EuroIA 2015

Madrid, 24 – 26 September


Taxonomies, tags and trajectories: Designing information architecture at the BBC

A talk by Dan Ramsden

In a perfect world the web would be made of small pieces, loosely joined. But sometimes the world isn’t perfect – products are ‘owned’ by managers focused on making the best ‘thing’ to do a specific job, and not concerned about ‘the next biggest context’. Sometimes IAs get hypnotised by complexity and fetishise the domain model that will bring order, sense and calm. Sometimes connections between the fundamental services, which underpin our digital places, are disconnected from the actual user experiences. Sometimes it feels like we live in a world that tends towards entropy, rather than perfection.

We can change the world. “Eventually everything connects… but the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se”. At the BBC we’ve been thinking about quality connections for quite a while.

This talk has three parts.

One: Reviews our history of domain modelling, building websites the right way and moving beyond the polar bear. I’ll explore how we design by thinking about services or subject domains, not just products, hierarchies or pages.

Two: explains the limits of this approach. We haven’t got everything right. Sometimes we’ve solved specific problems gracefully, but designed for too perfect a world. I’ll discuss the challenges of domain driven design.

I’ll discuss how hierarchies give a sense of direction. Sometimes this direction is missing when your design was built on a flatter, graph-like model. I’ll defend the idea that sometimes being ‘generic’ is just as important as being ‘specific’.

Three: I’ll share a new technique we’re introducing to our IA practice. ‘Trajectories’ provide a way of imagining and designing pathways through content. They layer experience architecture on top of information architecture and provide a way to think about how users will engage with your information architecture during and after their experiences.

Dan Ramsden

As Creative director for user experience architecture (UXA) at the BBC I lead a team of IA specialists. I’m responsible for defining the professional practice of UXA at the BBC and ensuring that we’re creating information architecture that delivers the best possible experiences to our audiences.

I design labels, vocabularies, URLs, navigation, strategies and processes. I want to create digital experiences that feel just as intuitive to explore and enjoy as the most delightful places in the real world. I live just outside Sheffield (UK) with a wife, a child and a cat called Rosa.

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