Engagement Design and IDEA 2008

August 22, 2008 at 7:03 am | Posted in Business, Communication, Forrester, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
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Information architecture isn’t enough. Sure, it’s important – I gave some tips just two weeks ago – but it’s not the only organizing structure we need to consider.

That said, it may be confusing when I wholeheartedly recommend you attend the upcoming IDEA 2008 conference held by the Information Architecture Institute on October 7-8 in Chicago. The reason I suggest it is because they don’t just stop at information architecture – the conference examines the interaction and engagement that is possible in a web 2.0 world. (Note – This post is in no way sponsored by this or any other organization. It’s just me talking here.)

By the end of this post, I aim to convince you of the importance of the emerging engagement design, how companies can use it to grow business, how agencies will change in response, and finally persuade you to study engagement design at IDEA 2008 or elsewhere.

There’s No Marketing Funnel In Web 2.0

This blog is based on the idea that marketing is changing – rapidly and fundamentally. Forrester Research describes a key component:

“The marketing funnel is a broken metaphor that overlooks the complexity social media introduces into the buying process. As consumers’ trust in traditional media diminishes, marketers need a new approach. We propose a new metric, engagement, that includes four components: involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence.”

We need to look at information architecture and engagement design in exactly this way. Imagine that information architecture is the skeleton – very web 1.0 – organizing and presenting information in a way the webmaster believes is most beneficial.

Now, imagine engagement interaction as the body and soul in web 2.0. Instead of guessing what will most benefit her readers, webmasters can (must!) interact with her readers to determine how they use her website.

Businesses Engaging To Sell

Business is changing as well. In the report Use Personas To Design For Engagement, Forrester outlines three business who, with the help of their agencies, harnessed engagement interaction through the use of personas. These businesses found the key to interaction design through:

  • Analytics: QVC and Critical Mass rated website functions on their usefulness to particular users and designed the website around those highly-rated features.
  • Usability: Thornburg Mortgage and Enlighten ensured that their new website features truly served their current and potential customers.
  • Advocacy: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and WHITTMANHART provided supporters with a website that kept them more involved as well as facilitated their donations.

In all three cases, harnessing engagement design resulted in huge increases in business.

Agencies Need To Change Too

As IDEA 2008 speaker and engagement savant David Armano described in this video, the roles in your marketing agency need to change to accommodate this shift in business. David claims that engagement design exists as the design of behavior with three elements: human, technical, aesthetic.

Of course, this requires a very different agency layout with IT sitting over in the corner, the writers up in the loft, and the designers on another floor altogether. Formerly siloed roles are becoming both more blurry and moving closer together. Creative departmental overlap will be key as we move to a user-focused model.

Forget the days of the “star” designer. As Malcolm Gladwell describes in The Talent Myth, “the organizations that are most successful at [coordinating efforts of many different people] are the ones where the system is the star.”

It’s a wildly exciting time. Again from David: “Marketing, design and ‘branding’ are on a violent collision course as communications, experience and messaging become indistigusible [sic] to the average customer/user.”

So Who Cares?

Well, hopefully you. Readers of this blog are usually keenly attuned to marketing, advertising, PR, and social media. And it is this world that is changing.

Events like IDEA 2008 are essential for hearing from the best minds in the business and plotting out how your business or agency can flourish in a web 2.0 world. My boss recently sent me to an IA conference run by Adaptive Path and I found it immensely useful.

I’m not sure if I’ll be going to IDEA 2008 myself (sponsor now being accepted!), but I encourage you to attend. Like I mentioned, this blog is all about the changing world of business and marketing. Hearing from the best minds in the business can only help you.

Watch this blog for updated about my attendance. If I do go, I will do my best to live blog and tweet while there. Until then, think about how your organization can harness engagement design. I promise that your customers and supporters will thank you for it.


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  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve seen @armano’s presentation, and thought a lot about agency titles (i once did a post called agency titles.)
    I wonder if we should all be engagement specialists, or digital explorers or some shit like that. it’s semantics, but important. Anyway, it’s a good conversation. One I want to engage in at the Web 2.0 expo next month in NYC.

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