Information architecture exercises

I am preparing some information architecture workshops, and I’m collecting various types of exercises. I’ve managed to identify some general rules for developing workshop exercises as well:

  • Involve food items. Snacks, preferably. People get hungry in these workshops.
  • Make it fun.
  • Loosen people up at first.

A lot of exercises can consist of trying out information architecture research techniques.

There are of course the classics: card sorting (open or closed), doing contextual interviews, ….

Jess McMullin suggested “sorting buttons (the clothing kind), or other materials with facets. (buttons have lots of obvious facets: size, shape, color, material, texture, formality, etc. and you can buy assorted bags of them at many thrift shops).” Jess also suggested “Get Veer or another stock photo print catalog, cut the pictures out, and sort them (more facets)”.

Jess also mentioned “Play a 20 questions guessing game about a favorite movie (thanks to Rashmi Sinha for this one, from the 2003 IA Institute preconference)”. This is a great technique for developing facets, also mentioned to me by Margareth Hanley. The user has to guess which thing you’re thinking about in 20 questions, and you only answer yes or no. From this, you can try to determine facets that matter to the user.

Anna mentioned: “I had my students Interactive Media make groups of 4/5 and take out all their cards from their wallet and put them together: creditcards, membercards, discountcards etc. and categorize them. Then I brought up the subject of overlap; would it be better to have every piece in a category of its own, or would it be ok to find the same card under different categories? For instance NS-daluren (railways) gives both entrance and discount. This way they gained more insight in the matter than when I had tried to explain.”

Jason Pryslak said that “Lou does a popular excercise at his seminar where he gives everyone a Little Debbie snack and asks them to describe from the perspective of a marketer and a product manager. ”

Alfred Werner suggested “How about a word association game to loosen everyone up? You start by saying a word and each person in the room does an association with the previous word.” I have thaught before, and exercises to loosen people up are generally superuseful. Alfred also wrote: “Bring some boxes with balls, pieces of cloth, magazine clippings, jacks, and other random stuff and have people put them into piles and then justify their sorting criteria.” This might help understand people that many people categorize things differently.

A good way to loosen things up (if needed) is to introduce an IA buzzword bingo game, like the business bingo card.

More IA-related games: Wordmenu.

Finally, maybe Mapping Springfield is an Information Architecture exercise, too.

Please leave more ideas in the comments. I’ll add them to this list.

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