Paul Rissen is Data Architect for BBC News Online. He answered few questions about information architecture and the interest for journalism.
What are you doing at the BBC ?
Dan Ramsden : I’m responsible for leading the ‘user experience architecture’ (UXA) discipline at the BBC. Part of this role is determining how we can best use information architecture – and what other skills the team should have to be most effective.
The UX team at the BBC is about 130 people. Most of these professionals have some familiarity with IA. It’s our job to support these colleagues, undertake the more challenging bits of IA thinking and spot opportunities for greater alignment and efficiency in the IA we design.
Is your job a new one ?
The BBC has had a IA/UXA for many years (over 10). But the leadership role is relatively new and was created in 2012.
Are you working with journalists ?
Personally I work with journalists occasionally, but we have a dedicated UXA working within our news product. They will work more closely with journalists. We also have a UXA in our internal tools team. They work with production colleagues including journalists to understand workflows and improve the tools our journalists use.
Why do you say you’re an User Experience Architect, and not an Information Architect and/or a UX Designer ?
I think it just reflects a broadening of the concerns of the role. I think every good information architect is also a user-centred designer – they consider the experience that their experience will give rise to. I’m not sure we can actually design experiences. I think we create stimuli which prompt and curtail experiences. Every user experience is unique, even if the designed stimulus is the same. So I much prefer the idea of architecting a ‘space’ in which experiences happen, rather than ‘designing an entire experience.’*
Do IA and UX Design have an important place in discussions about the future of news in the UK ?
I hope so. I do think there’s already a lot of ‘experts’ in the field of news. Journalists tend to consider themselves the experts in their subject matter, so earning the respect and right to shape their understanding of the medium of the web requires dedication and persistence. I think the more we rely of machine generated aggregations and data to relate bits of content, the more we need to understand the IA that underpins these processes. I also think there are interesting developments currently underway around desegregation of content from publishers to platform providers. Do the moves from Apple, Facebook and Google to try to build news aggregating platforms support or threaten impartiality, independence, editorial integrity? They certainly allow audiences to compare and receive news from multiple sources easily, but are there downsides to this too?
* Dan wrote about these question on his blog here and here