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Information Architecture

Information Architecture

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Information Architecture

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  1. Information Architecture Professor Larry Heimann Carnegie Mellon University 88-272 Lecture Notes — Fall 1999

  2. Agenda & Announcements • Announcements • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Online • What Does an Information Architect Do? • Organizing Information • Navigation Systems • Labeling Systems • Developing Information Architecture Plans

  3. Finding the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Online What do you hate about surfing the web? What do you like about surfing the web?

  4. Who Are Information Architects? According to Wurman (1996), IAs are: 1. “The individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear;” 2. “A person who creates the structure or map of information with allows others to find their own personal path to knowledge;” 3. “An emerging 21st century professional occupation addressing the needs of the age focused upon clarity, human understanding, and the science of organizing information.”

  5. Difficulties in Organizing Information • Problem 1: Ambiguity • language is ambiguous; define “pitch” (15 definitions) • ambiguous label definitions add to confusion • Problem 2: Heterogeneity • differing levels of information granularity • problem of multiple formats • Problem 3: Differences in perspectives • Problem 4: Internal politics

  6. Organization Schemes • Difference between schemes and structures • org. scheme defines the shared characteristics of content items and influences the logical grouping of those items • org. structure defines the types of relationships between content items and groups • Exact organization schemes • alphabetical schemes • chronological schemes • geographical schemes

  7. Organization Schemes… (continued) • Ambiguous organization schemes • why use ambiguous organization schemes? • topical schemes • task-oriented schemes • audience-specific schemes • metaphor-driven schemes • hybrid schemes • Ambiguous vs. exact organizational schemes • exact works best when user knows precisely what is wanted • ambiguous best for browsing and associative learning

  8. Organizational Structures • Hierarchical structure • used to organize information since the beginning of time • examples of hierarchy include: • books • family trees • classifying life life plant animal ... flower tree ... annual perennial ... ... • – usually good to start with hierarchical approach

  9. Designing Hierarchical Structures • Hierarchical categories are (for the most part) mutually exclusive • may place some ambiguous items in 2+ categories • too many cross-listings and hierarchy loses value • Important to consider the balance between breadth and depth in an information hierarchy • breath: remember cognitive limits; use 7±2 rule • depth: usability testing show that people get frustrated going past 4 levels and more likely to leave site. • plan for and consider changes/growth in the future

  10. Hypertext Structures • 2 components to the hypertext model: • chunks of information to be linked • the links existing between chucks • allows for great flexibility and complexity • potential for confusion high if a user can’t formulate a (correct) mental model of the site • not unusual for users to get lost in highly hypertexted sites • In addition to context issue, hypertextual links are often personal in nature • Best used as a complement to other structures

  11. Database Structure • Why use a relational database model to organize information on a web site? • powerful field-specific searching capability • content usually (substantially) easier w/ database • facilitate distributed content management (w/ proper security!) • Limitations of the database model • rigid rules may not fit well with other heterogeneous content • technically more difficult than plain HTML • Examples of the use the database model

  12. Designing Navigation Systems • The importance of navigation systems • Browser navigation features • review of common features • how site designers sometimes disable these features • The need to build context for navigating • helped by including organization’s name on each page • side bars or headers which present structure of the information hierarchy and current location • Improving flexibility of the hierarchical model via navigation systems

  13. Example of Gopher Site Example of Hypertext System

  14. Types of Navigation Systems • Hierarchical navigation systems • Global navigation systems • may be as simple as graphical navigation bar at bottom • sensitive to the flow of movement within site • Local navigation systems • large sites often have “sub sites” which have unique flavor • special navigation system may be developed specifically for the sub site (e.g., game software @ Interplay) • careful integrating local & global navigation -- don’t confuse • Ad hoc navigation

  15. Integrated Navigation Elements • Navigation bars • graphical vs. text navigation bars • placement of navigation bars • Frames (a controversial navigation element) • screen real estate taken up by frames • confuses page model concept; may interfere w/ bookmarking • display speed is hurt; used w/ heavy graphics makes it worse • adds a layer of complexity to the design • Pull down menus • easy to (over)pack these menus with lots of options

  16. Remote Navigation Elements • Remote navigation elements supplement the information hierarchy and other navigational elements. • Table of Contents • Index • Site Map • Guided Tour

  17. Importance of Labeling Systems • Labeling is a form of representation; used to communicate information efficiently. • Users have limited attention spans -- will not try too hard to decode label meanings. • Ambiguous labels make bad impressions -- web users tend to be unforgiving. • Self-centered labels may work for internal people, but turn away external users

  18. Unplanned U’s Labeling System Faculty Skunkworks Office for Instructional Technology K12 PDN Projects for Web Page Digital Libraries Project Office of Technology Management Office of Communication Mngt Extension Services The New Media Center Institute for Information Technology Project 2000 English Composition Board Technology Dissemination Board Planned U’s Labeling System Humanities & Social Science Business Education Engineering Education Fine Arts & Drama Computer Services Instructional Technology Alumni Relations Housing Office Student Life Y2K Planning University Business Office Campus Police/Security Services Contrasting Labeling Systems

  19. Types of Labeling Systems • Labels with navigation systems • need to be consistent • some conventions are emerging • can be augmented by brief description • Labels as indexing terms • Link labels • Labels as headings • Iconic labeling systems

  20. Creating Effective Labeling Systems • Successful labeling systems mirror the thinking and language of a site’s users, not owners • Where do these labels come from? • from content • from users/search engine logs • from experts or established sources • from other sites • using what already exists

  21. Developing IA Plans • Defining goals • what is the mission of the organization? • how does the website support the org. mission? • does the web as a new medium force us to reconsider organization’s mission? • what are the short- and long-term goals? • how do we envision the website in two years from now? • how will we measure the success of the site?

  22. Evaluating Web Site Success

  23. Developing IA Plans (continued) • Learning about intended audience • who are the most important audiences for the site? • are there other audiences we’re not thinking about? • are there differences between the most important audiences and most frequent users? Implications? • how do these audiences currently interact with us? • What is the value-added to the different audiences for the information or services provided by the web site? • Identifying content & functional requirements • Grouping Content

  24. Final Thoughts... • (given in lecture)