Research methods for Information Architecture

Half Day Workshop, presented by Patrick Kennedy.

Information architecture (IA) is a form of user-centred design (UCD) which requires an understanding of users and their needs and designing with those needs in mind – balanced by factors such as business objectives and available or necessary content. Without a solid understanding of these inputs into the process, design is blind.

Design research is the process of uncovering and understanding those needs, whether it be direct user research or other means of gathering requirements.

Yet, many experienced web designers, developers and IA practitioners don’t feel well-equipped to take on design research in their projects.

In this half-day workshop, Patrick Kennedy will present the fundamentals of design research from the perspective of IA. Specifically, the workshop will be conducted in the context of organising and designing information systems such as websites, intranets and software applications.

This workshop will introduce design research, explain the fundamental principles and teach some simple techniques. The aim is to give the audience a heads-up on the subject and point them in the right direction so they can integrate research into their own work or just better collaborate with design researchers.

Workshop outline

Participants will learn the concepts behind design research, as well as a set of useful techniques, whilst applying them to a mock project scenario. As such, the basic structure of the tutorial will follow a simplified IA methodology, consisting of research, design and validation phases.

Content in the tutorial typically covers:

  • definition of design research
  • principles of IA and UCD
  • general IA methodology
  • qualitative vs quantitative research methods
  • primary and secondary research
  • making sense of research results
  • balancing competing requirements
  • explanations of commonly used jargon
  • designing site structures, labels, navigation and page layouts based on research results
  • documentation and communication of research results
  • real-life examples and case studies

Please note, this workshop does not cover in-depth, academic research techniques. Furthermore, it will not cover database design or technical platform architecture, even though the term ‘information architecture’ is often associated with those subjects within certain industries.

Practical techniques

Workshop participants will be given an overview of a number of research techniques, including:

  • interviews
  • user observation
  • focus groups
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • competitive review
  • literature review
  • expert review
  • basic web analytics
  • ethnographic research methods

Hands-on activities

During the workshop, participants will also be involved in hands-on activities that aim to demonstrate key techniques and give them an idea of what they would find in a real world situation. This will include:

  • one-on-one interviews
  • contextual inquiry (aka ‘site visit’)
  • storytelling and ‘anecdote circles’
  • card sorting
  • affinity diagramming
  • usability testing

These activities will form part of a mock project that will run the length of the tutorial, simulating a realistic, end-to-end research process.

‘Show and tell’ group discussion

Throughout the workshop, participants will be encouraged to share real design research challenges they have faced and collaboratively the group will work on a solution using all that they have learnt thus far. As many of these challenges as possible will be discussed in the time available.

Learning Objectives

Participants who attend this tutorial will:

  • learn the concepts underlying design research
  • learn a general methodology for approaching research for IA in a realistic situation
  • understand the importance of uncovering user needs (and balancing those with business and other objectives)
  • be able to demonstrate simple techniques and know when to apply them to the IA process
  • have the confidence to start undertaking research
  • be able to work more effectively with researchers, including external consultants
  • take skills and knowledge back to their workplace and share with their team
  • gain a solid foundation on which to build further design research expertise


This workshop is primarily aimed at those who need to design a website or other information system, but whom have no experience in design research, and those who simply have an interest in learning more about IA and UCD.

Hence, no experience in design research or information architecture will be required, but participants should have reasonable experience in using the world wide web.

Typical participants include: web designers (creative), web developers (technical), project managers, web team managers, intranet managers, writers, editors and other content creators.

Please note, this is an introductory workshop designed to build core skills, and is not suitable for intermediate or experienced IA or UCD practitioners.


Participants of past workshops run by the facilitator have said:

  • Excellent course and very timely for me. Hands on activities were very, very useful
  • Well structured, well presented, well paced, enjoyable
  • Very useful and informative - best seminar in a long time.
  • Made IA seem more fun and creative, not so tedious.
  • Great workshop. I had lots of my questions answered in the workshop’s content. Great takeaways also!
  • Interesting, relevant to work being undertaken. Thought provoking.
  • Good balance between theory and practice.
  • Very practical and useful. I expect to use all the topics covered.
  • Great course! Kept interest and useful exercises.
  • Structure was good - balance of theory and practice.
  • Energetic, fun learning.
  • Very helpful & useful ideas to try.
  • Great! Easy to understand concepts & the facilitator was very approachable.

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy is a web user experience specialist with over ten years experience in the digital media and web industry. His expertise is in information architecture, usability, user research and best-practice web design.

As both a consultant and in-house practitioner, Patrick has delivered successful projects in a variety of different environments, including marketing and advertising, media, IT, manufacturing, not-for-profit and the public sector. He has worked with a variety of organisations, both in Australia and the United Kingdom. Patrick will draw examples from real-world projects to give insight into addressing common challenges and issues.

Currently, Patrick works for News Digital Media (part of News Limited) as a Senior Experience Architect, developing some of Australia’s biggest websites.

Patrick holds a nationally recognised training qualification (TAA40104 Certificate IV in Assessment and Training), and has run workshops on information architecture for the general public as well as for in-house training.

He also speaks regularly at industry conferences (including OZ-CHI 2007, Open Publish 2007, OZ-IA 2007, webDU 2008) and has published many articles on information architecture and related topics.

Program Schedule is online

The program schedule is now online. Don’t worry, we have a couple suprises planned to de-stress the packed schedule.

Student rates!

We’re offering special rates for full time students, for the conference and for the workshops.


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