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How to make sense of any mess

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Information Architecture is the foundation of any website, application, process or tool. Abby Covert is a true expert of making sense of all the mess created when failing with the IA. We called her up to ask some questions on her dream project, FAQ:s and her talk at FBTB.

Tell me a little about what you will be talking about on From Business to Buttons?
– I will be talking about information architecture and making sense of messes, mainly the messes organizations face in regards to the language and structure of things they create like websites, applications, processes and tools. When organizations make things, they add to a growing pile of structural and linguistic decisions that make up the overall information architecture of their products and services. I want to ask the audience to think critically about the quality of the information architecture they are working within today and teach them some tools and concepts that can help them improve what they have.

How did you get into this whole thing of IA? Did you find it or did IA find you?
– I was trained as a print designer, and in design school I was taught about information architecture as one of the core concepts that any designer is working with. We talked about the ways in which language and structural choices make things like books, posters and signage clear to users. Once out of school, I found out about a growing community applying information architecture to the world wide web, specifically “rich internet applications” — and I was pretty hooked immediately. Twelve years later, I have made my career of practicing IA and have taken on the task of teaching information architecture to any audience that will give me the opportunity.

The tickets to your workshop IA for Everybody are moving fast, what is the Number One question you get asked in your workshops or with a new client?
– The number one question I get is: How do I get started fixing the information architecture problems in my organization when they are core to who we are and how we currently do business?
– My advice is to take it slow and be realistic. If you expect that the whole organization will turn on a dime overnight, prepare to be disappointed. Instead it is best to document a vision and then identify and prioritize the changes that will need to be made over time. This job will be 20 % identification of the issues and solutions, and 80 % political maneuvering to get other people to help you to enact big changes.

What product, service or web site would you like to redesign? 
– I would love to take on redesign of the United States Tax System. I know some services like Turbo Tax have done this (and done it well) but I would love to see the government care about clarity enough to invest in improvements to a system that large and important to our well being as a country. I think it is one of the most confusing processes in the world, filled with complexity and ripe for the picking when it comes to information architecture problems to solve. 

Abby Covert will talk at From Business to Buttons on April 15, there are still a couple of tickets left to the main event and to Abbys workshop in April 16.