, we do. It’s important that we learn how to make changes that help our users while minimizing frustration. To learn more about making design changes that don’t disrupt your users, read Jared Spool’s article, “Extraordinarily Radical Redesign Strategies.”

Using the same language, but without shared meaning

As the conversation flows, Abby and Andrew talk about establishing a shared understanding of our business challenges. Abby explains how sometimes organizations think that they don’t need or have information architecture for their designs. But that’s not true:

Businesses do not consider information architecture to be a thing they have already. They think about it as something they might buy if they had more money to get fancy consultants like Andrew and I. But that’s not what it is. It turns out that they’re sitting on an information architecture already and it’s not doing what they need it to do because no one thought about it.

Throughout the interview, Abby and Andrew discuss challenges that information architects and UX designers face in the design process. They provide examples of challenges they’ve encountered throughout their careers. To learn more about how Abby and Andrew sort out the messes they encounter, listen to the entire interview.

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