By Natalie Yee
World Information Architecture Day is an annual one-day celebration created by The Information Architecture Institute that brings together local communities to learn, share and grow within the practice of information architecture (IA). The event is recognized globally, this year in 62 locations across 25 countries. Nerdery is proud to host the 2019 Chicago event on February 23, with the theme “Design for Difference.”
What is Designing for Difference?
Information architecture is “the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable.” This simple definition highlights how people in many professions architect information and the importance of designing for difference. When we say “difference” we’re referring to a wide range of characteristics and scenarios including ability, disability, access, language, cultural understanding, age, gender, identify, experience and more. Speakers at World IA Day Chicago represent several different industries and roles but they all architect information with a special interest in designing for differences. Here are a few examples:
- Eric Vazquez, Chief Technology Officer at The Office of the City Clerk of Chicago, will talk about the challenges of designing for a city and the methodologies employed by his team.
- Fen Slattery, Accessibility Lead and Front End Engineer at Clique Studios, will teach us how to ask about gender and sex in a way that is both inclusive and gathers the necessary data.
- Niketa Jhaveri, Director of User Experience at GE Healthcare, will discuss how design and healthcare are joining forces like never before to design for difference.
You can read the full list of speakers and topics here.
Designing for Difference at Nerdery
Designing for difference takes many forms and we strive to keep differences top of mind when solving problems and meeting business, technical and user needs. We believe that making products more accessible and inclusive for all types of people and situations improves the experience for everyone. For example, in her article “How to Create Inclusive, Accessible Content,” Senior Software Engineer Laura Shields says, “Writing can often be made more accessible by using plain language and simple sentences. In fact, there’s a lot of research showing that plain language benefits many different audiences, from those with cognitive impairment, to people who speak English as a second language, to readers who are just in a hurry.”
Another way our team designs for difference is by turning “edge cases” into “stress cases,” a methodology taught by Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Eric Meyer in Design for Real Life. In the design world, an edge case is often a scenario that we deem unlikely to occur and therefore adapting the designs to handle it is unnecessary. We may ignore edge cases and try to design for the ‘normal’ user and situation. In reality, edge cases often do occur because real people are using the products we design and, as we all know, life is fairly unpredictable and there is no normal. By redefining these situations to stress cases, they come to the center of our work and act as a test our design has to pass if we want our product to be inclusive. One example is Bluetooth-enabled IoT products: it’s easy to assume that most people understand Bluetooth and classify those who don’t as an edge case. If you consider a person who doesn’t know how to turn on Bluetooth as a stress case instead and use it to evaluate your design, it will likely fail. This provides an opportunity to make changes to ensure a person who is unfamiliar with Bluetooth can use and understand the product.
Designing for difference is integral for all parts of our business — from strategy to experience design to software development. As we focus on this internally, we are looking forward to continuing the discussion with the larger Chicago community.
Join us at World IA Day
When: Saturday, February 23, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM (CST)
Where: Nerdery, 1033 W Van Buren St #700, Chicago, IL 60607
Learn more here.
Note: Tickets are currently sold out. Join the waitlist if you’re interested in attending and you’ll be contacted when tickets open up. In a different city? Find all World IA Day events here.
Published on 01.30.19