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Tags // Information Architecture

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

I was looking for this story for a while. Finally I found it, so would like to share it with you. It’s about understanding what people want to get done with products—the job-to-be-done. Often we get lost in the features and functions of the product that we forget about the job that the product is designed to get done. The same principle can be used for designing websites and intranets.

“With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension. If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job. In other words, the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy.”

Design Patterns: Faceted Navigation

Very nice article by on faceted navigation by Peter Morville and Jeffrey Callenderi. I really like the part where they differentiate faceted browse from parametric search.

“On the other hand, the distinction between faceted navigation and parametric search is relevant. In parametric search applications, users specify their search parameters up front using a variety of controls such as checkboxes, pull-downs, and sliders to construct what effectively is an advanced Boolean query. Unfortunately, it’s hard for users to set several parameters at once, especially since many combinations will produce zero results.”

Classification schemes (and when to use them)

Donna Spencer on the different ways to classify information (alpha, location, task, etc.). A nice pick up from Wurman’s 5 hatracks article.

“When you do information architecture work you’ll realize that most sets of content can be organized in more than one way. One of the challenges for an IA project is figuring out what way works best for your audience, your content and your project’s goals. In this article I’ll talk about a few different classification schemes you can use to organize your content, and offer tips on when and how to use each.”

Maya Design explains Information Architecture

A good article with two really good videos explaining information architecture.

“Although it’s tempting to skip ahead to the look and feel of a design, the importance of first defining an Information Architecture (IA) can’t be overstated. Often we find that an existing system has been built as a monolithic solution that jumbles the raw plumbing of the system with the business process and the user interface. Unfortunately this leads to a brittle solution that can’t evolve with new user interfaces, new underlying systems, or new business realities. In fact we often hear the words “Information Architecture” naively applied to only one aspect of an experience (like “Information Architecture for the Web”) and then disregarded or ignored when an experience bridges interfaces (like when a user has to interact with a mobile application that integrates with related information in physical places).”

Designing collections for the web

Designing collections for the web - my new article over at PebbleRoad. The idea of the article came up when the team was discussing how best to leverage and surface homogeneous information. We were doing a redesign of a hospital website and found out that patients wanted to be connected with getting care in many different ways - by clinic, by doctor, by diseases and conditions etc. This idea let us to investigate collections, first as used by libraries, and then modified and as used by social media. This article compiles our experimentation and learning on the subject.

“A collection is a list of homogeneous items. A collection on the web can be as simple as a blog (a list of posts) to as complex as a library collection (multiple lists of different library materials). Collections are an integral part of many websites, but not all collections are designed with ease-of-use and ease-of-retrieval in mind.  In this article, I’ll cover some theory and give practical advice on designing online collections for the websites and intranets.”

Fantastic Information Architecture and Data Visualization Resources

From Noupe. Good starting points to get more on IA and infographics. (via Infodesign)

Web project team roles

Kristina Halvorson has put up an interesting diagram that shows how the different roles in a we project team relate to one another.

The Information Architecture of Behavior Change Websites

This research report looks at the IA of sites that are designed to influence behavioral change, for example, giving up smoking. The report identifies 3 types of structure: hierarchical, matrix (hypertext), tunnel (linear) and the hybrid (a mix of the other types).

“The Internet has rapidly become an accepted part of daily life for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. As a result, it is reasonable to conclude that these revolutionary advances will act as a catalyst to expand the scope and impact of both persuasive technology, in general, and of Internet-based health behavior change programs. We have highlighted the important role that IA designs can have upon the design and likely impact of online behavior change programs.”

Via Adaptive Path’s Signposts.

Why Are Web Sites So Confusing?

Andrei Hagiu assistant professor in the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School tries to rationalize why websites are so confusing:

“Thus, consumers coming to the supermarket to buy daily staples (say, bread and milk) might be induced to also get expensive chocolate if they have to walk past the corresponding aisle anyway. Shoppers visiting a mall for its anchor store (say, Macy’s) may decide to stop by a small design store while walking around the mall. And while flipping through the pages of a magazine in search of the article promised on the cover, readers are exposed to advertising, which produces most of the revenues.”

“In the same way, Google faces a subtle issue in designing its search result pages: consumers are mostly interested in the “objective” (i.e., middle) search results, but all revenues come from the sponsored search ads on the right hand side. The result is a compromise between what users want and what produces more revenues. For any given search, the 11th objective search result might be more relevant than any of the sponsored search results displayed on the right; yet it will be displayed on the second search page only—well beyond the reach of most users.”

Large documents: PDF it?

Ginny Redish explores when to PDF large documents, and more importantly when not to.

“However, realize that, with most PDF files, you are providing a paper document on the web rather than web-based information. If the document looks like a paper document or if it is large, people are likely to print it rather than read it on the screen. You have distributed the document; you have saved the printing and shipping cost; you have shifted the cost and effort of printing to your audiences – but have you really met their needs?”

Google enhances search results to include page sections in snippets

Google announced yesterday that they’ve enhanced their search results page to include page sections of long pages in the snippets area. Here is an example they’ve given.

The rationale is that we can do directly to a section in the page if that’s what we’re interested in. That’s a nice idea—it’s an attempt at auto-indexing the page using page sections. It provides more information on the page, assuming that the page sections are labeled properly.

But what’s really interesting that is the fact that this is another opportunity to reveal sequence, like in a table of contents. Showing a sequence in a page really gets to the guts of what the page is all about. Google already shows a sitemap in the search results, which gets to what a site is all about.

Now the only thing Google needs to figure out is how to reveal sequence across pages and sites. So for example, if I were to search for “diabetes” then I should get a sequence that links to different pages and sites and the sequence includes what is diabetes to treatments to living with a diabetic to home remedies. Guess that was what the Knol was supposed to do.

Zombie home page chronicles

Now this is serious fun. I’ve seen this happen so many times. From Tales from Redesignland.

Read the entire episode.

DITA 101

The Rockley Group has published DITA 101, a guide for authors and managers to understand and use DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture). I’m reading it now and so far its been simple and easy to understand.

“DITA 101 is designed for authors and managers. We’ve taken our years’ of experience helping organizations to move to DITA and training our clients in creating DITA content and distilled it into an easy to read and understand format. Combined with our expertise in developing effective reuse strategies and adopting content management, this book covers everything you need to know to understand DITA from an authors or managers viewpoint.”

ASIS&T Bulletin current issue focuses on IA

The ASIS&T Bulletin current issue is on information architecture. There are a number of articles including one by Colleen Jones on The Debut of Usable, Influential Content and another by Christian Crumlish on The Information Architecture of Social Experience Design.

How I draft an information architecture

Donna Spencer has written a simple yet comforting piece on how she thinks through the draft IA for a small website.

"When you have made something up – and I don’t care whether you do it on a whiteboard, in a spreadsheet or in your head – then start thinking about whether it will work for the users, and whether it will work for the content. Revise and play with your idea until these things start to fall together."

30 Examples of Attractive Nav

Web Designer Wall has put up a collection of appealing navigation systems:

"Web designers always have to strike a balance between usability and visual appeal when designing a website. Without this balance, a website might be nice to look at or difficult to navigate. Or, it might be easy to navigate, but not easy on the eyes. With this in mind, balancing attractive navigation with usability does not need to be overly difficult. To help you generate new ideas and inspiration for user navigation, here are 30 great examples of attractive and usable navigation."

Top 10 Information Architecture Mistakes

Jakob has grouped his article around two issues: structure and navigation. His views around structure are the same I come across in IA projects: Why focus so much on structure when we have such an fantastic (read 'expensive') search engine?

"The most notable structural problem is when designers treat a site like one big swamp with no organizing principle for individual items. Yes, users can fish the swamp using search or by following links from current promotions or outside sites. But whatever they dredge up is it. No opportunities for understanding the site's other offerings or locating related items."

We’re hiring - User Experience Lead

My company PebbleRoad is actively looking for a User Experience Lead to join the team in Singapore. PebbleRoad is a design firm specializing in design research and strategy. Projects include intranet redesigns, large corporate websites, web applications and e-learning.

The person should be able to:

Plan and conduct design research activities
Sketch and brainstorm ideas and scenarios
Create prototypes and test them out
Present design to clients

Experience in information architecture and interaction design is definitely a plus. But what is more important is having a passion for problem solving and learning and taking the responsibility to engage the client and deliver a quality service.

If you are in Singapore or even in the US or Europe and looking for a fast-paced and exciting stint, send a message to maish-at-pebbleroad.com. Here's more about Singapore.

The SEO Guide to Information Architecture

Adam Audette has written an extensive guide to blending SEO practices with IA.

"This article will explore the basic concepts of designing optimized site architectures for efficient spidering by search engines. Building an easily spidered site has ramifications in how pages, sections of a site, and entire domains are topically understood and categorized by bots, which influences indexing and rankings."

Drawing the lines - effectively structuring government online teams

Craig Thomler write about the different ways to structure an online teams (web teams). From my experience, many government initiatives seldom look into the area of 'what next' after the website or intranet is launched. A key reason being the rigidity of the group structure and responsibilities. This is why it it difficult to get buy-in for lateral disciplines like usability or information architecture -- everybody wants parts of it but nobody wants to own the whole. This article may explain on why there is a need to have an "integrated" structure.

[Via ColumnTwo]

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