SIGIA-L Mail Archives: [Sigia-l] IA Practice Maturation AND Exp
[Sigia-l] IA Practice Maturation AND Experiences & Expectations...from France (Long)
From: Ziya Oz (ZiyaOz_at_earthlink.net)
Date: Tue Apr 23 2002 - 03:54:19 EDT
[Relaying for Laurent Moulager, who is having problems posting to the list.]
Le 17/04/02 20:59, « eric mahleb » <emahleb_at_yahoo.com> a écrit :
> I left San Francisco a couple of years ago to work in
> Europe. My main exposure has been Germany, France, and
> a couple of other countries in "continental" Europe. I
> am excluding the UK and Scandinavia from my remarks
> since they tend to keep up with the US fairly well
> when it comes to IA and Usability
> However, from my personal experience, continental
> Europe continues to be behind the US by a couple of
> years when it comes to IA and Usability (and User
> Experience, Experience Design, User Intelligence,
> Interaction Design)
I agree with you on the general idea of your points BUT:
I am practicing IA in France as an *IA specialist* for more than 2 years
(Mostly websites). This makes me, maybe not a specialist as you may
understand it but, an *IA specialist in France* ;-). Which in itself may not
look different in theory, but it is *in practice*.
Practice as you know, depends on the experience you have with the team you
work with, the client and his maturity, and also the market and his maturity
I agree with the latest James KALBACH's comments about the team, the
clients, the language barrier and the *IA evangelism* (I did a lot here
However, you can't say that the practice is *behind* I would rather say
*different*. Furthermore, to get a comprehensive view on this subject you
have to understand all the aspects I mentioned before :
- From the team side:
>From the experience I had with other IA specialists, we have in France
different groups of backgrounds: Technical, Graphic, and Searcher...
The two first groups learned from the work. The last group come from
What they have in common is the difficulty to make people understand what
they do for the other members of the team, even if it's just sometimes
common sense. IA seems something odd to them, weird, and definitely not
useful...(not their problem.)
If you want to forget the blank faces, at first you better have to do it the
hard way if you want to be listened... Make the art director and the
programmer DO what you designed before on the story board, even if it takes
for all (including you) more time to understand each others work. Make sure
the project manager are not far and act as an...architect with contractors!
If you *social engineered* them good, you will have the best team you ever
dream. It worked on most of the people I worked with, but it's time
consuming at the beginning, then, it becomes for them just a common sense...
Then only you become as an IA part of the team, otherwise you can crawl many
months without having a single task done good.
IA is not a step of the project, it's the way the project has to be done.
This means not a lot of rewards and lots of responsibility.
And only experience and practice can achieve that...
- From the market and client side:
Our common work here for a web agency is to usually design at least 2
websites. Of course for a corporate website the work is basically a
translation of every page but if you start looking in different areas like
ecommerce websites or banks, it's a different game...
Laws are different between countries in Europe, experiences and expectations
are different from a country to another. Yes we have now unique bills and
coins between some big ones (except the UK) but still: a woman customer of
cosmetics products in Germany doesn't behave like her counterpart in France.
Even the company you work for doesn't provide the same products for both
countries. In France you will buy using your credit card, in Germany it's
another way. In a country it's easy to find a hotline open 24 hours, in
France after 8 or 9 PM everything is closed...and so on...
How do you put that to the client ? Say "Well we have to perform tests in
every country, design tasks differently between 3 or 4 countries ? Run the
site on 3 or 4 different server or duplicate the web site ?" What if your
client in France wants to use English as first language to check online his
bank account ? If a product is available in France for shipping, what if you
speak German and want this product deliver to your location in France but is
not available on the German site because of any laws or policies ?
Of course there is a lot of other differences inside the US two, states
laws, languages and many others but hey, it's the same country! We will be a
federation one day maybe, but for now, we are not ...
We have solutions to solve these problem of course, but there is a cost on
that: Take Broadvision or Communiqué or Vignette and instantly your budget
goes far too high!
>From the US it may be difficult to understand that because the client you
deal with has most of his business opportunities in the whole country. 150
Millions potential user in ONE unique country, plus the potential 20 or so
Millions from UK, and the potential of non-English people... In Europe you
don't just addition the 25 Millions from Germany, plus the 10 M from France
+ the 7 M of Spain...ASO...to have the potential customers. I use to buy on
amazon.com from France, who ever buy from amazon.fr from the US ?
An example among others: In my recent experience we had received the full
design guidelines for an international bank website based in UK. The purpose
of the document, based on the UK website, was to define the main design, so
other countries will only have to use the same templates. In theory that was
perfect except few details.
First, they never mentioned the behavior of the website in a different
language (except the *choose your language box*) The translation only was a
problem just because the length of the words. This became a problem with the
graphics, and then became a problem with the html, then became a problem
with the applets, then became a problem with the complete behavior of the
site which was based on 600x800 standards only...(which is far not the case
here, 80% are using 768X1024) Nothing about that was said in the
guidelines... The client already paid for these documents: It was supposed
to do some good anywhere. So the budget provided for the "localized" site
was established with almost no money for IA. How do you say to your client
"Well, we need to rebuild the tasks, perform some tests..." At the end, the
client is not satisfied because the website doesn't reach his expectation
(or the users expectations) because there was not consulting even if it had
to be done.
Like Eduardo Gomez said "web based projects here have super tight budgets
(even HUGE clients) and require quick results" It's the same here. You can't
just double the budget because of that. And because the market is going
down, client just paid for what could be a short term benefit. Which doesn't
go in a way where IA can explore or share a lot...
>From the language side :
Of course the language barrier is also a problem. Of course we have a lot of
theories we can compare, a lot of practices we can analyze together and
experiences we can share, and we do. But, and maybe that's the whole point:
Who, from the US ever tried to do this on a French, German, Spanish or
Where we are *behind*, is more the community, the ability to share our
experiences and practices.
I've met *native* IA's from Nederland, Denmark, and Germany which they are
not born with English as a first language...they all said the same: Yes we
learn a lot from the US IA groups, the websites, the books but it's too much
self centered... You have to change your point of view, try to see with a
different angle, do a scenario on you like we do in IA.
OK, the practice in itself couldn't be a recipe, but what you have in
non-English countries in Europe is a rational practice of IA because the
stakes are more challenging. (x Countries = X Laws, X Policies, X Practices,
X Expectations, And X maturity...the more you have, the more you have to
deal with potential problems)
To understand it, you have to look to the whole area, and understand the
goals of these strategies.
As a last example I will tell you this. I used to work on the .fr website of
a client based in the US. His idea was just duplicate the US website in .fr
We told him it will be a mistake to do it that way because tasks the users
had to perform were not done this way in Europe. (based on user testing)
He understood, but "had to make sure" So we did the site his way. After 6
months, we had to redo everything... At that time, we had money to do that,
which is not the case anymore.
I don't want with this email offend anyone here or start a fight between US
and Europe (;-). I think, because I learned a lot from this group and
others, that there is a lot to share. But there is no "value" between Europe
practice and US... The point is: We make the same work, use the same
theories, practice equally, but the people we work for don't have the same
expectations (Clients, Users) not only between them but between their
Because of the market going down we don't have the budget to do everything
we like or need. And all follows...
There is no point to argue about the fact that English is the most
international language, and because of that a lot of things follow. Just see
by yourself, only on this post, we have Germany, France, Spain, Finland and
Practice in Europe is different because of the Expectations, the Clients
Budgets, Experiences...but practice is not less mature, it's just a question
Creative Director - IA Specialist
Content Management Symposium, Chicago O'Hare Marriott, June 28 - 30.
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: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 22:55:09 EST