Rapid Cross-channel Prototyping
Thursday, March 23, 2017 from 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Andrea, from your perspective, why is cross-channel prototyping relevant to the IA community?
Cross-channel experiences have gone from being “the next thing” to being “business as usual” very quick. Everybody is familiar with the ideas of ecosystems, multi-device, multi-contextual experiences. Even the main trade magazines have take notice. This is good. On the other hand, we’re still pretty much at sea when it comes to concrete, user experience-based methodologies that allow us to really address the complexity and uncertainty that comes with them. This is precisely what the workshop is about: provide one well-oiled way to get from an organizational pain to the ecosystem it lives in to the production of prototypes of possible solutions.
What’s the biggest challenge in learning cross-channel prototyping?
There’s at least two different types of challenges.
The first and most obvious is that it requires flipping one’s perspective. It’s easy to dismiss a systemic, cross-channel approach if one’s work deals day in and day out with very specific artifacts or methods, say apps and user journeys, and clients who impose a product-centered vision. This idea that it might not be for us, that it’s a fancy thing that someone else says they do, that’s the single most dangerous delusion I tackle throughout the workshop.
This change is not top-down, organization-driven, depending on our clients’ willingness to innovate: it’s a social thing, bottom-up, people-driven. Whether or not we like it, people are already connecting, remixing, choreographing their own individual paths by means of whatever we produce. If our offer doesn’t fit their picture or their ecosystem, another one will.
Second, there’s a strong digital design tradition that considers precision, pixel-perfect, polish, and a degree of control as core ideals of what is good. I’m actually advocating the opposite: embrace imprecision, emergence, and complexity. It is an architectural way of approaching a problem space, rather than a designerly way, and we know we old dogs don’t love new tricks, but I think this flipping is not only it’s necessary, it’s liberating. It shows the illusion of control through design that we all treasure for what it is—an illusion.
How do people factor into cross-channel prototyping?
Traditionally, information architecture and user experience have been user-centered practices. Cross-channel simply amps it up to eleven. The focus is entirely on the architecture of human experience with actors and people being the foundational element of an ecosystem. Without them, there’s no ecosystem to speak of and there is no place where our product or service or strategy can live and thrive.
Also, cross-channel is all about adopting a strategic perspective that allows us to account for the social and technical components of any experience systemically. The simple act of mapping the actor’s ecosystem, of visualizing its non-linear loops, provides us with a way to understand and document the consequences of design choices, the complex interplay that results, and to make the ethical or political consequences of these visible and actionable.
Andrea, what is the most important thing that you want folks to take away from your workshop?
Regardless of whether they actually have direct responsibility for the big strategy or the big IA that goes with complex cross-channel experiences or they work primarily in a website and app context, this workshop will make them better practitioners, more aware of the loops and connections that people constantly weave between what we usually consider isolated products and services.
This is why the workshop is set up as a very practical, hands-on walkthrough of the typical process I use myself in projects: we will go through all of the steps, explain why they matter, how they relate to traditional methods and practices, and end up with something that can be translated into a traditional UX artifact, say a new kiosk interface. But is the result of a systemic understanding of what people actually do when having a specific “experience.”
I might also add that there’s a certain sense of urgency to extending our practice and research beyond the confines of digital and a client’s walled garden. We often take these for granted, but as more and more day-to-day activities cut across both digital and physical space and require us to bridge products and services belonging to different providers. We need to step up our game and quickly if we want to keep playing a strategic role in the design of human experience.
Andrea Resmini is a senior lecturer at Jönköping University, in Jönköping, Sweden. He is the author of Pervasive Information Architecture and Reframing Information Architecture, the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Information Architecture, and one of the hosts of Jam Night. He tweets at @resmini.
Pre-order Andrea Resmini’s books and have them waiting for you in Vancouver.