Dan Brown

Principal at EightShapes (USA)


Dan's Talk

IA Lenses: A new tool for designing digital structures

Monday, 11 March — 15:20

After doing this for 20 years, I realized that on every project I was using little IA heuristic evaluations with every structural decision. Most recently, working on the navigation for a large institution’s public web site and intranet, as well as a handful of esoteric web-based applications, I was able to articulate these little tests. With each decision, I would ask myself questions like, “Does this set a dangerous precedent?” and “Does this prioritize one user’s needs over another?” and “Will this inappropriately challenge the company’s status quo?”

Each of these questions is a lens, through which I examine the structure. I choose a label for a category and ask myself, “What’s missing from the implied contents of this label?” I nest one category in another and I ask myself, “Even though this belongs here, does it bury an important concept?” I develop a set of top-level categories and ask myself, “What story does this tell about the organization?” The purpose of these lenses isn’t so much to determine correctness, but more to look at my decision from all angles. They let me dig deeper into my decisions to make sure my thought process is robust.

In this session, I’ll share some of the lenses, how they’re used, and how you might apply them to different IA challenges. As a consequence of articulating these lenses, I’ve also spent time developing a small vocabulary to talk about IA challenges. Since the lenses are new, the intent here isn’t to be prescriptive, but instead to get feedback from the IA community, and to gauge their broader applicability.

This session will review:

  • A framework for talking about IA problems
  • An introduction to IA lenses
  • Three examples of IA lenses
  • An exercise for using a lens with an IA problem

It’s been 20+ years since the advent of IA, isn’t it about time we had more tools for our work? Enter IA Lenses, a new tool to help IAs evaluate and interrogate their concepts by looking at them from unique perspectives.

Dan's Workshop

Crafting the discovery phase: Starting design projects right

Wednesday, 13 March — 09:00

Designers have long struggled with balancing the needs of design with the needs of business. Delivering fast is at odds with what we know about innovation: happy accidents, long periods of percolation, and highly collaborative environments. As expectations for fast delivery become commonplace, one thing remains clear: you can't design in a vacuum. Great user experience rests on a clear direction to solve a well-articulated problem informed by a collective knowledge. Building such a foundation depends on interdependent activities, known collectively as discovery.

In this workshop, participants will learn a new framework for this aspect of design. Discovery entails four main activities: gathering information, processing information, exploring ideas, and focusing into a plan. Everything in the discovery process boils down to these four. Using this framework to understand discovery, workshop participants can put their efforts into the best approach for their situation.

GOALS Though we will dig into theory, exploring the “why” of discovery, the workshop keeps Monday in mind. That is, it will influence participants’ work when they get to the office on Monday. This workshop gives participants:

  • A language and framework for planning discovery projects
  • Helps designers reconcile discovery–an important part of design–with modern delivery methodologies
  • Provides guidance for deciding what to deliver as part of discovery
  • Ideas for incorporating discovery into their projects regardless of whether they’ve just started or are well underway

About Dan

Dan leads projects to define the experience for complex digital products. He uses design and facilitation techniques to uncover and clarify problems and align teams around a product definition. Dan collaborates effectively with both executives and practitioners to define the overall product strategy and design the product experience. He co-founded EightShapes in 2006 to elevate the practice of user experience in the Washington, DC area and beyond.

Dan wrote three books for design teams dealing with making design teams more effective and jump-starting the design process. He designed a card game for designers to help them improve their conflict resolution skills. He recently launched a new deck of cards to inspire designers working on difficult information architecture problems.