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Information Architecture: A brief introduction

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1 Information Architecture: A brief introduction
Samantha Bailey 12/03/03

2 For the record I’m a librarian who works in digital information spaces. Currently: Vice President, Information Architecture for Wachovia.com (Wachovia Bank) Pioneer in IA: First employee of Argus Associates, spent 5 years there developing their operation & methodology MILS from University of Michigan, 1996

3 with Amazing push-button Shushing Action!

4 Topics Defining Information Architecture
Understanding Information Environments Components of an information architecture Methodology & Deliverables

5 Question: How do you define Information Architecture?

6 What is IA? A trick question or a tricky question?
Information Architecture (IA) Interaction Design (ID) Information Design (ID too) User-centered Design (UCD) User-interface Design (UI) Usability/Usability Engineering (UE)

7 What is IA? This is an emerging discipline in an evolving medium.
Experts & Gurus disagree on the “right” answer. IMHO: The ongoing discussion is legitimate and healthy—as long as we’re getting work done.

8 What is IA? Christina Wodtke’s SIG-IA survey:
content architecture (Polar Bear style) interaction design (Cooper’s About Face) information design (Wurman's Information Architects)                                                                  

9 What is IA? The art and science of structuring and organizing information systems to help people achieve their goals. Information architects organize content and design navigation systems to help people find and manage information.

10 questions IA answers A Visual Definition Users Business Context
audience types information needs questions Business Context strategy resources culture / politics workflow Info. Architecture org, label, nav, & searching systems IA Content scope and volume structure metadata answers

11 Why is IA Difficult? So Your Users Don’t Have To!
ComputerShopper.com Example.

12 Why is IA Important? (Metrics)
Cost of finding (time, clicks, frustration, precision). Cost of not finding (success, recall, frustration, alternatives). Cost of development (time, budget, staff, frustration). Value of learning (related products, services, projects, people). Example: Show Planned vs Unplanned IA (if time allows) NOT Finding: pharmaceutical company planning to license new drug delivery platform for 1M; after 1 month of planning/searching, discovered already had in-house option. HFHS: haven’t changed IA structure in 5 years.

13 Question: Do we still need to group (classify) what we know now that we aren’t dealing with artifacts?

14 A User’s Perspective

15 Information Environment
Business Context Content Users Business models & goals, corporate culture, resources Document types, objects, structure, attributes, meta-information Information needs, audience types, expertise, tasks

16 Info. Environment: Context
Business Context Content Users Characteristics of Large Companies Increasingly global / distributed enterprises Multiple cultures and languages Complicating Factors (Intranets & Web Sites) Authors and users spread across departments Ownership unclear Balance of centralization versus decentralization unclear

17 Information Architecture Environment Users
Business Context Content Users Complex and Diverse information seeking behavior, needs, expertise Many Ways to Study observation, interviews, modeling, testing, tracking, observation

18 Information Architecture Environment: Content
Business Context Content Users Information Architecture Environment: Content

19 Question: How do you organize (or not) your: Computer desktop/files
Physical desktop Paper files Books

20 Planned vs. Unplanned IA

21 Supplementary Navigation & Search
Components of an IA Organization systems Labeling systems Navigation systems -Global -Local -Contextual Supplementary Navigation & Search Examples: Organization (Exact/Ambiguous), Labeling, Navigation, Searching Different ways to organize the same content Alpha By chronology (press releases) By geography By topic (see subjects area) By task (hand in homework, view grades, register for classes, look up another student) By audience (teachers, students, parents) Hierarchy: aim for broad and shallow; clicks Database: highly structured, homogeneous Hypertext Labels: Headings, Links, Icons, Options in a navigation bar, Controlled vocabularies and thesauri. consistent system; user language, other sites, suggested by content; predictability of links (“Resources”, “Other Information”; scope notes; TITLE tags Navigation systems Global site navigation. Local navigation. Supplementary navigation systems (e.g., table of contents, site map, site index, guides). Contextual “see also” navigation. Searching systems Search interface. Query languages. Ranking algorithms. Search results. Global nav – top bar Local sub-site nav – bottom bar Supplementary – site index

22 Organization Systems Organization structures (e.g., the “shape” of the information): hierarchy, database, hypertext). Organization schemes: exact vs. ambiguous.

23 Organization Schemes Exact Schemes Ambiguous Schemes
e.g.,white pages, author/title database Everything has a place (one right answer) Easy to create and maintain Great for known-item searches Ambiguous Schemes e.g., yellow pages, org by topic/task/audience Messy and full of overlap Hard to create and maintain Great for subject searches and associative learning

24 Org. Schemes - Exact Alphabetical: OSHA Site Index (www.osha.gov)
Exact vs Ambiguous Different ways to organize the same content Alpha By chronology (press releases) By geography

25 Org. Schemes - Exact Geographical: Weather Underground (wunderground.com)

26 Org. Schemes - Ambiguous
Topical: Yahoo.com

27 Org. Schemes - Ambiguous
Task: Northwest Airlines (nwa.com)

28 Org. Schemes - Ambiguous
Audience: Dell (dell.com)

29 Navigation Systems Types Goals Global (site-wide) Local (sub-site)
Contextual (page-level) Supplementary (e.g., table of contents, index, guide, search) Goals Provide context. (Where am I?) Provide flexibility (Where can I go?) Make sense (Separate global and local systems) Avoid competing with content

30 Navigation Systems Page Title Local Navigation Global Navigation
name [graphic logo] blurb blurb blurb blurb Home | Site Map | Search Full Holdings | Topical Archives | Membership | Help blurb blurb blurb Local Navigation Learn About Our Organization Global Navigation Announcements and Initiatives Page Title Events and Conferences Publications and Lists About [name] Organization and Governance Policies Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Contact Us Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. FAQs Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. About the [name] Web Site Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. See Also Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Summer Program ABC Initiative Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Contextual Navigation Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. Page content. [name]: Questions or comments? [sponsor credits and logos] Please contact us

31 Navigation Systems Global, Local, Contextual: Wachovia.com
Global site navigation. Local navigation. Contextual “see also” navigation.

32 Labeling Systems Navigation bar options
Headings, Subheads, sub-subheads Contextual links Controlled vocabularies and thesauri [Icons] How can we make it easier to find and manage information: use the basic components of a good IA Describe with an example E.G. Show Bitpipe (http://www.bitpipe.com)

33 Supplementary Navigation Systems
Topical (site index): New York Times (nyt.com) Supplementary navigation systems (e.g., table of contents, site map, site index, guides).

34 Supplementary Navigation: Search

35 Supplementary Nav: Searching Sucks
“Using an on-site search engine actually reduced the chances of success.” (1998 Usability Study by User Interface Engineering)

36 …But Users Demand It http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9707b.html
“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) Paradox of the active user

37 Top-down vs. bottom-up IA
“Top-down” IA Birds eye view looking down on the forest. Tie together disparate pockets of content for improved searching and browsing. Highly focused on users and information needs. “Bottom-up” IA From the ground up, looking at individual trees and leaves on trees. Improve searching and browsing within a single, high-volume pocket of content. Highly focused on content (content model, document types and meta-information). Not mutually exclusive—every project includes both.

38 Where Does IA Fit in the Design Process?
The Elements of User Experience Jesse James Garrett

39 User Centered Information Architecture Design Methodology
Iterative process Discovery Definition/Conceptual Design IA Design Handoff-Implementation Integrated with content development, interaction design, graphic design,usability

40 Communicating Ideas (deliverables)
Diagrams (conceptual) Blueprints (structural) Wireframes (relational) Text (reports, taxonomies) Interpersonal (meetings, conversation, blogs) Example: Show Planned vs Unplanned IA (if time allows) NOT Finding: pharmaceutical company planning to license new drug delivery platform for 1M; after 1 month of planning/searching, discovered already had in-house option. HFHS: haven’t changed IA structure in 5 years.

41 Affinity Diagram How Users Associate Hardware/Software Content Topics
Project Type: Strategy and Recommendations, User Needs Analysis Client Type: Software and Network Applications Description: Affinity diagrams visually interpret the results of card sorting during user testing. They show how the respondents tended to view the relationships between different chunks of content. These results suggest ways to better organize this content. Lines between boxes show the strength of the associations between topics. The larger gray boxes show major clusters of topics and areas of overlap.

42 Concept Diagram Project Type: Seminar, Client Mentoring, White Paper
Client Type: E-commerce or Intranet Site Description: This concept diagram outlines a general strategy for personalization on a site. It shows how users, content, and controlled vocabularies relate to the profiling layer used to aggregate information dynamically for presentation in the user interface. Such diagrams are useful for introducing organizations to complex information architecture ideas. They are especially useful during mentoring and training engagements.

43 Blueprint (Top Down) Project Type: Strategy and Recommendations
Client Type: International Business Consulting Firm Description: This is a top-down view of the overall conceptual structure of an Internet portal site that provides access to international information for affiliate firms. The XML-based global content repository for the organization can be accessed in multiple ways—by firm, by service, by industry, by topic.

44 Process Flow for Customer Interaction
Project type: Strategy and Recommendations, Business Analysis Client: Networking Products and Solutions Description: Process for online product life cycle. Describes how client can improve sales at different points in sales cycle.

45 Main Page Wireframe Project Type:
Strategy and Recommendations, Conceptual Design Client Type: Electronic greeting card public internet site Description: Wireframes are used to communicate with the web design team to show navigation and the relationship between content elements. They help flesh out the page by page information architecture of the site before graphic design and programming occur. The goal of this project was to improve the site’s overall information architecture to make it easier for users to find content. This wireframe illustrated how to leverage the site’s navigation and classification systems on the main page.

46 Metadata (Bottom Up) Definition: attributes that describe a content object Example Metadata Record: Compact Disc(Amazon.com) Attributes Attribute Values Title Symphonies nos 35-41 Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor Karl Böhm Ensemble Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Genre Classical Date Recorded January 23, 1996 Some attributes require controlled vocabularies. Implementation: Could be embedded meta tags, database records, XML.

47 Controlled Vocabulary Table
Products/Services UI Accepted Term Product Code Variant Term PS0135 Access Dialing PCA358 10-288; ; dial around PS0006 Air Miles PCS932 AirMiles PS0151 XYZ Direct DCW004 USADirect; XYZ USA Direct; XYZDirect card Project Type: Conceptual Design, Implementation Client Type: Customer Call Center of Global Telecommunications Firm Description: Shows part of a controlled vocabulary that was used to organize documents and enhance searching for a call center’s knowledge management intranet. Table includes accepted terms to be used in tags as well as product codes and variant terms used by the company.

48 Project management & Information Architecture
PM & IA can be a powerful combination Sources of tension Big IA/Little IA vs. Big PM/Little PM

49 IA Resources for More Information
Online AIfIA (http://aifia.org) SIG-IA (http://www.asis.org/SIG/SIGIA/) Books _IA for the World Wide Web_ 2nd Ed., Morville & Rosenfeld, O’Reilly, 2002 _IA: Blueprints for the Web_ Wodtke, New Riders, 2001 _Elements of User Experience_ Garrett, New Riders, 2002

50 Wrap Up Questions? Contact information: Samantha Bailey samantha.bailey (at) wachovia.com


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