In a world increasingly made of information, how does information architecture (IA) impact our happiness?

On Saturday 21 February, more than 50 members of Australia’s information architecture community gathered at PwC’s Canberra office to find out.

World Information Architecture Day is a free, annual one-day conference hosted by the Information Architecture Institute and held in dozens of cities across the world, to further the global conversation about the practice and teaching of IA. Proudly supported by PwC Australia, Canberra was one of 38 cities in 24 countries around the globe hosting World IA Day, to share and learn around the theme of ‘architecting happiness’.

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Enabling accessibility

Andrew Arch of the Department of Finance’s Digital Government Strategy Branch kicked off the day with a talk about the issues faced by the elderly and people with disabilities when using websites and applications.

In an ageing population, common conditions like arthritis (which affects more than 50% of people aged over 65) and hearing and vision loss can have a huge impact on the way people interact with websites and applications. Through his work as an Ageing Specialist with W3C and on the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), Andrew shared some solutions to keep this important and growing user group happy.

Creating digital citizens

In Australia, as in other countries, the government is looking to reduce operating costs and improve information and service delivery to its citizens. In the second talk of the day, Stephen Hall from SMS Management & Technology spoke about the rapid rate of digital transformation and the opportunities it presents for delivering government services and transactions online and for keeping citizens happy.

With a background in industrial design, Ashlea McKay bravely stepped into the world of IA just three years ago. A relatively new member of the IA community, she talked about the lessons learnt along the way. Insights and discoveries included lightbulb moments such as discovering that taxonomies are not just used for plants and animals, and when her boss used a department store as an analogy to help her understand what IA means.

More than 50 people gathered in Canberra for World IA Day (@Meera404)

Ashlea McKay presenting at World IA Day, Canberra

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The perspective of science

After lunch, Cameron Grant from NICTA gave us fascinating insights into what it’s like to work as a user researcher in an organisation with really smart scientists working on extremely cool projects. He described robots that can teach themselves how to cook by watching YouTube videos, and the big data and algorithms that help a bakery find optimal delivery routes – making the bakery, delivery drivers and crumpet lovers everywhere happy.

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Next, Cecile Paris from CSIRO showed us how the organisation is leveraging web log files to understand user behaviour, improve its website, optimise user flows and keep visitors happy with new software, LATTE, which aims to decipher the patterns of user interaction.

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Straight to the point

Vanessa Roarty from the Department of Finance showed us the new site, and how metadata and information architecture is being used to connect citizens – who ‘don’t know, or care, about the detail of how government service delivery works’ – with the right information and services.

The team’s research shows that users don’t come to government websites for ‘interest, fun or browsing’, so making sure they can quickly and easily get to the right information, and know they can trust it, is the best way to keep them happy.

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Understanding cognitive bias

Have you ever thought, ‘I knew it all along?’ That’s hindsight bias – the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

For the last talk of the day, PwC’s Senior UX Designer, Kim Chatterjee walked us through a myriad of cognitive biases that we all have and may not even be aware of – hindsight bias, attentional bias, belief bias, confirmation bias and dozens more – and how they affect our judgement, attitude and decision-making.


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Kate Needham

Kate is a senior user experience designer with a multidisciplinary background. She has a degree in communications and post-graduate qualifications in public administration and more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, marketing, publishing, website management, multimedia production and project management in both the public and private sectors. She is an award-winning intranet specialist, with strong hands-on experience in intranet design, development and management.

Kate has a broad range of skills and experience in designing online experiences, including user research, requirements gathering and analysis, information architecture, content strategy, interface design and accessibility. Her broad range of skills and experience has given her the ability to bridge the gaps between technology, creative, business and operations.

In her spare time, Kate enjoys overseas travel, sewing, exploring cafes, watching foreign films, and the occasional fun run.

“I love designing solutions to complex problems and the endless possibilities for making everyday life simpler.”

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