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Website Design: Organizing your Information. Ninette Gironella Assistant Registrar New York University. What you do love and hate about websites?. Web Site Critiques. Hate Can’t find information Lack of attention to detail (typos, broken links, out of date, technical errors)

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website design organizing your information

Website Design: Organizing your Information

Ninette GironellaAssistant Registrar New York University


Can’t find information

Lack of attention to detail (typos, broken links, out of date, technical errors)

Poor Design and Layout

Gratuitous “Bells and Whistles”

Not written for the external audience (Tone, acronyms and structure)

“Under Construction”

Violates Web accessibility guidelines


Easy Navigation – Easy to find what you are looking for

Aesthetically pleasing




Unique Identify


Successful communication of ideas

Meets Target Audience Needs


As information proliferates exponentially, usability is becoming the critical success factor for websites and software applications.

information architecture
Information Architecture

The art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.

information architect
Information Architect….
  • The individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear
  • A person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their personal paths to knowledge
  • The emerging 21st century professional occupation addressing the needs of the age focused upon clarity, human understanding and the science of the organization of information.

-- Richard Saul Wurman

information architecture groundwork for a system that makes sense to users
Information ArchitectureGroundwork for a system that makes sense to users
  • Goals of the Site
  • Audiences
  • Scope of Content and Functionality
  • Grouping of Content and Functionality
  • Adaptability and Growth Potential

The Design behind the Design

Diagram from Jesse James Garett’s Elements of User Experience

goals mission
Goals & Mission
  • What is the Mission of the Organization?
  • How does the website support the organizational mission?
  • Does the web medium force you to re-consider the organizations mission?
  • What is the scope of this project? Entire organization? Selected sub-sites? Expansion or re-organization of existing site?
goals mission1
Goals & Mission
  • What are the short term goals with respect to the website?
  • What are the long term goals?
  • How do you envision the website 1 to 2 years from now?

Result: Mission and Goals statement for the website

measuring website success
Measuring Website Success

When defining goals also define how you will measure success. For example:

measuring website success1
Measuring Website Success
  • Lower costs
    • Reduction in print costs
    • Reduction in phone calls for information
    • Reduction in staff data entry
  • Customer Service
    • meets audience needs
    • Customer feedback
measuring website success2
Measuring Website Success
  • Improved Public Perception
    • User comments
    • Positive comparisons with similar sites
  • Site performance
    • Number of site hits and growth
    • Number of new users and repeat users
    • Usability testing
measuring website success3
Measuring Website Success
  • Strategic Uses
    • Improved functionality
    • Increased market penetration (e.g. number of inquiries, new target audiences, increased donations)
  • Other goals and measurements as appropriate for your website mission
intended audiences one size does not fit all
Intended AudiencesOne size does not fit all
  • Who are the most important audiences?
  • Other audiences? media, potential donors, other institutions, current & potential employees.
  • Differences between the most important audiences and the most frequent?
intended audiences one size does not fit all1
Intended AudiencesOne size does not fit all
  • Current interactions with your institution?
  • What will they want to do at your website? Why will they come? What will make them return?

Result: Ranking of audiences and their most important information needs


Not“THE User”

But“One Particular User”

  • Archetype of your audiences
  • Helps focus on User Based Design
  • Humanizes your audience
  • Useful for later testing

Tell a story about each persona

  • What are her goals?
  • What is he looking for?
  • What are her tasks?
identify content
Identify Content

BIG challenge!!!!

Content is key

Content discussions include

  • known content
  • future content.
  • How varied is your content?
  • How complex is your subject?
  • How do people find your content?
  • How much time do you have?
  • How much time/motivation do your users have?
content sources
Content Sources
  • Existing website – examine how the website is structured, not every page.
content sources1
Content Sources
  • Brochures, viewbooks, catalogs, annual reports, etc.
  • Handbooks and procedure manuals
  • Newsletters and memoranda
  • Frontline people
  • Wish lists for future information
grouping information
Grouping Information

The beginning of all understanding is classification.

-- Hayden White

Organization scheme shared characteristics of content itemsinfluences logical grouping

Organization structuretypes of relationships between content items and groups.

why organize
Why organize?

Organization scheme and structure drive the navigation systems

User driven: user should not need to know your institution’s administrative structure to find information

Good organization scheme and structure appear intuitive and assist navigation.

organization schemes









Organization Schemes

Websites frequently use a hybrid of schemes. Done poorly, this can confuse the user. If the integrity of each scheme is respected, it can be valuable.

organization systems
Organization Systems
  • Exact - best for known item searching
  • Ambiguous
    • best for browsing and associative learning
    • users have a vaguely defined information need
organizational structures
Organizational Structures
  • Linear
  • Hierarchy
  • Hypertext
  • Database
organization systems1
Organization Systems
  • Organization structures influence how users navigate through organizational schemes
    • Linear
    • Intuitive hierarchy
    • Loose hypertextual scheme
    • Structured database approach
navigation systems
Navigation Systems

Hierarchical: main options on each page usually based on the website hierarchy.

  • Global: vertical and lateral movement throughout the site.
  • Local: specific to sub-site
  • Context: embedded links, quick links
navigation systems1
Navigation Systems


  • Bars (top, side, or bottom)
  • Pull-down menus
  • Table of Contents
  • Index
  • Guided Tour
  • Represent larger chunks of information
    • Example: “Admissions Processing” is short-hand for prospecting, recruiting, conversion, etc., etc., etc., . . .
  • Communicate information efficiently
  • Good labels don’t take up too much of a page’s vertical space or a user’s cognitive space.
types of labels
Types of Labels

Iconic Labels

Textual Labels

label usage
Label Usage
  • As links leading to content areas
  • As headings for content areas
familiar web labels
Main, Home, Homepage

Search, Find, Browse

Contents, Table of Contents, Index

Contact, Contact Us

Help, FAQ

News, What’s New

About, About US

Familiar Web Labels

Keep labels consistent within the website

Scope Notes: brief description to acquaint user with the meaning. Particularly important when introducing iconic labels.


Good labeling appears intuitive but reflects a lot of planning and consideration of the audience

Avoid vague labels (“Cool”, “Stuff”)

Avoid self-centered labels


Avoid buzzwords and acronyms


  • How will the user interpret your label?
  • Link Labels: what kind of information will the user expect the label to take them to?
maintain context
Maintain Context

Provide clues so users know where they are

  • Consistent navigation schemes
  • Labels
  • Look and feel
  • Branding
key points to consider
Key Points to Consider
  • Mission and goals of your organization
  • Needs of your audience(s)
  • Content
    • Organizational scheme(s) – logical groupings
    • Organizational structures – relationships
  • Navigation Schemes
  • Labeling Systems
selected resources
Selected Resources