The 6th annual IA Conference, with the theme “Content Strategy” and the slogan “Content is King,” took place on 10-12 May, 2012 in the cultural city of Essen, Germany. The event was filled with great content and plenty of chances for networking. This post reviews a selection of presentations from the event.
The IA Konferenz in the largest of its kind in Germany, targeting IA and UX practicioners from German-speaking regions of Europe. There were over 250 attendees and a line-up of stellar international guest speakers: Colleen Jones, Relly Annett-Baker, Jonathan Kahn, Margot Bloomstein, Irene Walker and last but not least Peter Morville who held the closing note.
The Conference took place over 3 days, the first of which was about practical workshops. I did not attend any of the workshops, so this review is of the highlights from the main conference program. Overall, there were 14 presentations on the first day, and 13 presentations on the second, separated into two tracks.
The Conference Location
First, a word about the conference location: although the city of Essen itself is not the most exciting place in Germany, the conference location was very impressive. The Zeche Zollverein (Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex) is a historical industrial area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the complex there is also the Red Dot Design Museum, which served as the conference location. This provided a wonderful backdrop to the conference and was also very inspiring in the breaks between the different presentations.
If you ever find yourself in the German “Ruhrgebeit“ around Essen, a visit to the Zeche Zollverein and Red Dot Design Museum is worth the trip.
DAY 1 (11 May 2012)
Colleen Jones, “Content Strategy: How to Become a Jedi Master of Your Digital Universe”
Starting with the opening keynote by Colleen Jones, founder of US-based firm Content Science, we were taken in the world of comics and games, especially in this case “Star Wars.” (This thread was held through many of the following presentations (Role Playing Games, Dungeons and Dragons and Power Rangers).) Based on the example of Yoda, Colleen showed what is important for content strategists: Yoda speaks meaningful, wise words and through this facts and his unique voice, everybody pays attention to him. So what does this mean for us? Don‘t just react and produce content, but speak with a distinct voice.
Main takeaways were:
- Plan EDITORIAL FIRST and then architecture
- Plan to GOVERN
- Be ready to NUDGE*
*NUDGE is a technique she demonstrated live on stage with the help of a volunteer from the audience. It’s an acronym for five steps of changing stakeholder perspectives regarding content:
- N = Need – First, find out what the client or stakeholder is requesting
- U = Understand – Next, try to understand the real intent behind the request.
- D = Direct to and G – Governance – Governance of content is often overlooked. Directing stakeholders to these considerations most often opens new concerns they hadn’t considered.
- E = Encourage – Finally, encourage the stakeholder to weigh other options based on the above arguments.
In a nutshell, this technique is characterized by asking the client effective questions, not only to understand him but also to support clarifying his needs and expectations.
Nikki Tiedtke, “Content Strategy and IA”
A very inspiring presentation was held by my colleague Nikki Tiedtke (USEEDS°). She basically underlined the impossibility of strictly separating interaction architecture from content strategy. This picture summarizes her main point concisely:
Relly Annett-Baker, “Content Strategy: The RPG”
A big highlight in the style of presenting was Relly Annett-Baker’s talk. She described the content strategist as a role-playing game participant, who grows in a next level by the time he is playing – a metaphor for the process with the customer. The result was a key requirement toward content strategists to make their content accessible, searchable, findable, desirable, sharable, selectable, self aware, portable and flexible.
Jim Kalbach, “Solving Business Problems with UX Strategy”
The biggest highlight content-wise was the presentation of my colleague Jim Kalbach (USEEDS°). He showed the driving role of the UX-Team played in eBay biggest project “Payment Intermediation” (PI) and the engagement of the stakeholders through the method of Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE). Another innovation in this project was defining functional metaphors, which lead to all involved stakeholders speaking the same language. He explained the flow of the project based on of “The 5 Ps of Strategy”:
- PLAN: Course of action – eBay: form a local design team to overcome distance, language and culture barriers
- PATTERN: Model of past behavior – eBay: touch point analysis and observations of users
- PLOY: Outmaneuver opponent – eBay: use RITE for engagement and define functional metaphors
- POSITION: Desired role – eBay: seat at the table, balance (right message in right time)
- PERSPECTIVE: Philosophy of working – eBay: UX becomes a stakeholder, UCD
Thank you, Jim, for taking me a step back and reminding me of being a participant in a pioneer project process!
DAY 2 (12 May 2012)
Irene Walker, “Accessibility – A Vital Part of Good Content”
The second presentation day begun with a topic that is hard to swallow, but also very impactfull to our work: “Accessibility – A Vital Part of Good Content” held by Irene Walker from the Sable Group. This is especially in Germany and other developed countries due to legal regulations. This presentation made me open my eyes and think once again about the moral implications of the work we are doing. She presented a couple of personas with dissabilities and summarized that in Germany there are over 8.6 million people (which is about 10% of the German population) with dissabilities, and we exclude these potential users from many of our products. Further she showed that people prevented to access the Web could be visually, auditorily, cognitively and neurologically, verbally, and physically impared persons, as well as older people, new web users and people with low bandwidths. Mainly, accessibility means better business by icreased usability, less development time, direct cost savings, wider clientele, increased findability and optimized mobile content underlining her main statement:
“Accessability is not a checklist, it’s an ongoing commitment.”
Wolfram Nagel, “Multiscreen Experience”
The presentation of Wolfram Nagel from digiparden about Multi Screen Experience was also very inspiring. He showed the 3 main influential factors:
- Device/screen – 4 screens (phone, tablett, computer, tv)
- User – personas of the digital world (digital outsider, occasional user, business user, trend user, digital professional, digtal avant-garde)
- Context – consissts of usage mode, surrounding and situation – one exceptional case is though the mobile usage mode as it can take place everywhere, anytime
Based on the mobile usage mode there were also 5 behavioral patterns defined:
- Micro-tasking (check time, reminder)
- Status update (check weather, stocks)
- Boredom, filling time (shopping, browsing)
- Local needs (next restaurant)
- Urgent (email, make note)
A very nice metaphor he introduced was “Content like water” (by Josh Clark), which means content should be as fluent as water, which remains water no mather in which container you fill it in (glass, vase or buckett). And as a conclusion and to keep in mind he summarized following:
- Multiscreen is not just a “nice addition” anymore
- Screens and combination possibilities
- Different usage contexts
- Flexible and dynamic layouts and (!) contents
- Multiscreen-able datas
- Data security and data connectivity
- Suitable content management workflows
- Fluid experience
- Patterns and toolkits as assistance
Claudia Armbrüster & Oliver Annen, “Content is King, Navigation is Queen”
Very interesting was also the presentation “Content is King and Navigation is Queen” by Claudia Armbrüster and Oliver Annen from SinnerSchrader which challenged the slogan of the event “Content is King” by showing that content and navigation are totally different media, but users discover, experience, enjoy and gather content through the interface, so they asked the question “Is it time for a change of power?” supported by the fact that users demands changes: they don`t just want to consume the content, but experience it and take an active role in producing it. Main statement were:
- Everything is an object
- All the data is accessible at anytime
- The usage is pretty diverse
- The user demand is growing
Marcel Zimmermann, “Responsive Design”
Another very interesting presentation was “Responsive Design” by Marcel Zimmermann (Cybay Media) who showed the main chalenges in being responsive:
- The team
He also rated three chosen protyping techniques (scettching, Axure and HTML5) according to the case one wants to prototype (Simulation of user flow; Simulation of view port and simulation of behavior – please see pictures below).
His main conclusions were to keep in mind that the visual and technical language should be appropriate and that mobile first, coding first is the better, most efficient approach to responsive design. Further he stated that we need relativity towards our own knowledge and towards the role we play.
A common theme came out in the presentations overall: content strategists are still defining their role. An important conclusion was that no one in the field knows everything yet, and looking to other disciplines for support and inspiration is necessary. As a whole, the discussions in this area, the exhibition in red dot museum and the people attending the conference provided a very inspiring constellation which I wouldn’t want to miss. I have to say a big thanks to the organizers! I met a lot of interesting people which I really hope to see again next year in Berlin (and I am really happy it will be Berlin next time), as I am now a big, commited fan of the IA Conference.