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Information Architecture Leadership Seminar Selling Information Architecture. Karen McGrane Louis Rosenfeld March 21, 2003. Agenda. Techniques for Making the Case (45 minutes) Role-Playing Exercises (45 minutes). ROI case Increased revenue Decreased costs

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Information Architecture Leadership Seminar Selling Information Architecture

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information architecture leadership seminar selling information architecture

Information Architecture Leadership SeminarSelling Information Architecture

Karen McGrane

Louis Rosenfeld

March 21, 2003

  • Techniques for Making the Case (45 minutes)
  • Role-Playing Exercises (45 minutes)
ROI case

Increased revenue

Decreased costs

Narrative case studies & storytelling

Therapeutic sales

Competitive analysis

Eating your own dog food

User testing & diagnostics

Behind the glass

Video highlights

Written debrief

User feedback

Allying with customer service

Counting complaints/hate mail


Log analysis



technique 1 the roi case
Increased Revenues

Add customers

Grow share of customer

Add new products

Increase awareness

Increase loyalty

Decreased Costs

Increase productivity

Displace costs

Leverage capital

Increase speed

Decrease errors

Technique #1: The ROI Case
  • A way of justifying the value of proposed changes according to business value
  • Usually measured in dollars, but the concept can be extended to include intangibles
technique 1 the roi case1
Technique #1: The ROI Case
  • Demonstrate to business owners that you judge the quality of solutions from a revenue perspective, not just a design perspective
  • Give decision-makers numbers that they can plug into budgets or departmental goals
  • Don’t use numbers you can’t back up – people are skeptical of outlandish claims
  • If you don’t have firm numbers, even addressing the types of returns companies can achieve is a good way to demonstrate your thinking
technique 2 narrative case studies storytelling
Technique #2: Narrative Case Studies & Storytelling
  • Goals
    • Portray a situation or “story” with which a client or prospect can identify
    • Demonstrate the success of the featured solution
  • Typical story arc
    • Establish actors
    • Portray pain and stories of past failures and failed solutions
    • Introduce featured solution (i.e., IA), describe how it works/what happens
    • Portray positive results (qualitative and quantitative)
technique 2 narrative case studies storytelling1
Technique #2: Narrative Case Studies & Storytelling
  • Audience and context
    • Useful early in cycle, though too long to “open” a prospect
    • Useful with an audience that is not especially comfortable with numbers
    • Highly complementary with ROI case studies and arguments
    • Highly dependent on your own ability to write in narrative style/tell stories
technique 2 narrative case studies storytelling2
Technique #2: Narrative Case Studies & Storytelling
  • Narrative case studies
    • Include the facts, presented in business or scientific styles; personal
    • Compact, printed/printable form
    • Because they’re so conventional, they’re also required to meet expectations
technique 2 narrative case studies storytelling3
Technique #2: Narrative Case Studies & Storytelling
  • Storytelling
    • Reduces space between storyteller and audience
    • Emotionally engaging; listener stands in the protagonist’s shoes
    • Most of us are already quite adept at listening to stories
    • More personal than case studies; therefore, easier to identify with actors and their pain
technique 3 therapeutic sales
Technique #3: Therapeutic Sales
  • Goal: Help participant(s) get in touch with their “information pain”
  • Process
    • Get them on the couch: provide a safe environment in which to discuss what ails them
    • Give them building blocks: Provide the words to help participants articulate their pain (in group setting, may require a brief “what is IA?” seminar)
    • Let them talk: Shut up and listen. Let them describe their problem by combining IA jargon with their own specific situation
technique 3 therapeutic sales1
Technique #3: Therapeutic Sales
  • Highly dependent on your own skills as a listener/“therapist”
  • Timing: anytime during after opening, through research phase
  • Audience: Individual or groups of stakeholders/decision-makers
technique 3 therapeutic sales2
Technique #3: Therapeutic Sales
  • Ice breaking is key
    • Someone has to “go first”
    • Therefore, most useful after storytelling or after facilitator has described own negative experience (be prepared to share your own)
  • Results
    • Participant describes problem—and often partial solution—in a combination of IA and context-specific terms
    • You develop a proposal that uses their words
technique 4 competitive analysis
Technique #4: Competitive Analysis
  • Identify competitors (or other companies successfully facing similar challenges)
  • The me-too argument for proposed changes: “Everybody else is doing it”
  • Evaluate competitive feature set – attempt to reverse-engineer business strategy
  • Compare and contrast approaches to site architecture, navigation system design, and page layout
technique 4 competitive analysis1
Technique #4: Competitive Analysis
  • Useful tool for learning more about an industry
  • Demonstrate to decision makers that you understand their competitive landscape and business strategy
  • Let other companies make your mistakes for you – many large sites have done extensive testing
  • “Users spend most of their time on other people’s sites”
  • Don’t commoditize yourself out of the market – competitive analysis should inform decisions but not dictate them
technique 5 eating your own dog food
Technique #5: Eating Your Own Dog Food
  • Goal: Help site owners understand the value of good IA by making them use their own poor IA
  • Context
    • Use one-on-one with decision-makers and, when possible, senior managers
    • Timing best at the end of a long design cycle or when you believe a new cycle needs to begin; helpful at instantiating continual improvement
  • Borrow 1-3 exercises from task analysis studies
  • A rare opportunity, but more decision-makers are eating their own dog food on their own anyway
technique 6 user testing diagnostics
Technique #6: User testing & diagnostics
  • Like eating your own dog food, watching actual users struggle can be a persuasive argument
  • Identify key tasks people would perform on the site and ask representative users to complete them
  • Use as a diagnostic tool to identify problem areas
  • Define metrics for success and use as an evaluation tool to ensure quality
technique 6 user testing diagnostics1
Technique #6: User testing & diagnostics
  • Having decision makers behind the glass (or a streaming feed of live testing)
    • Pros: Seeing it live makes problems seem important
    • Cons: Can be difficult to manage expectations
  • Video highlights
    • Pros: Less time-consuming; can cut together relevant clips
    • Cons: Requires video editing skills and equipment; costly
  • Written debrief document
    • Pros: Can take a systematic approach to problems & solutions
    • Cons: Lacks emotion of observing real users
technique 7 user feedback
Technique #7: User feedback
  • In contrast with user testing, user feedback involves asking users what they think or tracking their comments on the experience
  • Spontaneous feedback can provide valuable customer perspective – but can also be discredited
  • Spending time with customer service representatives can help you understand what issues drive people to pick up the phone or write a letter
technique 7 user feedback1
Technique #7: User feedback
  • Allying with customer service
    • Pros: Get valuable perspectives from people who deal with problems every day; ROI if you can fix the problems
    • Cons: Aforementioned ROI may come at the expense of allies
  • Counting complaints/hate mail
    • Pros: Quantitative and qualitative data; spontaneous
    • Cons: Numbers not entirely accurate; fanatics tend to write
  • Surveys
    • Pros: Quantitative and qualitative data; easy to gather; may integrate with log analysis
    • Cons: Not always accurate reflection of real numbers
technique 8 log analysis
Technique #8: Log Analysis
  • Goals
    • Portray how well existing site addresses real user needs
    • Uncover problems and gaps in content, interface, and IA
    • Determine specific areas of improvement (not selling IA here, but components thereof)
  • Context: generally as part of ongoing design process
    • Identify problem areas (e.g., where users get stuck) that IA improvements could address
    • Beneficial to designers and developers, less so to managers
technique 8 log analysis1
Technique #8: Log Analysis
  • Benefits
    • Large volumes of quantitative data based on real use
    • Typically already available
    • Great complement to qualitative approaches
    • Form the basis for many metrics that in turn can help drive future investments in a site’s IA
  • Problems
    • Too much data; tools not always satisfactory
    • Incomplete picture of usage: lots of what, not much why
    • Because much interpretation is involved, your analysis may be open to questioning
technique 8 log analysis server
Technique #8: Log Analysis (Server)
  • Helps answer questions
    • Who is coming to the site (audience analysis )
    • Where they want to go and what they want to do by analyzing traffic and individual sessions)
    • Where they stay and how long (though not always clear what this means—are users happy or stuck?)
    • When they leave (again—frustrated or simply finished?)
  • Suggests metrics for and specific improvements to the IA (e.g., invest in a site index to support better orientation, improve the shopping cart to convert more transactions)
technique 8 log analysis search
Technique #8: Log Analysis (Search)
  • Helps answer questions
    • What information users want
    • How they express their information needs (e.g., length of query, type of terminology/jargon)
    • How well the search system performs (e.g., failures from misspellings)
    • How users learn and modify their needs (during the course of a search session)
  • Suggests metrics for and specific improvements to the IA (e.g., invest in a spell-checker and a thesaurus)
scenario exercise
Scenario Exercise
  • 45 minutes
  • See instructions in your handout


  • Scenario #1: Making the Case for an Expanded Information Architecture
  • Scenario #2: Making the Case for an Information Architecture Approach
  • Scenario #3: Making the Case for an Information Architecture Position
scenario discussion
Scenario Discussion
  • How did you make your technique selections?
  • How many techniques did you use?
  • Which techniques were effective?
  • Which techniques were easier to counter?
scenario 1 team a proposers
Scenario #1: Team A: “Proposers”
  •  You are the "homepage manager" of the .com site for a global media and entertainment conglomerate. Your site needs to provide access to the subsites run by other operating units of your company, from which people can purchase your products and services.
  • Your site has a large navigation bar, which enables access by brand name to each of the operating unit subsites. You are also responsible for a search engine that searches the content of all the subsites and displays results from all.
  • You have a limited budget and no staff. How do you convince your bosses that the .com site (including the homepage, navigation bar, and search engine) is important and you need more resources?
scenario 1 team b decision makers
Scenario #1: Team B: “Decision-makers”
  • You are an executive at a global media and entertainment conglomerate. You are responsible for all US operations and report in to company headquarters in Japan. You are focused on the bottom line – your boss holds you accountable for operational performance, and your salary and bonuses are tied to profitability.
  • You oversee several different operating units, each of which produces a variety of products and services that are sold to consumers. Each operating unit is responsible for its own website, on which products are variously marketed, sold, and serviced. There is a .com URL for your company which enables customers to access each of these various websites run by the different operating units.
  • In reviewing the budget for your various web properties, you do not believe that additional budget or resources should be allocated to the .com site. You do not see any way that the .com site can make money for your company, since it only acts as a gateway to other revenue producing sites. As such you want to minimize the costs associated with the site. After all – how much budget do you need to maintain a handful of web pages?
scenario 2 team a proposers
Scenario #2: Team A: “Proposers”
  • You are a consultant who has been asked to bid on a project to redesign an e-commerce site. The RFP requests a new visual identity and a new navigation system.
  • Upon reviewing the site, you've concluded that most users probably use the search engine to find products – and are dismayed to find that the search feature is ineffective.
  • You want to recommend that this company focus their redesign efforts on improving the search experience. You’ve been asked to prepare a presentation describing your approach to the redesign. How do you convince the client that your approach is the correct one?
scenario 2 team b decision makers
Scenario #2: Team B: “Decision-makers”
  • You are a relatively new project manager who’s been assigned to oversee the redesign of your company’s website. You have never managed a web project before and have decided to outsource the project to a consultant who can guide you through the process.
  • Your boss asked you to prepare an RFP for the project. You asked around and received a sample RFP for a similar project from a friend, and then modified that RFP so it applied to your company. You then mailed the RFP to several consulting firms, and have invited three firms to come in and present.
  • Attending the meeting from your company will be you, your boss, and representatives from marketing and technology. You want to assess each firm’s qualifications to complete the work, and select the firm that you feel will do the best job. Since this is your first major project, it’s especially important for you to look good in front of your boss! What questions will you ask of each firm to help you make your decision?
scenario 3 team a proposers
Scenario #3: Team A: “Proposers”
  •  You are interested in working in the e-business division of a major telecommunications company. You have a degree in library science and have also worked as a database administrator. You believe that the company needs an Information Architect to handle the following responsibilities:
    • Reviewing product nomenclature and other labeling systems
    • Development of a taxonomy and soliciting buy-in on the terms chosen from product managers
    • Application of the taxonomy to all product materials, site navigation systems, and search engine
    • Ensuring taxonomy can be updated and maintained via website Content Management System
  • You have finagled a job interview with the VP of User Experience and hope to convince her of the need for such a role and of your qualifications.
scenario 3 team b decision makers
Scenario #3: Team B: “Decision-makers”
  • You are the VP of User Experience for a major telecommunications company. You report to the EVP of e-business, and are responsible for the overall customer experience via online channels. Currently reporting to you are the following roles:
    • Interaction designer, responsible for defining functionality, mapping workflow, and creating wireframes
    • Creative director, responsible for translating brand identity into visual identity, creating overall site look and feel, and documenting visual identity guidelines
    • User researcher, responsible for conducting primary user research (including surveys and interviews) as well as usability tests.
  • You received a resume from an Information Architect and thought his qualifications were interesting. However, you’re not really sure you need such a role. You’re pretty sure that everything you need is covered by the employees you have, and all the other activities are more relevant to technology than user experience. What questions do you ask the candidate to see if he would be a good fit?
contact information
Karen McGrane


Louis Rosenfeld


Contact information