Monthly Archives: June 2009

Connect with people first, content second

Very frequently people ask me how to get started in the UX field, or IA practice or Design. I always try to tailor my answers to their specific needs. Today I got an email from someone at work asking:

“Hi, everyone. If you decided you were interested in IA/UX but you didn’t know much about it…and you wanted to find out more…where would you go? What books would you read? What blogs would you add to your feed reader? What seminars would you attend? What tutorials would you take? What tweeters would you follow?”

Having no context I took 5 minutes are made this recommendation. I am sure I would tweak and change this significantly if I had any other inputs, but this was my 5 minute recommendation and I thought I’d share:

The starter book is Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web. After that, The Elements of User Experience followed by Don’t Make Me Think. All other books people recommend are wonderful, but not to start with.

Become a member of The Information Architecture Institute and find yourself a mentor; it’s the most valuable investment anyone can make when starting out.

I don’t follow blogs. I let the community curate content for me instead. Following the right people on twitter means they send me all the good blog posts. Also, you come across the relevant blogs via the discussion lists (specially the one you get access to when you join the IA Institute). Connect with people first, content second. It’s helpful to connect to the UX/IA/IxD groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare – it will help attract good content to you. You’ll immediately have access to all kinds of people you’ll become interested in connecting with.

Attending seminars: Go to all the free stuff happening locally. In Philly there’s PhillyCHI and Refresh Philly to start with. Online, spend your money wisely and pick the topics that seem more interesting to from UIE Virtual Seminars and Rosenfeld Media Webinar Series. Make sure you keep track of The UX Workshop for free broadcast of local events in other cities.

For community and education, attend the IA Summit. If you are starting out, that’s the first conference to go to. And Interactions. For more focused training, UIE’s User Interface Events and Adaptive Path’s UX Week and UX Intensive.

On Twitter, there are too many interesting people to follow and big names in the field. They don’t necessarily share any relevant information or advice relevant to starting out. These people do: @jmspool, @whitneyhess, @halvorson, @sladner, @mmilan, @austingovella, @leisa, @mediajunkie, @emalone, @stephenanderson, @billder (I share a lot of stuff too: @livlab)

Lastly, start a blog. You learn significantly more by sharing and capturing your own thoughts than countless dollars spent in training.

And if you are going to start on all this after lunch, print this to read during lunch: http://www.jjg.net/ia/recon/