Along with our reality at work organizations now have thousands of users who want more and more information. Users who are constantly hungry for it.Thankfully (or sometimes to our dismay) they tell us constantly what they want and when they want it They want immediacy in any device in any location.It’s what Morville, a notable Information Architect who studied Library Science at Univ of Michigan terms the ‘fast food approach to informaiton.’It’s what has created and sustained my job (and maybe yours too) and will continue to create challenges and opportunties for all of us on our websites.
Coined in 1975 by Saul Wurman, an architect, talked about information architecture as a way to organize systems, a way to categorize the chaos.IA is the discipline of designing & structuring informationWith the web it evolved into what we now know was IA – the discipline of designing and structuring information on the WebIA includes not only your navigation systems, but Navigation systemsOrganization/Categorization SystemsSearch SystemsAnd Labeling Schemes
The most successful IA systems in place on your sites take into an understanding of users, context and contentIn other wordsuser research – what are people’s goals, tasks needs when coming to your site?context or business goals – what are your business goals – what are you trying to promote? What politics, culture , technology , resources risks and constraints are present in your organization? Content – what’s there and what can be improved? The ultimate goal of IA is to help peopleFind the information they need,Make better decisionsFind information that they didn’t know they neededAnd helps them complete tasks more accurately- Donna spencer
But how do we get to this state structure when our sitemaps are 33K pages or our content is being accessed across devices?Borrowing heavily from Dan Brown’s Eight Principles of Information Architecture, I want to give you some small changes to think about and take with you today – 5 Things that you will be able to go out and do without a year long “redesign.” Things that I try and practice on a daily basis. Of course this is just an introduction to IA, but I encourage you to try some of these principles in your navigation design and your page layout
Lou Rosenfeld, another notable IA, talks about iterating instead of redesigningFor example, Look at smaller chunks of your site that need realignmentBrainstorm how you could create that section in a new and useful way SKETCH thiss outRefine this based on user research, usability testing and/or heuristicsAnd constantly evaluate
As others will talk about today, to do this effectively you must have the following
As you go through your navigation and underlying page structures, remember what Dan Brown describes as the principle of the front door – Expect that half of your visitors will land on your interior pages as opposed to your homepage.Think of your homepage as a place for newcomers – it’s not built for every user. It shouldn’t include every piece of content on your site. Many users are dissatisfied with a website’s internal search so they will inevitably use Google. Effective homepage IA serves to show breadth but not everything on the site. Ensure that your interior pages have enough relevant content and wayfinding navigation to help those users that land on pages other than the homepageYour homepage can’t do everything and serve all audiences. If it’s trying to do that then it’s probably not serving them well.
Focus your navigation and content on the items that are relevant to your main user audience. What do they want to do on your site.
Typically we focus on the left because that’s what we hear internally, but what users really want is on the right.Don’t try and do everything in your global navigation and/or on your homepage. Think about the different types of navigation:topical/subject based navigation, timely navigation
Through you IA, you want to support both findability and serendipitous discoveryUsers should be able to quickly ascertain:Am I in the right place?Does this site have what I’m looking for?Does it have anything better if this isn’t what I want?What’s here and can I do right now?In Human Computer Interaction we talk about information scent, snacking and foragingScent:Humans rely on visual cues to get answers. This helps users find useful information on a given path and helps them decide on whether that information is useful or not. Snacking:Web users often “snack” online to find simple, quick answers. Foraging:ADD CONTENT HERE
You can support these behaviors by providing various navigational methods on your site.Known Item Searching through – I know what I want and I know the vocabulary for it this can be supported through Search, A-Z Indexes, Global Navigation- Exploratory- I have a vague idea of what I want. – Related links, Search facets, search suggestions- The Unknown – FAQs, contextual navigationI’ve never been to your site before – what can I find hereRefinding – I’ve been here before and want to easily pick up where I left offSave for laterShopping CartSearch filters,Best betsautosuggestUniv of arizon search box or our intranet search page
Exposing important options first through progressive disclosure and visual hierarchyA design device called progressive disclosure that’s been around since the 1980s can help reduce complexity on your site thereby leading to learnability of your IA and to less cognitive load on the userInstead of providing multiple link lists (as we are all subject to do), try a visual as in this example of a carousel from the world wildlife fundThis gives your users a sample of what’s nextExpose your important options first, using patterns like tabs, overlays, accordions to lead users to ‘more information’ about a topic
Many sites in both higher education and libraries don’t incorporate information hierarchies and/or doing do them wellInformation hierarchies is a design device to help promote the most important options first. This is a page I created at NCSU Libraries in our 2010 redesign. What tasks does this support? How could these services be grouped differently? By place, by environment (brick and mortar vs. online?) Group related items and provide visual cues to the user to support their needs as they navigate through your site
What if the link list became something like this showing the visual hierarchy of the siteWe want you to search and discoverWe want to expose popular services (based on analytics and user tasks)We want to allow you see the depth and breadth of our services
Consistency does not equate to uniformity.Again to reduce cognitive load on the part of the user, maintain consistency with both architecture and labelingCreate an architecture that’s familiar and learnablehttp://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Apr-09/Figure01.pngOnline taxonomy mapped to retail storeUrban planner Kevin A. Lynch borrowed the term for his 1960 book Image of the City, where he defined wayfinding as “a consistent use and organization of definite sensory cues from the external environment”.Create consistency throughout the site through TaxonomyControlled VocabularyUrlsLabelingMenusUsers don’t want to relearn and can get frustrated by having to remember a url, a naming convention and/or a location of a heavily used itemTranslate your terminologyFinally, to begin to conceptualize and design a new IA, you will also need to understand labeling schemes. In other words, what are things called? Labeling is extremely important, albeit difficult on the web. For example, how do you label “interlibrary loan”?- “interlib loan”- ‘ILL’- ‘Illiad’- ‘interlibrary loan’- ‘between libraries?’Good Labels:Use the language of the users coming to your siteUse appropriate tone of voice for that user audienceCreate mutually exclusive labelsUse ConsistencyAvoid Using abbreviationsUsing organization lingoUsing technical terminology (unless you’re building a site for a domain that is very technical)Creating catch-all categories like ‘Information’ or ‘Resources’What types of information seeking are supported?How clear are labels?What does the global navigation look like?Is there consistency between Page Titles, Navigation Titles, urls?What types of organization schemes are utilized?
Consistency for wayfinding
Often we tend to think that we should come up with some novel navigation design that no one else has used.Remember, effective and usable IA really shouldn’t be noticeable. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel on navigation schemes and classification systems.
Instead use patterns.Many organizations now have style guides for their IA and content. These styles guides include many patterns that can help you not only design your IA for the desktop but for the dizzying array of mobile devices
Finally, expect both structured and organic growthRemember the stats I showed you earlier about my environment?No doubt, that site has grown by at least 10 pages since we’ve been sitting here this morning and the number of users on mobile devices has increased as well.Assume that what you have today will change drastically from what you have in 6 months.
The recent Gov. uk site has won many awards for their design simplicityBut as you look through the site, you’ll notice a few things1 – they have no global navigation2 – their landing pages and sections assume growth. They think about building IA through services not websites
Gov.uk’s design principles sum up what we’ve talked about today in terms of building usable, expandable and interactive IA
“This fast food approach to information
drives librarians crazy. „Our information is
healthier and tastes better too‟ they shout.
But nobody listens. We‟re too busy Googling.‟
- Morville, Ambient Findability
Visualization of the Internet – Notre Dame
8 Expect Growth
Gov.uk‟s Design Principles:
1. Start with needs
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better