ia play

the good life in a digital age

day in the life of a charity IA

Asking about a typical day is always an interesting question to ask in job interviews. All sorts of stuff gets chucked in job descriptions but there’s often no indication of whether that tasks represents something you’ll need to do every day or once a year.

A fairly typical day for me recently went something like this:


Attend our ‘Knowledge cafe’ . This is an informal weekly meeting in a coffee shop with the project managers, business analysts, and knowledge managers. There’s no agenda, just a chance to recharge, share stresses and pass bits of information around. Nice, social and deeply useful.


The rest of the morning is spent doing research, analytics, thinking etc. I might be buried in Google Analytics, auditing competitors, reading up on the technology or messing around with index cards, big bits of paper and a lot of furious hair twirling.


Meeting with content owners. Listening to them and their experiences/knowledge. Sharing IA insights. I used to find these depressingly familiar battles but I’ve tried to reposition them in my head. I’m not going to learn about IA in these meetings but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn about. Showing interest in the subject matter has actually helped make these meetings happier places.


Travelling to suppliers. They’re not too far but other days can involve lengthy treks to other offices.


Developers at the suppliers demo us the last few weeks work. We plan the next two weeks, flesh out user stories. The PM is usually there, often the web manager and accessibility consultant too.

The battle here can be to keep the focus on the important stuff. Making sure we’re working on simple, high value stuff rather than stuffing it full of bells and whistles. Suppliers generally just want to keep client happy, with the least effort. Mostly we have to be the voice of the user here, although occasionally the developers will argue than something isn’t user friendly (especially if it is complicated to develop).


Go home

The big shock for me, coming from a huge UX team at the BBC is there’s no designers involved, UX or otherwise. Visual design was outsourced, the details will be handled by the client side developer. Functional design and usability is the combined responsibility of me, web editors, business analysts and the accessibility consultants.

I produce very little documentation or deliverables.  Maybe a sitemap and some sketches for the content authors to think about. Some mock-ups to talk around, once we know what the site will look like. Mostly I think then talk.

Sometimes I”ll do whole days of each activity. Sit at home doing in-depth research, have all-day content workshops or be all-day on site with the developers. But more often than not days are mixed up like this. Makes me think of the polar bear venn diagram.

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Written by Karen

October 6th, 2009 at 6:41 am

Posted in charity,rnib,work