IA Summit 2018 Highlights

Digital + Physical: Designing Integrated Product Experiences

Bill Horan (Twitter: @billhoran) presented his thoughts on making integrated digital and physical experiences with a series of principles. My favorite was Don’t complicate simple. Bill talked about how light switches and similar items we use daily are often make much more complex by organizations “reinventing” the product. In many cases, they should have focused on the user’s mental model and used that to inform how the device works. Bill used the example of a broken escalator — it is still stairs — and still can be used to move between floors even when it is no longer moving.

Controls for sound, showing that the same model is used regardless of the area of hearing focus.

Information Arrangement: It’s the Metadata

Information Arrangement: It’s the Metadata was presented by Dalia Levine (Twitter: @daliawithnoh)

Personal Ontology Maps: A Way to Get to Good

Kat King’s (Twitter: KatalogofChaos) powerful talk on personal ontology mapping was extremely insightful.

Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich? and Other Taxonomy Questions

This was another wonderfully nerdy talk at the Summit. Bob Kasenchak (Twitter: @taxobob) spoke about categorizing information and of course referenced The Sandwich Alignment Chart shared by @MattoMic on Twitter last year (below).

The Sandwich Alignment Chart by @MattoMic
  • Tame
  • Fabulous
  • Innumerable
  • Et cetera

Fit & Finish: The Importance of Presentation Value to UX Deliverables

Adam Polansky (Twitter: @AdamtheIA) shared his lessons on #FitandFinish to ensure we are as effective as possible in sharing our work with our stakeholders.

  • work in public and share what we are doing.
  • make room for other perspectives to avoid cognitive bias.
  • consider: what’s the least we can do to get our message across?
  • communicate understanding with artifacts.

No Static: IA for Dynamic Information Environments

I really enjoyed this talk by Duane Degler (Twitter: @ddegler) in which he brought conversations about security and privacy together with the creation of dynamic environments. He compared our search history to photographs of the past following us around — all the places we’d been.

On Designing a Safe Environment

Ramya Mahalingam (Twitter: @rams_mahalingam) presentated her engaging talk about safety. She presented a continuum of safety (see below) and talked about how psychological and contextual safety is. The concepts of accountability (I see you — even more confidence in well-lit situations for sighted people) and vulnerability (I’m alone — less confidence depending on context and individual).

Tweet by Carol Smith with an image of Ramya’s continuum of safety.

Why do we all suck at collaboration?

Karen VanHouten (Twitter: @designinginward) brought all of her enthusiasm, anger and a nice bottle of Scotch (?) to the stage for her talk about collaboration.

  1. Treat each other?
  2. Approach work?
  3. Communicate?
  4. Make decisions?
  5. Define success of working relationships?
  6. Enforce this code?

Prototyping Information Architecture

I also missed this talk by Andy Fitzgerald (Twitter: AndyByWire) but enjoyed the Twitter feed about it and I wanted to share this quote tweeted by IA Summit (Twitter: IAsummit).

There was so much more!

I did not transcribe the entire conference, but there are many other people who have posted notes. Here are two more great tweets:

Ethics Roundtable (Pre-Conference)

Roundtable participants discussing and sorting post-its about ethical issues in IA.

Inclusive Digital Spaces

Andrea Resmini’s (Twitter: @resmini) presentation got to the heart of the discussion with regard to ensuring awareness and consent for our users. This is core to an ethical experience. He led us to consider the need for open public digital spaces for conversations — spaces that are made to feel as wide as streets — so that they are inclusive and comfortable for all members of a community to take part in the conversation.

Accessibility — Who Uses Our Tools?

During the roundtable anne gibson (Twitter: Kirabug)presented a short talk on accessibility and how the choices we make with regard to accessibility, determine who will be able to use our tools.

Tweet by Carol Smith showing Anne’s quote by Stephen Hawking and his photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Moral Maps and Models and VR

Dan Klyn (Twitter: DanKlyn) focused on virtual reality (VR) and ethics in this space. I have minimal experience with VR myself and Dan’s talk was very thoughtful. My takeaways:

  • The focus point is inevitably occlusionary to other focal points (what are we occluding?).
  • We should protect difference — too often we take out all that is special and unique to make it fit.
  • Consider what models the VR decomposes to.
  • Always consider consent and control — enable someone with a “get me out of here!” feeling to leave the experience easily.

IA in Age of AI: Embracing Abstraction and Change

Finally, I had the honor of presenting a follow-up to my 2017 talk on AI with more specific guidance with regard to desiging for these systems. The slides are on SlideShar/Carologic and what follows are some highlights of this talk.

  • Keep people at the center of our work.
  • Lead with our user’s goals.
  • Ease of use, usability, findability, effectiveness, efficiency…
  • Work to mature organizations approach
  • Push back on “technology first” ideas.
  • Lead on ethics — for our users, humanity.
  • Less-biased content.
  • Transparency of data sources and training.
  • Intentional design: Build in safety.
  • Build practices around PAPA (Privacy, Accuracy, Property, Accessibility)
  • What do you value?
  • What lines won’t your AI cross?
  • What is too far?
  • What are you including?
  • How will you track your progress?
  • Keep humans in control.
  • Hire people affected by bias
    (non-WEIRD, women, POC, LGBTQ, etc.).
  • Conduct auditing (algorithmic, data, UI, etc.).
Toward ethical, transparent and fair AI/ML: a critical reading list, by Eirini Malliaraki, Feb 19 via tweet from @robmccargow https://medium.com/@eirinimalliaraki/toward-ethical-transparent-and-fair-ai-ml-a-critical-reading-list-d950e70a70ea
  • Demystify AI by using plain language. Always.
  • Teach people how to utilize and benefit from the system.
  • Provide easy way to raise concerns (anonymously if appropriate).



UX Leader, speaker and community organizer. My thoughts on user research, design, AI and more. Provoking human values in AI.

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Carol Smith

Carol Smith

UX Leader, speaker and community organizer. My thoughts on user research, design, AI and more. Provoking human values in AI.