HOW

TO

MAKE

SENSE

OF ANY

MESS

by Abby Covert


Front Matter

Dedication

About this book

Introduction

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Identify the Mess

Messes are made of information and people.

It's hard to shine a light on the messes we face.

Information architecture is all around you.

Things may change; the messes stay the same.

People architect information.

Every thing is complex.

Knowledge is complex.

Every thing has information.

What's information?

Information is not data or content.

Information is architected to serve different needs.

Users are complex.

Stakeholders are complex.

To do is to know.

Meet Carl.

It's your turn.

Draw your mess.

Chapter 2: State your Intent

Intent is language.

What is good?

Good is in the eye of the beholder.

Looking good versus being good.

Meaning can get lost in translation.

Who matters?

Start with why.

What before how.

How varies widely.

Why, what, and how are deeply interrelated.

Language is the material of intent.

Meet Karen.

State your intent.

Choose your words.

Chapter 3: Face Reality

By facing reality, we can find solutions.

Reality involves many players.

Reality involves many factors.

Reality happens across channels and contexts.

Reality has many intersections.

Reality doesn't always fit existing patterns.

Objects let us have deeper conversations about reality.

Start with scope and scale.

Timescale matters.

Rhetoric matters.

Architecture before design.

Keep it tidy.

Expand your toolbox.

1. Block Diagram

2. Flow Diagram

3. Gantt Chart

4. Quadrant Diagram

5. Venn Diagram

6. Swim Lane Diagram

7. Hierarchy Diagram

8. Mind Map

9. Schematic

10. Journey Map

Try diagramming.

Meet Maggie.

Face your reality.

Diagram your reality.

Chapter 4: Choose a Direction

Moving from why to what.

We work at different levels.

What are you making?

These levels deeply affect one another.

We make places.

There are spaces between the places we make.

Language matters.

Reduce linguistic insecurity.

Understand ontology.

Your ontology already exists.

Design with, not for.

Create a list of words you say.

Create a list of words you don't say.

Words I don't say in this eBook.

Define terms for outsiders.

Understand the past.

Think about nouns and verbs.

Think about relationships between nouns and verbs.

Watch out for options and opinions.

Opinions are like...

Admit where you are.

Meet Rasheed.

Control your vocabulary.

Choose a direction.

Chapter 5: Measure the Distance

There's distance between reality and your intent.

Goals are our lens on the world.

Progress is as important to measure as success.

Indicators help us measure progress.

Common indicators.

Use worksheets to mine data from people.

Baselines help us stay in touch with reality.

Flags tell us if we're headed in the right direction.

Measurements have rhythm.

Fuzzy is normal.

Meet Jim.

Set your goals.

Measure the distance.

Chapter 6: Play with Structure

There are many ways to structure things.

Taxonomy is how we arrange things.

We combine taxonomies to create unique forms.

Sorting is easier than deciding how to sort.

Classification can be exact or ambiguous.

Ambiguity costs clarity; exactitude costs flexibility.

Ambiguity hides in simplicity.

Facets are the lenses we use to classify.

Identify facets.

Humans are complex.

The way you organize things says a lot about you.

Taxonomies can be hierarchical or heterarchical.

Taxonomies can be sequential.

Hypertexts bridge taxonomies.

Most things need a mix of taxonomic approaches.

Meet Joan

Play with Structure

Learn these patterns.

Chapter 7: Prepare to Adjust

Adjustments are a part of reality.

The sum is greater than its parts.

It's easy to reach agreement alone.

Argue about discuss it until it's clear.

If it isn't under the floorboards, it's a façade.

We serve many masters.

Make room for information architecture.

"Hey, nice IA!" — said no one, ever.

Be the filter, not the grounds.

This is hard.

It's far more rewarding than hard.

Meet Abby.

Make sense yet?