Presenting Design Work by Donna Spencer

Presenting Design Work by Donna Spencer captures everything I’ve learned about that harrowing process of presenting a web design for review and turned it into a six chapter book you can read over two lunch hours.

I am thrilled that this book emphasizes rigor in the craft of creating and presenting designs.

So many times I’ve sat through reviews where the designer couldn’t tell me what the business problem was, why the user needed the changes, how the user would get from place to place, or what the unhappy paths looked like. They failed to take notes (sometimes showing up without even a note-taking device, like, say, a pencil or a laptop), gave me a tour of our components on the page instead of telling me how someone would use it, and thanked everyone when done — but never followed up to let us know what they’d decided. Then, later, they complained that the product manager steamrolled their input on designs or ignored their feedback.

This book demands a lot of the person who wants to be successful. You have to think about your audience, practice presenting, take notes (or find someone who will), understand the problem you’re building against, understand the feedback you’re given, and be rigorous in your feedback decision-making process.

It also works. It works so very well. And it garners trust between us and our business and engineering peers way better than any less-rigorous process is capable of doing.

As soon as I started reading it, I started messaging people I know mentoring designers and said “yeah this book? this is the one you want.”

Everyday Information Architecture by Lisa Maria Martin

I’m a three-time failure at reading the Polar Bear Book.

I’m also a Principal Information Architect with 10 years’ experience.

I’m not telling you not to read the Polar Bear Book. I am telling you that if you want a short, direct, and well-structured book on what Information Architecture is, how to get started practicing it, and real-world examples of prior work, Everyday Information Architecture by Lisa Maria Martin is the book to start with.

It is the IA cohort to The Elements of Content Strategy And y’all know I’m a big fan of that book.

I started this book while sitting in a hospital room watching my husband sleep. It’s readable even under extreme stress. The book starts with the LATCH system of organization, which I had learned… but when I’d learned it through the quasi-apprenticeship of a mutual fund company’s design department, it didn’t have a name. So here I was, middle of the afternoon, snoring and beeping filling the room, and ten-year veteran of information architecture, learning things I didn’t know on page 5.

Your milage may vary (YMMV), especially if you’re one of those younger folks for whom information architecture degrees were available. (We had library science but I was too short-sighted to major in it.)

The book is vibrant and well-structured enough that I could put it down for a week at a time if I needed to and pick it up again and keep reading and understand where I’d left off. (Also, YMMV.)

Plus, this book isn’t afraid to use Star Trek, Ravelry, cooking, self-deprecating spreadsheet jokes, and colorful, useful examples.

To sum up, this book is going on the list of books anyone who asks me how to start a career in UX, along with Don’t Make Me Think, How to Make Sense of Any Mess and Universal Principles of Design.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert will help you do two things:

  1. Understand how to break a big hairy problem into smaller steps so that you can approach solving it.
  2. Understand some approaches to solving it.

It will give you examples of various activities, tools (i.e. worksheets) and things to understand about problems. It’ll do this one page at a time, which is to say each of the 150ish pages covers exactly one topic, and covers it well enough that you’ll know how to move forward to the next topic. It also gives references and resources to places that you can learn more, because let’s face it, 150 topics is a few too many for anyone to cover in depth in one book.

Many of the topics in this book are topics of their own.

But that’s really the point of this book beyond all the others: it’s the book to help you find the path through the mess you’re dealing with, and help you identify what you need to know more about. It’s the solution to the “I don’t know what I don’t know” problem, at the highest level.

It’s immediately on my recommendation list for all new Information Architects, User Experience Designers, and a good number of others that are both inside the Information Technology field and outside of it. This book is well-written enough that I feel like I could hand it to someone in a totally different industry and say “Hey, here’s where to start” or “Hey, if you’ve ever wondered what I do for a living…”

I’m glad it’s a tool I can now use to make my own work better.