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IA as theory and practice

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Presentation on theme: "IA as theory and practice"— Presentation transcript:

1 IA as theory and practice
I. Can IA be based on theory? • Inductive thinking • Information interaction II. Practice: doing the job • Incorporating theory into practice • Doing the research • Preparing to create an IA III. Designing and building • Working in the IA world

2 I. Can IA be based on theory?

3 I. Can IA be based on theory?
An example of deductive research: Select theory Derive a hypothesis Gather data Analyze data Determine extent to which data analysis supports hypothesis Reject or fail to reject hypothesis How well does this describe the work of IAs?

4 I. Can IA be based on theory?
An example of inductive research: Gather data Analyze and reanalyze the data Organize the data within broad topics Create categories within the topics Identify relationships among the categories Synthesize the patterns into conclusions How well does this describe the work of IAs?

5 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Haverty argues that IA must be inductive It does not have an existing body of theory which typically guides the work of a field Theory constrains acceptable solutions through formal validation Without it, IAs tend to treat each problem as novel Also, it supports emergent phenomena The IA domain has a small set of initial components and a relatively simple set of rules These lead to a large number of complex patterns Haverty, M. (2002). Information architecture without internal theory: An inductive design process. Journal of the ASIST, 53(10),

6 I. Can IA be based on theory?
IA components include content, structure, navigation, interaction On any given site, there are many interactions that can emerge when people use it, influenced by the IA of the site IAs use combinations of these components to define the framework that constrains user interactions Problem: we don’t understand well how to study and design for emerging user experiences We don’t know how each contributes to the user experience This is why we need inductive analysis

7 I. Can IA be based on theory?
IA as constructive induction This is a process for generating a design solution using two intertwined searches First: identify the most adequate representational framework for the problem Second: locate the best design solution within the framework and translating it to the problem at hand CI is useful when existing theory cannot adequately explain the object of study

8 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Steps of CI 1. What are the basic design problems for the system? Determine goals, vision, business and other requirements Decompose the problem Each requires a design solution Haverty 2002, 841.

9 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Steps of CI 2. Find a framework for each design problem Identify a solution within the framework May involve looking at work in other fields Each requires a design solution Haverty 2002, 841.

10 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Steps of CI 3. Translate solution into a context of the current design problem This is a creative step Involves understanding the original concept and knowing how to repurpose it Haverty 2002, 841.

11 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Steps of CI 4. Integrate solutions into an overall IA Validate the solutions against the original high level goals and objectives of the site May involve member checking and usability work Haverty 2002, 841.

12 I. Can IA be based on theory?
If IA develops theory Determine design problems Use theory to create design solutions Integrate and design solutions

13 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Information interaction as a basis for IA Toms argues that the initial focus should be how people interact in information-rich environments Interaction: situated action with an IS involving querying, browsing Primarily use of GUI with some command line work We “immerse ourselves” in info This is affected by IA: enabling access to content by providing a systematic and primarily a visual approach to the organization of content Toms, E.G. (2002). Information interaction: Providing a framework for information architecture. Journal of the ASIST, 53(10),

14 I. Can IA be based on theory?
How information interaction occurs We can come to a system with an “information task” Problem-solving: we go through a patterned process and end with a relevance judgment We can also have chance encounters, encounters with information, scanning activities These are less patterned but still end with some type of judgment Then we browse, navigate, search, evaluate… Information interaction is the basis of the person’s use experience


16 I. Can IA be based on theory?
Try to determine the client’s understanding of the audience Who do they think their users are? What type of experience do they want people to have when using the site? What do they want them to do? Where do they want them to spend the most time? Do the research Learn about the client’s business What is their value proposition? What are the main ways they generate revenue?

17 IA as theory and practice
I. Can IA be based on theory? • Inductive thinking • Information interaction II. Practice: doing the job • Incorporating theory into practice • Doing the research • Preparing to create an IA III. Designing and building • Working in the IA world

18 II. Practice: doing the job
Incorporating theory into practice Withrow: cognitive psychology has much to offer IA The difficulty is figuring what to use from research and how to use it Example: mental categories A grouping mechanism, a way to bring together items or concepts through some unifying characteristics or attributes How can these be used? Withrow, J. (2003). Cognitive psychology & IA: From theory to practice. BoxesandArrows

19 II. Practice: doing the job
These categories can be formed in many ways Visual similarity, shared purposes or uses, rules of inclusion and exclusion, organizational culture There are also differences affected by cultural differences, socialization, and cohort effects A web site should reflect inclusive mental categorization schemes These can be uncovered with open ended card sorting An IA can then be developed based on the users’ arrangement of content categories Metadata as well

20 II. Practice: doing the job
Visual perception is also important Visual cues are often the basis for mental associations users make among items on the interface Withrow, J. (2003).

21 II. Practice: doing the job
Proximity and similarity matter

22 II. Practice: doing the job
Implication: Navigation bar design Navigation items that are across the page and appear dissimilar are unlikely to be perceptually associated Display of local navigation bars Items should be proximal and similar so they are perceived as being together They should also be associated with the appropriate section in the global navigation bar and not be perceived as global navigation

23 II. Practice: doing the job
An IA challenge is to design a structure that works for more than one target user group Research shows that often there is no single user group Try to identify distinct segments within the target user population, each with characteristic goals and values Then design a project that can support all segments with a single structure An alternative is to build a different site for each segment but this not an efficient way to work It avoids design challenges that can lead to creative solutions

24 II. Practice: doing the job
Schleicher and Kush, J. (2001). Retail ecologies, e-commerce, and information architecture

25 II. Practice: doing the job
Maintenance: buying less meaningful objects not necessarily tied to social relationships (stamps) Provisional: selecting objects relatively low in meaning with social relationships more involved in the purchase (school supplies) Consumption: buying objects with high meaning which will provide value far beyond their basic utility with social relationships less involved (music) Pilgrimage: focus is on the objects and on the social relationships involved in the shopping experience (wedding rings)

26 II. Practice: doing the job
Generic IA features Flexible search terms Clear labeling Descriptive content Contextual links to related products IA for maintenance Shallow browsing Navigation shortcuts Saving product selections

27 II. Practice: doing the job
IA for provisional Saving product selections Enriched search results IA for consumption Evocative labels Personalization IA for pilgrimage Interaction with others

28 II. Practice: doing the job
Doing the research Theoretical reasons Research on organizations can help developers avoid problems that can undermine projects Practical reasons A necessary step in the project life cycle Saves time, money, and effort Allows you to figure out what you have to do To get a sense of the existing situation Understand the constraints and who can impose them

29 II. Practice: doing the job
How to do the research There are different ways to set up the problem Ask an open-ended question Set up a relationship and test it There are a variety of ways to study an organization You can talk to people interviews You can ask people to fill out forms surveys You can watch people observation You can test people experimentation There are variations within these approaches as well

30 II. Practice: doing the job
There is a difference between academic and IA research There is less need for rigor You don’t have to worry about generalizability Peer review is not an issue There are good reasons to use good research practices If your methods are reliable, you can reuse them High quality data leads to strong conclusions Consistency within and across projects Over time this can lead to best practices You can then train new employees more easily

31 II. Practice: doing the job
Settle on strategy or strategies Individual or telephone interviews? Individual face-to-face interviews? Group meetings? Group or conference calls? Each has its advantages and drawbacks Face-to-face interviews and group meetings are good ways to gather information In addition to the research value, these strategies also serve a social function You learn about stakeholder biases and political and power relationships

32 II. Practice: doing the job
IAs want to understand what people want when they use the web User centered research is a good way to get at this People’s activities tend to be goal directed - they Use information for problem solving Want useful information that matters to them Want it to help them resolve problems/needs Want it to help them with their work or life Want cues throughout the site Want reasonable and intuitive navigation

33 II. Practice: doing the job
Consider this question: “What should our team create to give people experiences that are useful, usable, and desirable, that create value for our business and our clients?” How can we answer it? Rettig emphasizes the importance of an ethnographic approach “Go where people work, learn, live and play. Discover unexpressed or masked needs. Let your design be driven by genuine understanding of the people you are trying to serve.” Rettig, M. (2000). Ethnography and information architecture

34 II. Practice: doing the job
Gather the data and begin analysis This involves sorting and categorizing Goals, activities/tasks, main content areas Prepare a preliminary listing and use “member checking” Be prepared for conflict, disagreement, and compromise There should be a deliverable (a design document) It summarizes the key points of the site and acts as an initial blueprint The major stakeholders should all sign off

35 II. Practice: doing the job
Learn about the audience by defining the user experience This establishes a clear definition of the audience It helps in understanding how users will react to the site This involves another round of conversations and/or meetings Get them to rank the range of potential audiences Ask them to describe the needs and goals of the most important audience members Use these results to create user scenarios These are stories about how people will use the site

36 II. Practice: doing the job
In practical terms, this means: Observation: go into the setting and watch people Shadowing: follow them around Examining artifacts and their uses Interviews: interview people in their workplace This can be structured or unstructured Sampling: can involve time or task sampling They fill out activity diaries on your schedule Self-reporting: they have the greatest amount of control Ask them to take pictures or keep journals

37 II. Practice: doing the job
Navigation models depend on people’s goals and needs Perfect knowledge Optimal rationality: follow the highest probability path Based on “information scent” or imputed meaning of content/labels Satisficing: following what looks like the best path and stop when the content is a close enough match Mental map: model of site structure Rote memorization Information foraging: consuming local resources and moving on

38 II. Practice: doing the job
Learn about the competition Find out who the main competitors are and analyze their sites Criteria #1 #2 #3 #4 Design Navigation Look and Feel Search Personalization Scripting Currency

39 IA as theory and practice
I. Theory: What is IA based on? • Inductive thinking • Information interaction II. Practice: doing the job • The information ecology of IA • Doing the research • Preparing to create an IA III. Designing and building • Working in the IA world

40 III. Designing and building
Working in the IA world The IAs must be matched to its organizational context It provides an image of the client’s mission, vision, strategy, values, and culture The site is a “major component of the evolving conversation between” the business (or organization) and its customers (or clients) It influences the ways in which the audience thinks of the organization’s products and services This is why alignment is so important for IAs Rosenfeld and Morville, Ch2

41 III. Designing and building
Working with content: documents, applications, services, schema, metadata on the site Ownership: what are its origins? Who creates and controls content? Format: what are the different types of formats used? Structure: the document? database entry? structural markup? Metadata: what is being used? What should be used? How is it managed (controlled or user-generated)? Volume: how much? Dynamism: what is the rate of change?

42 III. Designing and building
Rapid IA prototyping A structured method moving from exploration to design to testing Based on user and business requirements Users: how they tacitly group, sort and label tasks and content Business: understanding and incorporating goals and concerns Importance of stakeholder analysis Sinha, R. and Boutelle, J. (2004). Rapid information architecture prototyping. Proceedings of the 5th conference on Designing Interactive systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques. 349 –

43 III. Designing and building
Rapid prototyping is useful for the design of top-down IA Exploring the content domain Understanding user conceptual structures and stakeholder perspectives Generating several candidate designs Doing quick comparative testing to choose among them Methods Free listing: all the words associated with a category Shows shared concepts and boundaries of domains Generates a list of tasks that can be done on the site

44 III. Designing and building
Methods Types of tasks Core tasks: the core functionality of the site Boundary tasks: the most demanding, unusual, or sophisticated functionality on the site Horizon tasks: could be done on future versions of the site Distribution: 50-80% core tasks, 10-25% horizon tasks and 10-25% boundary tasks These describe the boundaries of the information domain

45 III. Designing and building
Methods Card sorting: users arrange content into categories and hierarchies Cluster analysis groups the open sorts into hierarchies Closed sorts allow quick testing of the hierarchies to see if tasks belong in specific categories Stakeholder analysis Techniques for understanding the range of perspectives and goals within a business environment

46 III. Designing and building
Card sort This is a low-tech approach to develop a taxonomy It demonstrates how people group items Allows you to develop structures that maximize the chances of users being able to find what they want and: Is easy and cheap to conduct Identifies items that can be difficult to categorize and find Identifies terminology that is likely to be misunderstood Infodesign. (2002). What is Card Sorting?

47 III. Designing and building
You have to have predefined the major categories Label each card with a description of potential content Have respondents create and name piles of cards that share similar relationships Then cluster the groupings Pay attention to items that do not have a consensus Would re-naming the item improve the situation, or does it need to be included in more than one category? The results indicate how users organize the content Use the findings to the develop the site architecture

48 III. Designing and building
Preparing the card sort Ensure that each term is clear and unambiguous Include all the items you need to categorize Shuffle or randomize cards prior to each session Use the same instructions so all participants have the same understanding of the process Leave participants alone while they are sorting the cards, but make sure they can easily ask you questions Provide additional blank cards for people to write group names and rubber bands to gather groups of cards together

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