World IA Day 2017 @ Shopify

On Saturday, February 18, Shopify was proud to host a mini-conference in celebration of World IA Day for the second year in a row. Over 50 professionals from the local UX community participated at the event at Shopify’s headquarters in Ottawa, Canada, which featured 6 talks throughout the day.

The theme for World IA Day 2017 was Information Strategy and Structure, and the Ottawa event was one of 58 in 24 countries aiming to create conversations around information architecture practice and ideas. If you’re new to the subject, the resources at The Information Architecture Institute are a great way to learn more.


These are Not the Problems you are Looking For

Scott Plewes, Vice President of User Experience Design at Macadamian, started the day with an exploration of reframing design problems to find new approaches and solutions. Scott suggested ways to explore a problem using object relationships, changes of scale, and perspective shifts to understand and move past design blocks.

View Scott’s slides.

Architecting a System of Suggestion: Creating structure and meaning from emotion and aesthetics

The second talk came from Nicola Evans, a Senior Content Strategist at Shopify, about the IA challenges resolved while redesigning Shopify’s Theme Store. By mapping the emotional state of merchants while they navigated the highly visual environment, her team determined where to provide context to help merchants choose the right theme for their online stores.

View Nicola’s slides.

Seeking Over Searching: Using IA to help users help themselves

Following a coffee break we heard from Dana Tessier, Shopify’s Director of Knowledge Management. Dana made a case for the value of good information architecture despite advanced search tools: since users employ different strategies to make sense of content depending on their information-seeking behavior, experience level, timeline, and mental model, enabling good searching as well as good browsing helps more users find what they need.

View Dana’s slides.

Escaping Flatland

Jacinthe Ricard, a Product Designer at Shopify, presented strategies to help connect with user experiences and find insight into problems beyond an observer’s viewpoint. She advocated moving away from abstractions of a problem to develop relevant solutions by seeking fresh perspectives, deconstructing assumptions, and connecting to users through physical experience of a problem.

View Jacinthe’s slides.

Shifting toward a task-based IA

Participants enjoyed lunch before Manu Singh, Chief of Web Publishing Guidance at the Treasury Board Secretariat, and Peter Smith, Product Designer for, partnered for a presentation. They have established processes to shift the mindset for online service delivery in government toward helping users understand dense topics by testing usability, standardizing information architecture, and optimizing content delivery based on high user demand.

View Manu and Peter’s slides.

Designing for the content you have vs the content users want

The day’s final talk was from Annie Crombie, Founder of Re-Think Strategic Consulting, Inc. Annie offered a user-focused plan for sorting through content from a variety of sources to find the best fit to meet user needs, despite duplication, overlap, circular references, content gaps, and information silos, and emerge with a consistent style and information architecture.

View Annie’s slides.

Photos and tweets

To hear what people had to say and see pictures, search #wiadott and #wiad17 on Twitter.

Thank you!

Our appreciation to Shopify for sponsoring the event. Thank you to the event organizer, Sarah Folkes, a UX Content Strategist at Shopify, and the hardworking volunteers who helped bring this wonderful day to the IA community in Ottawa. Until next year!

Angela Counter is a Technical Writer for the Shopify Help Center. In her spare time, she knits.