Buddhist Information Architecture (Interview with Peter Morville)
Interview with Peter Morville, author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, which has become the handbook of many experts in the field of usability and information architecture. There are no applied solutions or revolutionary proposals in the article. The author describes his vision of the approach to the process of developing information architecture and functional elements, which is a kind of synthesis of the traditional approach and various religious and philosophical directions.
Actually, the interview:
The Polar Bear Book, according to many, is a bible of information architecture. Officially, it’s called “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” but it got that nickname thanks to the animal on the cover. The book covers everything from navigation to metadata and aesthetics in technical matters. Now, 16 years later, its author Peter Morville has presented his new Intertwingled book (Interconnection).
You wrote Information Architecture for the World Wide Web in 1998. How has the industry changed over the past 16 years?
There have been many changes since the first edition. Search engines, social networks, mobile Internet, responsive design and many other technologies have a huge impact on the information architecture. I talked about this evolution in Understanding IA. While the Polar Bear talks about the fundamental principles that are weakly influenced by time, the approach to organizing the appearance of the information architecture has undergone significant changes.
For example, one of the fundamental principles is that it almost always makes sense to invite the user to receive the same information in different ways. The “right way” depends on the user and the task that he performs. When a visitor knows exactly what he is looking for, he will use the site navigation, but if he is not sure what he needs, he needs a flexible search tool. Of course, the best option is a search that has an effective set of filters and criteria.
However, tools and technologies are constantly changing. These changes have led us to a new understanding of what we are doing. Our work is not limited to the Internet, it includes the development of semantic load, space and architecture, which will lead to understanding.
Many people unfamiliar with UX understand Information Architecture as a subset of UX. How do you see the interaction of I.A. and UX, and at what point do they act as separate disciplines?
Our penchant for tribalism is dangerous for our professionalism. We differentiate concepts too easily. But, if we can take a more flexible approach, we can better understand the characteristics of each direction.
On the one hand, the information architecture can be a component of UX, but in another situation, they can change places and UX will become part of the IA. Although it is much simpler to accept one of the theories that describe the relationship between UX and IA, a deeper understanding of their interaction will help create more interesting and creative solutions.
What do you think the main conclusion readers of your book can make?
EM Forster once asked, “How can I know what I think until I see what is being said?” This simple question reveals a complex truth, which is that faith is often shaped by behavior. I hope that my readers will be inspired to dig deeper, because in fact, everything is interconnected.
“In recent decades, given the modern features of the cognition process, a thesis has been formed that states that the nature of the mind is largely determined by the body, in contrast to the computer theory of the mind, which considers the brain as a central processor with inputs (sensors) and outputs (controllers). This approach implies that the processes occurring about the whole organism largely influence how and what we think. Our bodies influence the nature and content of our thoughts, and the processing of information extends beyond our brain. In short, cognition is not only in the head.
In addition, in accordance with the philosophy of consciousness, thinking is not limited to the skin and skull. Cognition is formed and distributed in the environment. When we use a pencil to sketch ideas, the pencil becomes an extension of our body, and what we draw affects the course of our thoughts. We literally think on paper. According to the scientist Andy Clark, human cognition includes “feedback, mechanisms of anticipation and analysis of the space around the guide: a guide that randomly crosses the boundaries of our brain, body and world.”
Our instruments, like our bodies, must become "transparent equipment." We must perceive the task through them. Brain research has shown that when we use tools: pencils, hammers, bicycles, words, numbers, computers, we include them in our body-mind circuit. Then, in accordance with the principle of least effort, we try to distribute the load throughout the system. We use calculators, we unload memory by writing and organizing information, we rely on Google. We also move mosaic elements in order to understand whether they are suitable for each other or not, as this is easier than imagining a potential result in the mind.
If you still haven’t read Intertwingled, you can read some of the material here .