A Sense of Place

From perpendicular angel knowledgebase
Jump to: navigation, search


Unlike most of the other Design Principles, a sense of place can be very difficult to define in a single sentence. This is precisely because having a sense of place is so innate to humans that it's like trying to describe how breathing works.

Jorge Arango, Peter Morville, and Lou Rosenfeld describe a sense of place in their book Information Architecture 4th Edition. They state that humans have a complex, symbiotic relationship with our surroundings based on input from our senses and our ability to choose to move from one place to another. Because we can identify the differences between places, we can also identify what we can or can't do in each of the places we visit.

We bring this awareness of place—and the placemaking drive—to information environments as well. When we talk about digital media, we use metaphors that betray a sense of place: we “go” online, “visit” a website,“browse” Amazon.com. Increasingly, these environments are also taking over many of the functions we’ve traditionally associated with physical places: we meet with our friends in WhatsApp, pay our bills in our bank’s website, learn in Khan Academy. As with physical places, we experience them as contexts that differ from one another, supporting different needs.
Information Architecture: Design for Understanding

Simply Accessible refers to this same sense of place when teaching designers and developers how to build accessible websites. They recommend that at all times, your user should be able to identify:

  • Where am I?
  • What's the state of the things around me?
  • What can I do?

While Simply Accessible is generally referring to the information that we need to make available to screen readers or other accessibility devices, the same three questions apply to all of our interactions -- not only with computers, but with our lives in general.