How our approach to ‘next best behaviours’ allows us to identify the behaviours we want to encourage or consolidate for a given segment.

In 2018 I did a lot of work to describe information-seeking behaviours. I wanted to develop a model that worked at different levels of abstraction. I wanted big, broad categories like the ‘four modes’ that Donna Spencer described, so I could quickly convince people that there are different types of information-seeking behaviour. I also wanted to describe specific types of looking — so that our teams can create UI and interaction patterns to meet those different demands delightfully. Broad, abstract models are great. But I often need something more specific to spark ideas. …


In 2015 I coined the phrase ‘unintentional information architecture’* to describe situations where the information architecture in a design has not been consciously considered.

The idea of unintentional IA was built on the assertion that everyone makes IA. I argued: “everyone creates information architecture, it always exists. The problem is that it’s just not always the result of conscious decisions.”

Some unintentional architectures including a lift control with the numbers in an unexpected order.
Some unintentional architectures including a lift control with the numbers in an unexpected order.
I used examples where the combination of elements fundamentally undermines the message or the utility of a design.

I’ve continued to believe that unintentional information architecture is a thing. And I believe that the broader point is also true — that every design is underpinned by and expresses an information architecture.

Today I left myself a voicemail that…


I lead the information architecture discipline in the design team at the BBC. It’s World IA Day. And this year I have no-where to go and nothing to share.

It’s a relief.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an honour any time someone asks me to share ideas. But it’s an honour and a responsibility. And this year I have nothing.

Nothing.

Text: I have nothing to share
Text: I have nothing to share

The event comes around every year. And some years someone asks me to contribute. It’s nice because I feel like part of the gang. But this year I sat at home and thought “what am I going to say?”…


Experiences are the result of an interaction between these two types of meaning-making architecture — the unique perspective of the user and their decoded representation of the embedded architecture in the environment.

A graph: Column A shows bars with equal colours. Column B has more yellow. Column C has only a little yellow.
A graph: Column A shows bars with equal colours. Column B has more yellow. Column C has only a little yellow.

Imagine three scenarios depicted in the picture above. Each column describes a different mix of the two types of information architecture. The pink column represents the individual information architecture and the yellow the environmental. The dotted line represents the level of information architecture (or meaning making context) that needs to exist for the experience in an environment to make any sense at all.

In scenario A we see a partnership where the agent and the environment both contribute to the meaning making. The agent is able to bring their intention to achieve results within the defined environment.

Scenario B is…


Design is a structured process for managing ideas.

Lots of people think of design as being about having ideas. They think “design”, then they think “creativity” and the word conjures up the idea of bringing something new into being. Design does make new things. But design is most often about finding new ways of seeing, understanding and shaping the world. Design is most often about combining things, or using and applying things in new ways to generate value.

This post is about design and information architecture in particular. …


Learning is something we do. When we learn we can derive lessons — things that we have learnt. We can gain insight. I’d stretch to “gaining insights” when we’ve done especially well. I don’t have a problem with plurals. But we never have ‘learnings’. ‘Learnings’ is not a word. We should all stop saying it.

Face with tears of joy

Sometimes I’m grumpy. On these occasions it irks me that the Oxford Dictionary 2015 Word of the Year was a pictograph. And I’m aware that it takes a particular personality type to choose to call it a pictograph rather than the more common and useful…


Being an information architect is hard. I think two of the biggest challenges to working as an IA are that we often work independently and every project is different. It’s hard to learn from others and getting experience takes time.

There are definitely things that each IA can learn from looking at the practice of others. When I read books and go to conferences about IA, I always get value from practical stories and case studies. So I want to create a set of stories that enable IAs to jump-start or deepen their experience — a sort of ‘reflective practice…


Should we stop making menus?

IAs organise and describe to try to increase the chances of people finding their way around and finding their way to the information they want. When I used to help build websites I organised pages into progressively specific categories. Then I labelled the categories. People navigated the websites I architected using strips of labels that stood for categories. I limited myself to around 7 items at each level (+/- 2 because I slightly misunderstood something I read once).

Menus contain and communicate information. They describe the categorisation and structures that I create. They also described the position of the user…


I have two jobs at the moment. I lead two teams, one focused on research and the other specialising in information architecture — job one. Job two is finding good people to join these teams. It’s a challenge. I spend a lot of time advertising roles, reviewing CVs and meeting people.

There are clear processes we use when we assess a candidate for a role. But I’ve been giving extra thought to the characteristics I value and think are important when I’m trying to assess competence. Luckily, these things also help me to support people to grow and develop. So…


The first step in solving any problem is recognising there is one.

On April 30th — which is my birthday — it will be 25 years since CERN and Tim Berners Lee renounced their intellectual property rights and allowed the World Wide Web to be put into the public domain. The internet is for everyone.

This place that we’re building has the potential to be a home for our greatest achievements. We’ve filled it with cat gifs and hate speech. Algorithms decide for us ‘what’s next’ and sometimes (statistically more often than seems random) lead us to conspiracy theories and…

danramsden

I'm a Creative director at the BBC. I like words, design, data and magic. These are all my own views (apart from retweets. I borrowed those to look clever.)

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