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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

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By topic (e.g., bookstore, yellow pages). By task (e.g., buy, find, contact) ... Test your site by seeing if users can answer these questions for random pages. 22 ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web


1
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
  • Thunder Lizards
  • Web Design World 99
  • Seattle, Washington
  • July 21, 1999
  • Louis Rosenfeld
  • Argus Associates, Inc.

2
Introduction Who am I?
  • Brief Bio
  • President of Argus Associates, an information
    architecture consulting firm (Ann Arbor,
    Michigan).
  • Bias Librarianship and Information Science
    (LIS) background.
  • Bias Work on larger, heterogeneous corporate
    sites (primarily intranets) for Fortune 500
    companies.
  • Columnist for Web Review, Internet World
    magazines.
  • Co-author of Information Architecture for the
    World Wide Web (OReilly Associates, 1998) and
    others.

3
When do you know you have problems? When you
hear these questions.
  • Users Why cant I find what Im looking for?
  • Content Owners Where should my new content go?
    And what should I do about all this ROT
    (Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial content)?
  • CIO Wheres my ROI? I want my ROI!!
  • VP How come that other VPs content is more
    prominent than mine?
  • The Web Team Whos in charge here anyway?
  • You Why cant I find what Im looking for?

4
Common Problem 1 Site development is organic,
disorganized.
  • Content lives in subsites or silos that are
    locally maintained and often reflect the org
    chart.
  • The organization and users want an umbrella, a
    common interface to all content.
  • Individual subsites are poorly architected and
    have few or no policies or procedures to deal
    with maintenance issues.

umbrella site
subsites
5
Common Problem 2 Site structure is an abstract
concept.
  • New medium means that initial focus is on the
    tangible and sexy attention has been diverted by
    the lure of
  • Aesthetically charged visual design.
  • Hi-octane functionality.
  • Lucid text (and as much as possible).
  • Other Cool Stuff.
  • Analogous to building a house without a
    blueprint.
  • Subsequent problems are all too apparent in later
    generation sites.

6
Common Problem 3 Information Retrieval is a
foreign phrase.
  • Information retrieval performance is reduced when
    addressing the diversity typical of most sites
  • Content (formats, types, subject domains).
  • Users.
  • Missions/goals/constraints.
  • Information retrieval is already difficult in
    narrower contexts.
  • Rarely one right answer (relevance is
    subjective).
  • Based on language, which is inherently ambiguous.
    Example homographs and synonyms of pitch.

7
What is Information Architecture? No single
definition is perfect...
  • Information architects organize content and
    design navigation systems to help users find the
    information they need.
  • In the context of the Web
  • Organize means to group and label content at the
    macro (e.g., collections, areas) and micro (e.g.,
    pages, fields) levels.
  • Navigation refers to the default organization of
    the site, the design of page components, and
    tools such as search engines, indexes, and site
    maps.
  • Many definitions mine clearly biased by
    librarianship/information science background.

8
Why Is Information Architecture
Important? Users perspective.
  • Inability to find information is a major
    complaint.
  • Information needs vary (known item, exploratory,
    comprehensive research).
  • Preferences vary (searching, browsing precision,
    recall).
  • Expertise varies (query languages, technology
    literacy).
  • Scary Fact 1 According to Zona Research, 20
    of Internet savvy users have given up at least 3
    times while shopping on the Web.

9
Why Is Information Architecture
Important? Producers perspective.
  • Cost of finding information.
  • Cost of not finding information.
  • Maintenance costs.
  • Political costs.
  • Scary Fact 2 According to Jakob Nielsen and
    many others, a poor navigation system in a large
    corporate intranet can cost the company millions
    in lost employee productivity.

10
Introduction to Information Architecture Where
it fits.
  • In the context of site development
  • Often leads the discovery/recommendations phase.
  • Highly collaborative during conceptual design
    phase.
  • Minimal involvement in production/implementation
    phase.

11
Introduction to Information Architecture What
the deliverables are.
  • Blueprints (from top level to chunk level).
  • Major page mockups/templates.
  • Navigation systems.
  • Labeling systems/controlled vocabularies/thesauri.
  • Policies and procedures.
  • Production work (e.g., classification and
    indexing).
  • Training (e.g., educating an indexing operation).

12
Introduction to Information Architecture
Top-down vs. bottom-up varieties.
  • Top-down Information Architecture
  • Tie together disparate pockets of content for
    improved searching and browsing.
  • Highly focused on users and information needs.
  • Bottom-up Information Architecture
  • Improve searching and browsing within a single,
    high-volume pocket of content.
  • Highly focused on content, content attributes.
  • Each approach informs the other (no mutual
    exclusivity).

13
Introduction to Information Architecture
Top-down vs. bottom-up varieties.
  • Top-down example Create a common information
    interface (umbrella site) for a corporate
    intranet with dozens of separate sub-sites.
  • Bottom-up example Re-architect a large
    collection of technical reports.

umbrella site
Top-Down Approach
Bottom-Up Approach
local subsites
14
Top-Down Components Organization
Systems Definitions.
  • Organization Structures
  • The shape of the information space.
  • The types of relationships between content areas
    or items.
  • e.g. hierarchies, databases, hypertext.
  • Organization Schemes
  • Pathways for intellectual access.
  • e.g. by author, by topic, by audience.

15
Top-Down Components Organization Structures How
should a sites content be structured?
  • Types of Organization Structures
  • Hierarchies useful for the top levels of a
    site.
  • Databases organize large bodies of homogeneous
    content
  • Hypertext complement other structural types.
  • Hybrids often make most sense within a site.

16
Top-Down Components Organization Schemes How
should my sites content be organized?
  • Exact Organization Schemes.
  • By name, alphabetically (e.g., white pages).
  • By geography (e.g., atlas).
  • By chronology (e.g., timeline).
  • Characteristics.
  • Neat and easy to maintain.
  • Everything has a place (one right answer).
  • Extremely useful for users who know exactly what
    theyre looking for.

17
Top-Down Components Organization Schemes How
should my sites content be organized?
  • Ambiguous organization schemes.
  • By topic (e.g., bookstore, yellow pages).
  • By task (e.g., buy, find, contact).
  • By audience (e.g., home, small business,
    government).
  • Characteristics.
  • Messy and full of overlap.
  • Hard to implement and maintain.
  • Extremely useful for users who dont know exactly
    what theyre looking for (subject searching,
    associative learning).

18
Top-Down Components Labeling Systems The
basics.
  • Symbols that represent concepts.
  • Types
  • Labels within navigation systems.
  • Titles and headings.
  • Links.
  • Index terms (keywords).
  • Icons (visual representations of information).
  • Strive for systems of labels which are
  • Specific and clear (for intended audiences)
  • Predictable
  • Consistent

19
Top-Down Components Labeling Systems Where
should I get my labels?
  • Existing Site/Other Content
  • Dont throw out the baby with the bath water.
  • Other Sites
  • Check out the competition.
  • Controlled Vocabularies (CVs) and Thesauri
  • Standardized sets of terms which describe a
    specific domain (thesauri contain CVs,
    relationships between terms (e.g., broader,
    narrower, see also), and scope notes).
  • Users and Subject Experts
  • Focus groups, query analysis, user testing.

20
Top-Down Components Navigation Systems Types
of navigation systems.
  • Global (site-wide) navigation systems
    rule-based.
  • Local (sub-site) navigation systems rule-based.
  • Contextual navigation systems hand-crafted.
  • Supplementary navigation systems.
  • Tables of contents/site maps.
  • Site indexes.
  • Guides and guided tours.

21
Top-Down Components Navigation Systems What
makes a navigation system succeed?
  • Navigation systems need to
  • Provide context. (Where am I?)
  • Provide flexibility (Where can I go?)
  • Provide guidance (How can I get there? And get
    back to here?)
  • Make sense (Separate global and local systems)
  • Avoid competing with content.
  • Test your site by seeing if users can answer
    these questions for random pages.

22
Top-Down Components Navigation Systems What
supplementary navigation type is best?
  • Table of Contents/Site Map
  • Reflects sites organization system (mental
    model).
  • Good for subject searching.
  • Site Index
  • Flattens organization system (greater
    granularity).
  • Supports known-item searching.
  • May provide multiple browsable indexes.
  • Guide
  • Highlights a few of the sites resources for a
    specific audience, topic, or task.
  • Good for introducing users to an aspect of the
    sites content.

23
Top-Down Components Searching
Systems Searching really sucks...
  • Using an on-site search engine actually reduced
    the chances of success. (1998 Usability Study by
    User Interface Engineering)
  • http//world.std.com/uieweb/searchart.htm

24
Top-Down Components Searching Systems …but
users demand it.
  • Search is one of the most important user
    interface elements in any large web site...Our
    usability studies show that more than half of all
    users are search-dominant. (Jakob Nielsen,
    Alertbox, 1997)
  • http//www.useit.com/alertbox/9707b.html

25
Top-Down Components Searching Systems Finding
involves more than searching...
Query
26
Top-Down Components Searching Systems …and
searching involves more than an engine.
Query Language
Content
Query
Results
Search Interface
Search Engine
Query Builders
27
Top-Down Components Searching Systems How can
searching be improved?
  • Utilize multiple search interfaces.
  • Expert vs. simple. Distinguish by user
    background/discipline/expertise.
  • Support common information needs (known item vs.
    exploratory vs. research).
  • Utilize search zones and leverage document
    structure.
  • Support iterative, integrated searching and
    browsing (including a no-dead ends policy).
  • Explain what is being searched and how it can be
    searched.
  • Avoid default engine configurations, especially
    default relevance rankings.

28
Top-Down Illustrated Typical scenario.
umbrella site
Ind
local subsites
29
Top-Down Case Study Background and challenges.
  • Began with unclear goals for site.
  • Tension between central administration and
    subsidiaries (political divisions, rogue Web
    sites, look and feel issues).
  • No in-house process for developing a large,
    distributed, cross-departmental information
    system.
  • Many different purposes for site.
  • Multiple audiences for site.

30
Top-Down Case Study Solutions.
  • Created umbrella architecture that draws
    appropriate borders between centrally-maintained
    site and autonomous departmental sub-sites.
  • Multiple ways of navigating content.
  • Search.
  • Browse by topic, task, audience, political unit.
  • Table of contents, site index.
  • Clear divisions between central and autonomous
    content embodied in the architecture and related
    procedures and policies for maintaining content.

31
Bottom-Up Components Content Analysis Look for
order in the chaos of your content.
  • Analogous to user surveys.
  • Requires review (generally iterative) of content
    samples.
  • Looking for
  • Logical patterns within messy content (e.g.,
    press releases vs. product descriptions).
  • Ways to group content (leads to bottom-up
    organization systems design).
  • Meta-information opportunities (e.g., existing
    meta-information, approaches and sources for
    adding new meta-information).
  • Relationships between document types (e.g.,
    parent-child, related, sequential).

32
Bottom-Up Components Content Modeling and
Mapping Getting control of content.
  • Concentrate on meaning and value rather than
    physical formats (e.g., MS Word vs. Lotus Notes).
  • Develop document types (logical).
  • Use grouping exercises.
  • Enlist content specialist and expert user input.
  • Develop templates (physical).
  • Delineate required vs. optional content
    components.
  • Determine prominence, grouping, and sequence of
    components.
  • Strive for consistency in presentation across as
    well as within templates (usability gains).

33
Bottom-Up Components Content Modeling and
Mapping Matching the model with reality.
  • ROT (Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial content)
    removal
  • Policy based.
  • Impacts all aspects of content creation,
    maintenance, deletion.
  • Identify missing content.
  • Determine granularity for content chunking
  • Break up longer mixed-concept content.
  • Join together fragments.
  • Consider contexts usability, display,
    retrieval, reuse, authoring.

34
Bottom-Up Components Meta-Information Informati
on about information.
  • If stored as a record, meta-information
    constitutes a document surrogate if stored
    within document, acts as a representation or
    labeling of document.
  • Provides context (e.g., date, publisher).
  • Facilitates retrieval (e.g., author, title,
    subject index).
  • Serves as alternative to major organization
    scheme.
  • An effective alternative to full-text searching.
  • Can be leveraged for creation of browsable
    indices/menus.
  • Consider value of controlled vocabularies for
    descriptive indices.

35
Bottom-Up Components Meta-Information Indexing
to automate or not?
  • Automated Approach
  • Software identifies keywords, eliminates stop
    words, assembles inverted index.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Poor performance, especially with heterogeneous
    content domains and document richness.
  • Manual Approach
  • Human reviews content, identifies key concepts,
    and selects keywords from controlled vocabulary.
  • Expensive Forrester Report, v2, n8, October 1997
    says 960,000 for average corporate intranet.
  • Better performance (context sensitive).

36
Bottom-Up Components Relationships How should
content types be linked?
  • Ad-Hoc Links
  • Handcrafted expensive to create and maintain.
  • Capable of making powerful associations, but
    often subject to interpretation therefore, hit
    or miss in cognitive value.
  • Rule-Based Links
  • Simple If a process document and a rate table
    document both deal with Product X, then they
    should always be linked to each other.
  • Rules allow for easy human link creation or
    automated linking (useful with huge collections
    of content).

37
Bottom-Up Design Content modeling
Messy Content
logical meta-information Name Content
Owner Process Owner Geographic Eligibility
presentational meta-information
Format/Style Color Platform
38
Bottom-Up Case Study Background and challenges.
  • Distributed inbound call centers (8,000 customer
    care associates).
  • Intranet-based work support application (6,000
    unstructured documents).
  • Users were memorizing, not navigating.
  • Erroneous information was being provided to
    customers.
  • Negative impact on training and churn.
  • Single semi-topical hierarchy… hand-maintained.
  • Content management nightmare.

39
Bottom-Up Case Study Solutions.
  • Structured content model.
  • Suite of document templates.
  • Linking relationships.
  • Indexing system with multiple controlled
    vocabularies.
  • Functional specifications (auto-generated
    browsable indexes).
  • Development and production indexing.
  • Training and documentation.

40
Conclusion A convergence of perspectives,
communities.
  • Traditional Top-Down Perspective
  • User-centric work is what we (the Web
    community) have been doing.
  • Goals presentation and usability.
  • Traditional Bottom-Up Perspective
  • What mark-up and data modeling communities
    traditionally have been up to.
  • Goals content reuse and maintenance.
  • Another Kind of Convergence
  • Web community increasingly content-centric.
  • Mark-up/database communities increasingly
    user-centric.

41
Information Architecture Design Process A phased
approach.
42
Argus Associates Contact information.
  • Louis Rosenfeld (lou_at_argus-inc.com)
  • Argus Associates, Inc.
  • 221 North Main Street, Suite 200
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
  • 734.913.0010 voice
  • 734.213.8082 fax
  • info_at_argus-inc.com
  • http//argus-inc.com
  • This presentation available from
  • http//argus-inc.com/conferences/tl-seattle/
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