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Posted on July 17th, 2012 by
Several years ago (2003 - 2005) when I was an Information Architect at Creo (a once-upon-a-time tech darling in BC that got bought out by Kodak) I learned a very valuable lesson about the weight that data and evidence carried over my in-depth knowledge of the content and IA (information architecture) of the site.
At the time of the Creo buy out, Kodak was trying to dominate the graphic communications industry and so bought out 5 businesses and merged them into the Kodak Graphic Communications Group. Creo was the last company to join the group. Kodak had engaged an external consultant to develop the new site that was to be a channel on the main Kodak site and the Creo content was to be folded into that.
One day the external consultants arrived at our offices in Burnaby and, essentially, started telling us how it was going to be. I was not too happy about it, imagining that we would work together and create a new site together. The problem was despite my deep knowledge at the time about the content of the site, how it was packaged, and how it worked in sync with support content serving up only what was relevant to the user’s login, location and product, I found myself losing every argument about strategy, design, interaction, and structure to these external people. While I knew the content, structure, and content relationships like the back of my hand, they came back time and again with why something would or would not work for the end users based on hard data.
In the months prior to beginning this portion of the engagement, they had had the opportunity to conduct research about what the end users needed, what our competitors were offering, how effective online ordering was in that space, and what some of the barriers and key issues customers in this space were experiencing.
In my time with Creo I had only once run a usability study, and never had the opportunity to go and get any other data. But to own the problem, at least a little, until that day I had never really had the drive to get the data. My bias was to best practices, my own in-depth knowledge, and what I was able to glean second hand from various internal people.
While going out and doing that primary research can seem expensive, what I have seen coming from that are powerful and innovative strategies along with insights that can drive change within an organization for a year or more.