This past June, I celebrated my one year anniversary of working full-time at Uptown Studios (woo!). I initially started my Uptown journey as an intern, then working part-time, and finally into full-time work. In tandem with this gradual increase in time spent at the office, I have also experienced a gradual increase and shift of my job description.
This is the natural progression of working anywhere. As your understanding grows, so does your responsibilities list! However, one of the things that I appreciate most about the work culture at Uptown Studios is the relentless encouragement to seek out work you are interested in doing.
It was through this encouragement that I have been able to redefine my job description many times in twelve short months. My most recent attempt at redefinition? Information Architecture.
To give you a little background: as a result of some internal shifting, I got the opportunity to take charge of managing and writing all content for Uptown Studios projects. I am a writer by education, trade, and serendipity so I was very pleased to take this on as my new role. However, what I have quickly come to learn about managing our web content is that what words are presented on the page is also heavily defined by how they are presented.
User Experience and User Interface (UX/UI) is not an area that I would consider myself well versed. After voicing these concerns, my team pointed out that, in fact, we all have experience with UX/UI! We interact with user interfaces and experiences while using everything from our phones to navigating airports or wandering grocery stores.
Nearly everyone is skilled at identifying a bad UX/UI experience simply because that means we are left confused. Confused on how to get from point A to B, confused on what a tool is trying to get us to do, or confused about how to use something. Unless you are trained in design, you are probably not skilled in creating a good UX/UI experience.
Shifting from interacting with already defined parameters of UX/UI (good or bad) to creating a positive UX/UI experience was very overwhelming. This was mainly because I felt like I lacked a foundation for creating informed word choices to influence my user.
Sure, I can combine letters to make words into phrases, sentences, thoughts, and ideas, but organizing those words so you not only understand their literal meaning but also experience them in a particular way? Enter: Information Architecture.
Information Architecture (IA) is the act of “organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way.” Essentially, balancing what you want the user to do and understand with the content you have to convey while keeping in mind the context those words will be presented in. Essentially: IA is deciding how the information will be best presented to the user through the framework of content and context.
On my hunt for IA knowledge, I discovered Abby the IA. Senior Staff Information Architect at Etsy, Abby is widely considered a thought leader within the IA industry. Having written the book How to Make Sense of Any Mess, she has also given countless talks, seminars, and webinars all about information architecture.
From reading her book and continued research I have found through her resources, I have been able to totally restructure the way that Uptown Studios goes about creating our initial sitemaps for website projects. As my learning continues, I am really excited to see what new things I can bring to Uptown Studios as well as what skills I can hone for myself. Stay tuned!