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Oz-IA 2009 conference wrap up

Eric Scheid (organiser of the OzIA 2009 conference) opens the conference.
Another Oz-IA conference has passed and it was great. There were a lot of familiar faces but also a large number of new faces. The twitter back channel were buzzing with activity for most of the conference, no doubt fuelled by the on-site barista and fruit cocktail maker.

Here’s a rundown of some of the presentations. Not every session is covered.

The evolution of the agile IA

Matthew Hodgson Roblox Robux Hack 2017

Matt gave an entertaining talk about the evolution of IA and about applying agile principles to our IA work. Key takeaways included:

  • Agile means breaking the project into smaller pieces
  • Prioritise, Iterate, Reuse
  • Flexible user-negotiated scope, everything else is fixed
  • As IAs we must:
  • Continue to evolve
  • Steal what makes sense
  • Adapt it & make it ours

See his presentation at prezi: The evolution of the agile IA

Guiding the way to living greener – how psychology helped IA for a new government website

Ben Crothers

Ben presented a case study about He noted that people do not start and end with one task therefore we should employ motivational psychology where the design should cater for the motivations and situations of people using the site. We should lead people on a journey by capturing them at their point of need and using a ‘concierge’ interaction model.

View his presentation on slideshare: Guiding the way to living greener – how psychology helped IA for a new government website

Bringing them online: using design research to identify online opportunities

Patrick Kennedy and Alun Machin

Patrick and Alun presented a case study on the Super Racing site (soon to be released) and the techniques used on this project as well as the challenges faced. Techniques included secondary research (literature review and competitor review), use of Google trends, user research methods such as interviews and diary studies and more.

See their presentation on slideshare: Bringing them online: Using design research to identify online opportunities

Tears, tantrums and triumphs

Meghan Hayes and Ladan Wise

This was one of my favourite presentations. My work colleague Meghan and Ladan provided an entertaining look at the 18 months journey of consolidating 50 plus websites into one website and 40 plus intranet sites into one intranet. There were a lot of politics to deal with and the site managed to survive through a change in state Government direction. One of the key learnings was about providing visual stories to key decision makers, and having individual meetings prior to big group meetings to understand and address stakeholder concerns.

This presentation also had one of my favourite quotes – “I don’t believe in card sorting. That’s ok, it’s not a religion.”

See their presentation on slideshare: Tears, Tantrums and Triumphs OZIA 2009

Navigation models: efficiency versus user preference

David Humphreys

Dave presented the results of their research into different navigation models including:

  • Single level vertical drop down menus
  • Multi level horizontal fly-out menus
  • Use of landing/index/navigation pages with in-page links
  • Mega drop-down navigation menus

Looks like Dave has confirmed that fly-outs causes problems, particularly for older users and those without fine motor skills. Mega drop-downs can work but depends on the situation.

See Dave’s presentation on slideshare: Navigation Models: Efficiency versus user preference

We’re still too fluffy

Anthony Colfelt

Anthony’s key messages included embracing our inner salesperson so we can make a difference to the decision maker. He covered the idea adoption path, where the aim is to lead the business people along the path of Unaware, Aware but inactive, Aware and active, and the Decision (which includes incentives for the business).

Presentation available at slideshare: We’re still too fluffy

Spoilt for choice: which prototyping tool is right for you?

Suze Ingram

My colleague Suze took us on a whirlwind tour of a large number of prototyping tools, looking at factors such as cost, learning curve, ability to share projects etc. The ‘gold stars’ were awarded to Expression blend and Axure.

See her presentation on slideshare: Spoilt for choice. Which prototyping tool is right for you?

IA failures in social networking platforms

Andrew Boyd

Andrew took us on a tour of some of the major social networking platforms and some of the key IA problems. One example that stood out was the Events in Facebook – it’s extremely difficult to locate, particularly once you have created the events. Something I wasn’t aware was the little bar of icons on the bottom left of Facebook – one of the icons will lead you to the events! (When I checked my Facebook page, I couldn’t seem to see this – another indication of the IA failure of Facebook?).

See Andrew’s presentation on slideshare: IA Failures in Social Networking Platforms

The art of skywriting: the demise of the tag cloud

Gary Barber

Gary showed us the history of the tag cloud and its varied usage. He questions whether tag clouds are still worthwhile being included in interface design as there are still many people who don’t understand what they are. Tag clouds should really be about audience determination, navigational aid and to visualise semantic categorisation. He proposes that some of the challenges around tag clouds can be address through the use of index or button clouds and combined with search. He mentioned that there are still accessibility issues to be overcome.

See his presentation on slideshare: The Art of Skywriting – The Demise of the Tag Cloud

It’s not easy being green: challenges faced when designing software for the Army

Matt Fisher

This was one of my favourite presentations from the conference. Matt showed us the reality of designing systems for a military environment which presents a number of challenges and obstacles that we don’t often see in our day to day work. This included no access to the cloud, bandwidth issues, limited or no electricity, environmental factors (inhospitable environment), human fatigue, the trade off between security and usability and more. He provided an interesting discussion on low-cost disruption tolerant networks and their application to third/real-world problems.

Playing games with culture

Matt Moore

Matt ran an interactive session where we were introduced to the Organisational Culture Cards and Knowledge Management Methods Cards from Straits Knowledge.

IA tools for measuring cultural readiness for web 2.0

Matthew Hodgson Roblox Robux Hack 2017

Matt presented his really interesting hybrid card sorting tool that he used on a recent project to determine the organisational readiness for incorporating web 2.0 tools as part of an intranet. You can download the cards from Web 2.0 cards (PDF).

See his presentation on slideshare: IA Tools For Measuring Cultural Readiness For Web 2.0 In The Enterprise

Huge data, little screen: using site search on mobile

Melissa Cooper

Melissa presented an interesting case study of ABC’s mobile version of The Big Diary. Key takeaways from her presentation included:

  • Make options visible
  • Support specific criteria
  • Provide refinement
  • Search feedback
  • Support repeat users
  • Major part of mobile design is deciding what to leave out

Check out her presentation on slideshare: Huge Data, Little Screen: Assisting Mobile Users Finding Information Quickly Using Site Search

I don’t know much about the web but I know what I like

Jonathan Cooper from the Art Gallery of NSW

Jonathan gave a very entertaining presentation on how principles and techniques used in art museum education can be applied to the web. Some of my favourite nuggets included:

  • Coining of the word meantness – “meant to be”
  • “Meantness is about unity. Websites need unity and consistency to allow visitors to build mental model.”
  • “A mismatch can be more telling than a match”
  • “When you have a certain amount of order, you can have a little bit of disorder and it still looks ok
  • The use of framing to define art

He has written an article based on his presentation titled I don’t know much about the web but I know what I like

Not to prime is a crime

Jodie Moule

Jodie covered issues around gathering feedback including whether the setting in which user feedback is received is aligned with user’s mindset and whether usability testing focuses too much on left brain thinking. She discusses ‘priming’, which is about playing to both sides of the brain. Jodie demonstrated a technique that her company employs, which involves asking users to complete creative tasks during recruitment as it assists recruits tap into right-side brain. An example is the creation of collages to create a point of discussion during sessions.

These are a few of my favourite things

Rod Farmer and Oliver Weidlich

Rod’s and Oliver’s presentation really brought home the challenges of designing for mobile devices. There are many factors to consider including the device, platform, browser and the cost to the consumer when every KB counts. Other points included:

  • Proliferation of platforms and screen sizes
  • 40% of data traffic is iPhone/Smartphones
  • We need to understand the ecosystem not just the UI – ecosystem includes manufacturers, devices, OS, networks, carriers, service providers
  • Mobile behaviour – 15 mins per session. 1.2 sessions per day. 3-4 sticky products. 15s page loads
  • Reduce no of options on page, bubble content to the top, keep IA very simple, define what your product does

Sharing information in an Augmented Reality environment

Rob Manson

Rob took us through a tour of how augmented reality can change our perception of space and collaboration. One of the new tools is the world’s first augmented reality browser layar, which unfortunately is only currently available for Android phones.

His presentation is available on slideshare: Sharing information in an Augmented Reality environment


Thanks to Eric Scheid for putting together an interesting conference, to the volunteers for the smooth running of the conference, and all of the presenters. Stand outs included the barista and fruit cocktail bar, Star City for understanding our geek needs (they ran powerboards to the tables so we could get access to power for our devices throughout the entire conference), the food and to Matt Balara for his excellent sketchnotes. Thanks also to the sponsors Happener, Rosenfeld, Ironclad Networks, Charles Sturt University, WIPA and the Information Architecture Institute.

Check out the twitter stream and the photos on flickr.

Updated 6 October 2009: I updated a few typos and links to presentations. Added a summary of Ben Crothers talk.

Updated 7 October 2009: Added a link to Ladan and Meghan’s presentation on slideshare.

Published inConferencesInformation ArchitectureWeb


  1. Awesome wrap up of the conference Ruth! Thanks!

  2. Great summary Ruth, thanks heaps, and great notes for the sessions in the afternoon that I had to miss out on (:( but will catch up on now (:)

    Also great to meet so many amazing IA peeps! We rock!

  3. Ruth Ellison Ruth Ellison

    @Reemski Thanks – it was a great conference. Thanks for organising the growers market meetup ;)

    @Ben Crothers – thanks Ben. I haven’t had a chance to write up your presentation yet but will add that to this blog post shortly… Agreed that it was really good to catch up with so many passionate IAs. Helps to recharge the system.

  4. Great summary, thanks Ruth! I wasn’t sure whether the community could sustain two conferences (UX Australia and Oz-IA) this close together, but it turns out it can. Well done everyone.

  5. Great Summary Ruth. Bit late to the party. I too was worried if the community could support 2 events back to back. Really needs to be some consideration about spreading conferences around calendar more.

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