The practice of information architecture is undergoing a tectonic shift away from creating individual websites and towards designing cross-channel experiences that span both the digital—from desktop to mobile—and the physical—from print to storefront. While the information architect’s skillset is well-suited for this new challenge, our existing tools are not.

Service blueprints aren’t exactly what we need

Imported from the field of service design, G. Lynn Shostack’s service blueprint is often suggested as a tool for cross-channel planning. Yet it’s not a perfect fit:

A service blueprint by Brandon Schauer

A service blueprint created by Brandon Schauer.

What do we need, then?

Before brainstorming solutions, we should clarify the problem. Andrea Resmini and Lucas Rosati have discussed five principles for designing successful cross-channel experiences; Peter Morville advocates six; to me, these three seem the most fundamental:

A starting point

What would a tool that aimed to facilitate consistent, optimized, continuous cross-channel planning look like? In Pervasive Information Architecture, Resmini and Rosati presented their CHU cube which places tasks and channels each on their own axes.

The CHU Cube

Resmini and Rosati’s CHU cube plots channels, heuristics, and tasks using three dimensions.

Ammendment: After publishing this post, Gianluca Brugnoli of Frog Design pointed out its resemblence to the Touchpoints Matrix he himself developed in 2009. I hadn’t come across this tool before, but the similarity is striking.

The Touchpoints Matrix by Gianluca Brugnoli

The Touchpoints Matrix by Gianluca Brugnoli

Building on the foundation

Juxtaposing tasks and channels is a useful starting point, though the CHUbe’s multidimensional layers make it a bit unwieldy. For our diagram, let’s do the following:

  1. Identify user tasks—these become the X-axis.
  2. List channels—these become the Y-axis.
  3. Prioritize and describe each per-channel task—these are the table cells
  4. Identify shared components—these are listed in a bottom row

A Cross-Channel Blueprint

I call this a cross-channel blueprint. The exercise can be performed by a lone designer or collaboratively with sticky notes or in front of a whiteboard. It brings about:

What do you think?

This is but a first attempt at a developing a tool suitable for the new era of cross-channel information architecture. As such, it needs practice, iteration, and experimentation. If you’ve been working in this space, please chime in with how the cross-channel blueprint jives with your own experience.

See my article The Rise of Cross-Channel UX Design on UX Matters for related reading. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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