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Presentation on theme: " IMS5401 Web-based Systems Development Topic 3: Development for the web 3(c) Information Architecture."— Presentation transcript:

1 IMS5401 Web-based Systems Development Topic 3: Development for the web 3(c) Information Architecture

2 2 Agenda 1.The nature of the problem 2.Organisation schemes for information 3.Organisation structures for information 4.Navigation 5.Labelling 6.Providing search capabilities 7.Developing a site architecture 8.Information professionals and web architecture

3 3 1. The nature of the problem Problems and needs Importance Context Historical lessons

4 4 Information organisation problems: Information architecture Sub-dividing to fit page size Sub-dividing diverse information according to topic Structuring information in a certain sequence Linking to related information within the site Labelling information so the audience can quickly identify what is relevant to them Finding an information layout which solves these problems is the role of the Information Architect

5 5 Needs for site architecture To provide a rational framework or structure for the pages in which all site content will be stored To organise the framework in a way which helps users easily access the most important or frequently needed parts of the site To enable new content to be easily located within the site To lead inexperienced users through the site while enabling experienced users to get quickly to what they want To enable users to search the site

6 6 Importance A site URL takes the user only to the home page The content of the home page is a tiny fraction of the content of the site If you can’t find information in the rest of the site, then it is pointless Some comparisons: A book A library A supermarket A shopping centre

7 7 Context: A similar familiar problem How do you store information on the hard disk of your computer? “I have everything in one folder - it means I know where everything is” “I put everything in its own separate folder - it means nothing gets mixed up with the wrong things” “I make a compromise between these extremes; I have a number of folders and sub-folders, each of which contains collections of related things”

8 8 Your solution to the familiar problem How did you choose your system of organisation: what folders you needed? what to call them? how to inter- relate them? what to put in them? etc How well does it work? Do you ever: lose things? Put things in the wrong place? Be unsure where to put something? Take a lot of clicking to get to what you wanted? The test: could other people easily find documents on your computer?

9 9 Historical lessons Methods for organising, labelling, classifying and cataloguing information have been used in many disciplines throughout history These experiences have shown that: You can’t get it ‘right’ You can get it less wrong We (ie in computing and the web) have been slow to learn from them

10 10 2. Organisation schemes for information Organisation scheme: how we classify items of content and how we combine them into groups of related items Simple examples: Phone book Supermarket TV guide Newspaper Organisation schemes are either: Exact Ambiguous Hybrid

11 11 Exact organisation schemes Identifies groups or categories for all the information which are precisely-defined and mutually exclusive The group into which any item of content belongs is objective and easily identifiable Simple examples: Alphabetical Chronological Geographical Very easy to create and use, but only work if the user can search in the same way the information is organised

12 12 Ambiguous organisation schemes Identifies groups or categories for all the information which are not exactly defined and are not mutually exclusive Deciding which group an item of content belongs is subjective and may be difficult Simple examples: Topic-based Function-based Audience-based Enable broader and more useful groupings of information, but harder to manage; require judgement and understanding of users

13 13 Hybrid organisation schemes The items of content are divided into both exact and ambiguous groups A simple example: Look at the groupings on the Monash or SIMS home pages. Mixture of bases for grouping items Hybrid schemes can overcome the limitations of exact and ambiguous schemes, but at the risk of lack of consistency for the user; (how easy is the Monash home page first time around?) Help the user by making clear the basis for each type of group

14 14 3. Organisation structures for information The organisation structure sets the relationships between information: Between items of content and Between groups of items of content The organisation structure determines how users can navigate through the information - moving from one content item or group of items to another

15 15 The basic organisation structure - hierarchy Historically the dominant method; was initially considered old-fashioned in the world of hypertext, but is still the foundation of most systems Hierarchies are used to relate groups of items of content They may be clumsy and slow, but they are easy to understand and navigate Simple examples: The Yahoo site directory The organisation of information on your hard disk

16 16 Designing a hierarchy Narrow and deep? Broad and shallow? Implications for usability and content classification For sites with expanding content, tend towards broad and shallow

17 17 Hypertext Non-linear structure which connects individual items of content to one another or to groups of content Flexible, can support any linkages you like (including hierarchy) Lack of a clear formal structure for information content tends to confuse the user Easy to get lost Therefore, works best when used within a more formal structure

18 18 Relational (database) model Link item groups to one another, using some key item as the point of connection Compare with Entity-Relationship diagrams Entities = groups of items Attributes = individual items Relationships = connections Good for providing flexibility of content display for different audiences Suits only specific types of information - narrow tightly-defined data collections (eg product catalogues)

19 19 Creating an organisation system You can rarely use a single organisation scheme or organisation structure Note the benefits of each type and employ whatever blend best suits your site content and user needs May use different methods to suit different parts of a big site (sub-sites)

20 20 4. Navigation “Where am I?” Types of navigation systems Navigation structure Placement of controls Navigation aids

21 21 Where am I? Users get lost Users may not enter your site via the home page Therefore: Every page should identify itself with the site (via a logo or organisation name) Every page should show the user where they are in the site Every page should have a link back to the home page

22 22 Types of navigation systems Global navigation - home; search; main topics or functions Local navigation - sub-topics or sub-sections; top and bottom of pages, etc Breadcrumb navigation - where have I come from? Contextual navigation - linked content: pages or sites

23 23 The navigation structure Controlled hierarchical (to fit structure) - rigid but safe and simple Go anywhere from anywhere - flexible but messy - too many navigation options needed on each page Compromise based on where the audience is likely to want to go - use standard user scenarios

24 24 Placement of navigation controls Top of page? Bottom of page? Sides of page? Two of these? Think about the size of the page, when the user will want to move and place the controls accordingly

25 25 Other navigation aids Site maps Site indexes Pull-down menus The guided tour Personalised navigation paths

26 26 5. Labelling Labelling your navigation items may seem trivial, but it is important to get it right No matter how well-designed is your architecture, if it is poorly labelled, users won’t be any better off (Imagine a building with well-designed building layout, but no labels on the doors to tell you what is behind each one)

27 27 Labelling with words Be aware of web-standard terms and use them when appropriate (Home, Search, Site map, Contact us, About us, etc) What will your reader will understand by your labels? Be careful of jargon and acronyms which external users may not know (FAQ?) Don’t be too wordy - makes for a messy page Remember that users hate: not knowing what something means Going to it to find out only to find it is irrelevant to them

28 28 Labelling with icons Be aware of web-standard icons and use them when appropriate Can be a useful graphical shorthand, but use sparingly - lots of room for mis-interpretation or bewilderment Check out to see how far iconography can go!

29 29 6. Providing search capabilities The need for a search engine Getting a search engine Understanding search engines

30 30 The need for a search engine How big is your site? How easy is it to browse? How well will your audience know it? How much will your site grow and the content change? … And most importantly … Have you developed a good site architecture yet?!

31 31 Getting a search engine Buy one of the commercial ones Get one for free off the web Functionality and price will be driven by the level of sophistication you need

32 32 Understanding search engine capabilities Remember the limitations and capabilities of search engine technology (se earlier lecture and references) Library catalogues and on-line databases can be useful but have limitations Search engines (without intelligent human cataloguing) are significantly more limited Search engines are no substitute for a good architecture

33 33 7. Methods for developing site architectures Top-down and bottom-up approaches Personae Card sorting methods Cluster analysis Search logs Developing the architecture - initial and revision?

34 34 Top-down and bottom-up approaches Top-down: Identify key topics and then break down into sub-categories and specific items of content Bottom-up: Identify specific items of content, then group and Approach depends on circumstances; maybe use a mixture of both?

35 35 Personae and scenarios Who are your ‘typical’ users? Invent a persona for each Role-play what they want and how they will approach the site Note differences and conflicts in their needs Requires imagination and understanding of what your users are like

36 36 Card sorting methods Commonly used method of eliciting user ideas on site architecture Use index cards with site topics, content items and user needs Ask users to sort and organise cards according to their needs and understanding Collate results for many users and use cluster analysis to identify patterns

37 37 Cluster analysis Common statistical technique for identifying patterns in data Varying levels of sophistication possible Standard statistical packages can do it; specialised web content analysis software now available

38 38 Search logs Search engines keep logs of user queries (see for an example) Analyse for most common searches Re-configure site accordingly Monash pathways analogy?

39 39 Parallels for selecting an architecture To what can constructing a web architecture be compared? Library catalogue analogy? Database analogy? Shopping analogy? ?? Methods will develop and improve

40 40 Architecture development and revision Development - initial architectural design Personae and scenarios User focus groups Post-implementation - evaluation and re-design Monitoring site usage User reaction User surveys Getting it ‘right’ - how likely and for how long?

41 41 8. Information professionals and web architecture What are the tasks in developing site architecture and navigation? What are the knowledge and skills required? What can information professionals offer?

42 42 Tasks Classifying content Deciding on an information structure Developing profiles of user browsing and search needs and behaviours Developing a navigation structure Deciding on a content and navigation labelling system Installing and maintaining a search capability

43 43 Knowledge and skills Understanding the site content Knowing how to classify and organise information Understanding the audience and their needs Knowing what works on the web Understanding the psychology of browsing and searching Understanding the technology of searching

44 44 What role should information professionals play? Knowledge of information (IM) Knowledge of functionality (IS) Knowledge of user behaviour (IS/IM) Knowledge of search technology (IT)

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