Welcome to the first edition of the TUG newsletter!

TUG Notes: IA News & Insights

Here you'll find updates on industry thinking and insights into how TUG works. We'll keep you updated on upcoming TUG workshops, IA and UX conferences, as well as discuss what we’re currently reading. As with all good user experiences and information structures, we think of this newsletter as an iterative conversation between TUG and our readers (you). Tell us what you like and don’t like, and watch the content evolve over time. Thanks for reading!
Bob Royce & Dan Klyn, TUG Co-Founders

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In This Issue:

TUG Insights: Andrew Hinton's Blog Post on User Context  –  TUG Workshops Report  –  TUG's Latest Read

NewsApril IA Summit in Baltimore  –  World IA Day 2013

Upcoming Events

Industry ThinkingWhen Do You Need an IA?  –  Facebook Bans Internally  –  Walmart Blends UX and In-Store Experiences – Wireframes: Love or Hate?


Andrew Hinton's Blog Post on User Context

TUG's  Andrew Hinton outlines some simple models for user context. He explains: "People aren’t machines. They’re squishy, messy, overlappy, emotional creatures whose ability to understand and use stuff changes throughout their lives (or even throughout a given day)." Read the full user context post.

TUG Workshops in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, California

We presented our latest offering last month in Ann Arbor—two of our popular “What Before How” workshops – Jessica DuVerneay's "Introduction to Lean Unmoderated User Testing" and Dan Klyn's "Understanding Information Architecture." Both workshops received rave reviews:

“Very enjoyable class. I learned a good amount but it also made me rethink what I already thought I know. I appreciate the examples, templates, and hands on work.”

"I really enjoyed the class and have a much better understanding of the user testing process and the theory behind the testing. I learned stuff I can use right away! I'm so thankful I took this class."

Dan Klyn is holding his "Understanding Information Architecture" workshop in Grand Rapids on April 24th, which is at full capacity. Jessica DuVerneay will also be conducting two sessions in California. The first, is a 90-minute introduction to lean user testing, in Santa Monica, CA on May 7. Register now for just $35 and receive free test credits from The second is a two-hour peer-to-peer learning session with Alberta Soranzo, "Taming Taxonomy" in Beverly Hills, CA on May 16th. Sponsored by LAUX Meetup and LiveNation, sign up now for this free session!

Summary: April IA Summit in Baltimore

We’ve just returned from several thought-provoking days at the annual IA Summit, in Baltimore. TUG IAs presented alongside industry icons like Peter Morville, Jared Spool, and Christina Wodtke. TUG co-founders Bob Royce and Dan Klyn teamed up to present “What Before How: Making a Home for Information Architecture.” Andrew Hinton presented on "The World Is The Screen: Elements of Information Environments." Kaarin Hoff presented on "Abstraction for Clarity." 

World IA Day 2013

One Day. Fifteen official cities. Six more grassroots cities. Fantastic global IA content and local interaction with peers, celebrating the birth of information architecture fifteen years ago.

TUG sponsored the event at the global level. TUG co-founder Dan Klyn organized the event with the Information Architecture Institute (IAI) and presented at New York City’s WIAD. Back in Michigan, TUGgers Jessica DuVerneay (watch it here), Andrew Hinton (watch it here), and Peter Morville presented at Ann Arbor’s WIAD. The Understanding Group was happy to sponsor this worldwide event and looks forward to an even bigger WIAD in 2014. Watch even more presentations on YouTube

Upcoming Events:

  • Jessica DuVerneay's Intro to Lean User Testing
    May 7, 6:30 – 8 pm in Santa Monica, CA
  • Jessica DuVerneay's Taming Taxonomy
    May 16, 7 – 9 pm in Beverly Hills, CA
  • Dan Klyn at UXPA
    July, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
  • UX Strategy
    September, 2013 in Atlanta, GA
  • Midwest UX
    October 17-19 in Grand Rapids, MI

When Do You Need an IA?

Seth Earley, Author and CEO at Earley & Associates recently blogged about the blurred lines between Business Analysts, Information Architects, Taxonomists, and Data Analysts. When is your business issue or website redesign project large enough to warrant bringing in an Information Architect? Each one of these roles has an interest in making information more usable and valuable. According to Seth, and we at TUG would agree, an information architect is needed when you’re in the early stages of identifying use cases and user scenarios. Better yet, bring in an IA when you don’t quite know who your users (or potential customers) really are, for user research and persona development. Read his full blog post.

Facebook Bans Internally

Facebook execs recently turned off corporate access to the website. Why? To force developers to take a look at the mobile version of Facebook. Suddenly staff realized that the user experience for mobile was lacking certain features and capabilities in the desktop version. Mobile users now surpass desktop users of Facebook, and last quarter’s mobile ad revenue accounted for 23% of all revenue. The user experience has to beat Four Square, Twitter, and other mobile social networks if they’re to survive the long haul. Read more about why UX really does matter in Fast Company magazine.

Walmart Blends UX and In-Store Experiences

Walmart has always been savvy about tech. Their distribution channels and inventory management systems have given them a competitive edge. Now that savvy edge is available on the consumer side, with the Scan & Go app. Walk into the store, open the iPhone app, and pre-scan your cart’s contents as you shop, making self-checkout a breeze. Past the initial testing stages, the Scan & Go app is now available in over 200 stores.

What we find interesting is how this combined online and in-person shopping user experience dovetails with other recent offerings, such as Site to Store (order online, pick up at your local store), among others. Read the full article at

Wireframes: Love or Hate?

While some product design folks, like Cennydd Bowles, think wireframes are dead (see the brief diagram he recently tweeted), as Information Architects we are head over heels in love with wireframes. To us, wireframes are tools that let you talk about interactivity and design in one place and are relatively quick to produce. It’s part of our “what before how” approach.

So why are so many people down on wireframes? They’ve evolved into a term with a lot of heavy baggage: requirements-driven design, the assumption that wireframes replace a prototype, and so on. Often a wireframe looks too nice and neat, as if it’s set in stone. Our tip? Try drawing them by hand before the wireframe review session, you’ll probably get more discussion around what should be changed; instead of feeling like you’re throwing them over the wall, practically untouched.

The TUG Bookshelf: Our Latest Read

Jon Kolko, Founder and Director at the Austin Center for Design, has identified the intersection between the design world and charitable work, i.e. social entrepreneurship. Bringing the power of design to the world’s social problems, such as South Africa’s HIV education and testing process, can be both daunting and rewarding. How do you handle design problems where the problem itself is only part of the larger problem? See how you can effect social change: follow his journey and read “Wicked Problems Worth Solving” at

Interested In What We Do?

Find out how you can put the "what before the how" on your next website redesign or e-commerce optimization project.

Contact Bob Royce at today to find out how information architecture can bring structure to your world and understanding to your site visitors.

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