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Foundations of IA - World IA Day

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Held in conjunction with World IA Day 2018, this practical session was an introduction to the core skills and methods of thinking that you can use as part of your day to day work in IA.

Topics covered included the foundations of IA, the importance of a ‘content first’ approach, thinking like a user and how to present your work to clients.

The session was led by Jon Fisher, Head of UX at Nomensa, an award-winning UX design agency based in London, Bristol and Amsterdam.

This is a free event recommended for those new to IA or looking for a refresher on fundamentals.

Following the event, Nomensa will be providing pizza and beers for delegates to enjoy and continue networking.

If you register, but are unable to attend, please give us 48 hours notice so we can reallocate your place.

Veröffentlicht in: Design
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Foundations of IA - World IA Day

  1. 1. February 2018 FoundationsofIA
  2. 2. 2 Objectives This training course will introduce information architecture and how to create a new user focused structure.  Practitioners should understand: Practitioners should understand: - What is Information Architecture (IA)? - The necessary inputs for creating an IA - Types of digital product structure - Principles of organisation - Information scent - Expert IA Creation - Validation of an IA A reading list of useful resources is provided at the end of this deck
  3. 3. 3 Structure Throughout this training course there are a number of different slides to help you in your day to day work at Nomensa: Purple slides: Practical tips regarding a technique from a sales and timescales perspective Please note that this training assumes you are a UX practitioner and therefore does not need to explain basic UX concepts. It is intended to outline the base level way, of doing particular activities. Your individual project may require an alternative approach. Red slides: Practical exercises to conduct during the training and refresh yourself in downtime.
  4. 4. 4 Scope of this IA training This training covers the design of information architectures for single digital products e.g. a responsive website or an app. It covers many of the traditional views of information architecture such as sitemaps and user journeys and flows over time. In recent years with the advent of multiple channels for clients, Cross Channel IA and Service Design Thinking has become important. Nomensa covers many of these types of services however this is outside the scope of this training course. A later training course (to be developed) will cover cross- channel design work and Service Design Thinking. For today don’t worry! Lets focus on one digital product at a time (after that is what most of our client work is)
  5. 5. 5 Whatisinformation architecture? We talk about it a lot but what do we really mean?
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  7. 7. 7 AnomensaDefinitionfor practicalagencywork Information Architecture is the design of a user centred structure for a digital product (including content delivery rules and logic), that underpins the User Experience we are designing - Jon Fisher, A cold Saturday afternoon in January 2015 So to be clear. What we really mean is structuring information around the things that users want to do and in a way that they talk about them
  8. 8. 8 What is Information Architecture? • Information Architecture is talked a lot about at Nomensa but rarely in client side organisations. • It is a poorly understood discipline for many reasons and has many cross overs with other disciplines such as Content Strategy and Interface Design. • Ironically it has been a very difficult subject matter to define (“DTDT or Define the Damn Thing”) since the early days of the web. • Started its origins in library science as we realised early on that we needed to classify the web and structure information properly in order to make it usable, findable and searchable. • However, library science is only one aspect and modern information architecture has to consider the psychological aspects of users engaging with content: Why? Because digital products are used in a self serve context
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  11. 11. 11 The Self Serve problem of the web • In a self serve context a user brings their own biases expectations, quirks and most importantly, their language to their experience of your digital product. • Repeat after me! They use their language not your organisations. • How they look, search and find information is different to what most organisations expect. • Therefore we must ensure that digital products: Are structured in a user centred way Use language that users understand
  12. 12. 12 Structure
 Part 1 To choose a good structure for what you are making, you need to find one that: - Makes sense to your users - Reflects your business intent - Helps you reach your goals Structural methods for organisation are called Taxonomy. Common examples of Taxonomy include: - The scientific classification for plants and animals - The Dewey Decimal System - Navigational tabs on a website… Abbey Covert, How to make Sense of any Mess, 2014
  13. 13. 13 Structure
 Part 2 Sorting things into groups isn’t the hard part, classification is. Sorting is easy when clear rules are in place. Without these rules, assumptions take over and things end up in places where they can be harder to find For example, an ambiguous classification could be Comedy and Drama. How would a movie critic review a dark comedy… Abbey Covert, How to make Sense of any Mess, 2014 Ever got a user to group things? Ever asked them to give their group a name? They are shit at naming. Jon Fisher, a cold Saturday afternoon in January 2015
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  15. 15. 15 Language We know the web is inherently made up of structured content Therefore almost everything we are dealing with is affected by language! We need to think about: - Terms that conflict with a users mental model - Terms with alternative meanings - Terms with historical, political baggage - Acronyms and homographs (Pool – Do we mean swimming pool or betting pool?) that may cause confusion Abbey Covert, How to make Sense of any Mess, 2014
  16. 16. 16 Value vs. Pain “When discussing any product, technology, or idea, it’s easy to focus only on its value, what problem it is trying to solve for the user. This is a good start, and has historically been the only consideration. Recently however, people have started to realize that it also has to be well designed; it can’t be painful to use.  These two primary aspects of any product, it’s value and it’s pain are usually treated as independent variables. Of course you want a high value product and just as importantly the pain of use must be low as well. What people don’t appreciate is that these two are intricately linked. What’s most important is their relationship: as long as value is greater than pain, you’ll be ok.” Scot Jenson, Mobile Apps Must Die, 2011
  17. 17. 17 Structure, Language, value and pain Remember the UX Golden Rule about Value and Pain If content has the potential to deliver Value to a user then finding that content has the potential to deliver Pain and frustration Ultimately Information Architecture has the potential both for us to reduce human error in the products we design as well as create delightful moments through clever content delivery across TIME. A good information architecture removes the pain from your service or product. Its not that sexy but it is essential. Information architects need to be humble (and patient)!
  18. 18. 18 Hey,niceIA Said by no one, ever.
  19. 19. 19 InputstoIAcreation What do we need to begin creating a user centred structure?
  20. 20. 20 Inputs to IA creation Before starting to create an IA what do we need some of the following things (depending on the project they are not always available): - Content Evaluations / Audit from an existing digital product - Content Models - Lists of content types and elements - Task matrices (patience: these are coming up next) - Audience definitions e.g. Personas - User research
  21. 21. 21 Inputs to IA creation Stuff to do with our clients content: - Content Evaluations / Audit from an existing digital product - Content Models - Lists of content types and elements Stuff to do with what our user base want or are trying to do: - Task matrices (patience: these are coming up next) - Audience definitions e.g. Personas - User research Lets think about this list again and break it into two. 1 2
  22. 22. 22 The ingredients 
 of an IA We know information architecture is about structure and language If we know everything about what our client has and how they want to deliver it we can structure it (who likes Lego? I do!)! If we know everything about what our users are frustrated with and the way they talk and see the world we can use an appropriate language for them.
  23. 23. 23 We will not always have the time and money available for all of these inputs… Ask yourself: • Is there any existing research on customer problems and language? • What are people saying on social media? • Can we have a workshop with the client to explore audience types? • Can we meet with customer facing staff in the clients organisation? • What does analytics tell us about popular content on the existing site? • Ultimately how much can I learn from just a really good root around the clients existing website?
  24. 24. 24 Task Matrices • A task matrix is very valuable technique that you can use at the beginning of a piece of information architecture to help you get a sense of: - Who your digital product has to support i.e. audiences - What they are trying to do! • It does exactly what it says on the tin! You map “Audience” across the y axis and “Task” down the x axis. • Look out for clumps and overlaps across audience types as these typically indicate very important tasks and can aid you later with making structural groupings. Obviously if you have nine audiences and all of them want to do the same thing then that thing must be important! • Finally task matrices are doubly valuable if you are planning to validate your IA at some point in the future.
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  26. 26. 26 Createataskmatrixfora website(10 minutes) Get into pairs and then: 1. Choose an imaginary website from either “Musical Instrument Shop” or a “Travel website” 2. Identify all the potential audiences for the website. 
 List them in a horizontal line 3. Start to think about all the tasks each audience group may want to do on your site List these in a vertical line 4. Start to fill in your matrix to show which audiences are doing which tasks
  27. 27. 27 Content Models • A content model shows us the relationships between content types • They are a really useful design tool to help us visualise the system we are defining • Can be quite quick!  Initially it’s a design tool! • Can help with very early backend development work, particular when talking about what objects exist in the system and need to be dynamically delivered.
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  30. 30. 30 Createacontentmodel forawebsite(10 minutes) Get into pairs and then: 1. Using the same website as exercise 1, work through and identify all the potential Content Types that make up the website 2. See if you can draw a content model that reflects the relationship between the different types 3. Do you start to think differently about how you might approach the websites structure?
  31. 31. 31 You can make an IA in two days or 9 months (Department of Energy and Climate Change, – To be fair it was 19 websites and over 9000 pages…) The rest of this training course will teach you a set of principles to follow for making user-centred structures Remember, depending on your project…
  32. 32. 32 Typesofdigitalproduct structure Which one will suit our design problem best?
  33. 33. 33 Types of digital product structure • There are five common types of structure for a digital product: - Hierarchical - Linear - Hub and Spoke - Hypertext pattern (wiki) - Combined • You might combine some different structures for more complex sites. For example a hierarchical structure with a database element of records at a lower level • Your choice of structure should be focused around the types of tasks and behaviours that are going to occur on your digital product
  34. 34. 34 Hierarchical Structure 
 e.g. a lot of sites!
  35. 35. 35 Hub & spoke structure 
 e.g. Dashboards
  36. 36. 36 Linear structure 
 e.g. Applications/checkouts
  37. 37. 37 Hypertext structure 
 e.g. Wikipedia
  38. 38. 38 Combined structure 
 e.g. Hierarchy & database
  39. 39. 39 Not normally a deliverable but could be nice to plot out thinking and show client It can be really beneficial to your project when you start to think about this kind of foundational systemic thinking early on. Depending on the structure of your digital product can have massive implications on the interface design. Explore different ideas. More than 30 minutes and you have over thought it! These kind of structures are typically too abstracted to show a client on their own but they can be useful for telling the story of your design decisions Also talk to your design partner at the beginning of the interface design stage to see what they think.
  40. 40. 40 7Themesof organisation(structure) Topical / Chronological / Geographical / Alphabetical / Hierarchical / Task / Audience
  41. 41. 41 Seven themes of organisation • There are seven core ways that information can be organised into groups: - Topical - Chronological - Geographical - Alphabetical - Continuum - Task - Audience • As long as you remain consistent within a particular grouping then the easier it is to use. Confusion and ambiguity comes when you group information by more than one type of organising principle e.g. “Topical” and “Task”
  42. 42. 42 Topical Organisation • This is the most common type of organisation or scheme you will use. • You will probably be developing your Topic Grouping from scratch! • A Topic based scheme groups similar things together based on common attributes based on what they are about • For example, Nomensa’s blog uses a topic based scheme built around “UX”, Research”, “Design” “Information Architecture” etc • Everything in a given silo is about the top-level topic.
  43. 43. 43 Chronological (Time) organisation • Organising information into a time based scheme according to when something happens. • Only use when time is the key characteristic of the content, for example: - News - Weblogs - History - Listings - Flight times etc
  44. 44. 44 Geographical Organisation • Like time, geography is an exact scheme. If you understand the boundaries (country, region, continent etc) then you can search accurately • Obviously geography has to be a key component of the content! • Two really good use of geographical schemes: - Your target audience wants to access information that way e.g. looking for a holiday - They understand the geography you are using. For example would a global audience (particularly US) understand British county council boundaries?
  45. 45. 45 Alphabetical Organisation • Can be used for practically any type of information but doesn’t mean they are always best. • Work best when people know what they are looking for, know how to describe it and our chosen labelling matches that of a user • Dictionaries and glossaries are good examples of Alphabetic schemes • Question: You work in a record store that uses an alphabetic coding scheme. Where would you put Michael Jackson’s Thriller?
  46. 46. 46 Continuum Organisation • This organisational scheme organises by magnitude. • For example, highest to lowest or smallest to biggest. • Rarer and also generally tends to act as more of a filter. Obviously valuable in a comparison scenario with users.
  47. 47. 47 Task Based Organisation • On the surface, task based schemes are interesting and are often suggested by a client • But the number and type of tasks can quickly spiral and often pieces of content can straddle more than one task. This is a problem! • Task based schemes work best when: - There are only a small set of tasks - The tasks have clear boundaries - Your content is easy to allocate to a group • A good example of this is lots of media providers (Shop / Watch / Help)
  48. 48. 48 Audience Based Organisation • Audience schemes are like task schemes. If you are not careful they can become ambiguous despite sounding like a good idea at the start of a project. • Audience schemes are suitable when: - You can split your audience into groups, with very clear boundaries - At any point in time a user can identify which group they belong to - Your content assigns across audience groups without too much overlap
  49. 49. 49 Mixing organisational schemes Its absolutely fine to change the organising principle across levels of a digital product. For example: Organisational Principles #1 Task Topic Chronological Organisational Principles for Gatwick Find your flight Air Travel Latest flights
  50. 50. 50 InformationScent (Language) Sniff, sniff, woof! – Why dogs don’t belong with chairs!
  51. 51. 51 Information Scent • A major IA principle to remember is that of “information scent”. • As a user moves through a digital product they are effectively foraging for information in each section of your digital product. • They are constantly searching and scanning for pertinent words and images that meet their needs. • “In essence they are always asking themselves: “Does this section contain what it is that I am looking for?” • If the answer to this question is “No” then the user leaves.
  52. 52. 52 Trigger Words • A Trigger Word is essentially a suitable label for a section of content in our digital product that enables the user to continue searching. • Think of it like a smelly breadcrumb! • Hopefully now you start to see how important talking in a user’s language becomes! • If an organisation insists on speaking in meaningless, ambiguous phraseology then it is a users information scent that is lost. • Then we end up here…
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  54. 54. 54 Trigger Words • The art of writing good labels for sections of content is a valuable skill. Both clients and users are bad at this! • When using the principle of information scent remember all you are trying to do is get the user to the next section of content. You do not need to describe everything that lives in a section. • Your choice of organisational scheme for that section of content may help guide your labelling choice, especially if it Topic based.
  55. 55. 55 The best labels • Call things by their correct name • Are consistent • Use terms that your audience uses • Are as clear as possible • Looks simple but in practice (particularly with technically verbose clients) can be very hard. • Plus you never know when you will get struck by…
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  57. 57. 57 Identifying Trigger Words in your research! Your user research is where often good candidate trigger words will be identified! Listen out for the way your user base speaks about certain topics Look at social feeds for language and terminology used Ask them to give names to groups of content. Although they will be probably be bad, from a dozen users you will consistent words cropping up all the time!
  58. 58. 58 Basic Level Categories We typically think in the middle of hierarchy e.g. Chairs Furniture Office Chairs (the middle of the hierarchy – This!) • We call these “Basic Level Categories” and they have the following attributes: - They have a short name and are learned easily - You can imagine the category with a simple visual representation e.g. its easy to think of “chairs” but hard to think of “furniture” - There may be a representative action for the category e.g. chairs are for sitting in. There is not general action for furniture • Basic Level Categories are typically the easiest “things” to identify from research and therefore make the most sense to start with when starting to make an IA.
  59. 59. 59 Basic Level Categories • In essence think of Basic Level Categories as a “Schema” that a user may use in their head to classify the content of that section of the website. - Chairs have four legs but so do dogs. Therefore the category “Things with four legs” doesn’t help… • Basic Level Categories are typically the easiest “things” to identify from research and therefore make the most sense to start with when starting to make an IA. They are probably your initial groupings (from either an expert led approach or a card sort).
  60. 60. 60 StructuralPatterns, OrganisationalSchemes& TriggerWords(15 minutes) Get into pairs and choose a website that you have recently used. At the end of the 15 minutes: 1. Identify what kind of structural pattern the website uses 2. Find three examples of bad labelling on the site 3. Suggest an improvement on the bad labels using the principle of Trigger Words and Information Scent 4. Look at the groupings of content on the site and attempt to identify what organisational schemes have been used. This may prove difficult if the site has a bad IA!
  61. 61. 61 CreateanIA Bringing theory to practice and creating a new structure
  62. 62. 62 Create an IA • By this point in time you should have: - An understanding of the range and type of content that your digital product contains - An understanding of your user’s needs and wants (“Task Matrix”) • An understanding of principles around organisation and structure • An understanding of information scent and labelling • Have we identified our Basic Level Categories • What are you waiting for? Bring it all together! • Do what Uxers do best…
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  64. 64. 64 User Journeys • In the process of playing with groups of content and labelling you should also sketch out user journeys. • This allows to see whether your new structure is cumbersome or overly long. • It allows you to see how many steps are involved in a particular task with your new structure • Are you too narrow and deep, resulting in loads of steps to get to the right information? • Are you too broad and shallow? • When sketching user journeys you are starting to cross into interface design
  65. 65. 65 Days out
  66. 66. 66 User Journeys • When sketching user journeys you are starting to cross into interface design • You will spot opportunities to remove steps from your structure, thus making it easier for users. • For example, this hierarchical structure does not mean five pages of content: • Product - Price - Weight - Size - Colour • It means one page with a filter with four facets on it!
  67. 67. 67 IA deliverables IA Work requires a level of abstraction that many clients can struggle with. Your job is to make it as tangible as possible Remember a hierarchical display of information does not necessarily mean a page although a client may think so! Potential deliverables could include: 1. A site map 2. Some user journeys (typically skectched) 3. A diagram of a proposed structure (e.g. hub and spoke) 4. A content model 5. A list of content types and elements
  68. 68. 68 IA deliverables Its up to you and your project team to define with the client what is a deliverable. At the end of the day, 
 many IA deliverables are tools to help us in the next phase of design The key thing to remember is that an IA has a set of rules in order to function correctly. How are you documenting and explaining the rules of the system to those who need to use it? Good governance of content is critical to your IA’s health in the long run.
  69. 69. 69 Information Architecture Site Map Key • Remember don't just make a hierarchical tree. You can use a key and visual vocabulary to help explain and simplify your sitemaps • For more information see Jesse James Garrett’s Visual Vocabulary: http://jjg.net/ia/visvocab/
  70. 70. 70 Validatingandupdating How to write good test plans, running a Treejack and updating our structure
  71. 71. 71 Validating an IA • But how do we know if our new IA works? • Validate it using an online path finding tool called Treejack (http://www.optimalworkshop.com/treejack.htm) Watch this video! • You don’t want your results polluted by audience members doing the wrong tasks. Therefore you may need to construct multiple Treejacks. • Write a testplan…no…wait…you already have! Your Task Matrix already tells you what questions to ask what audience members when you validate your IA.
  72. 72. 72 Validating an IA • Minimum of five people on each task • Remember when testing the IA we are testing our proposed structure and use of language. If you get a good score at this stage then adding the interface layer should only help boost it! • We typically use scoring criteria for tasks such as this: 0-39% Poor 40-60% OK 60%+ Good
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  75. 75. 75 Informationarchitecture inasuccessfulcompany IA is literally the foundation of a successful user experience…
  76. 76. 76 Thinking in Systems • When combining the principles of Content First and Information Architecture we are effectively “thinking in systems” • We are saying to ourselves how can we deliver the right content, at the right time to the right people in an easily understood language • No user will ever thank you for thinking about information architecture because if you do your job properly then “it just works”
  77. 77. 77 Hey,niceIA Said by Senior UX folk at Nomensa
  78. 78. 78
  79. 79. 79 Checklistsandresources Stay on top of your IA game!
  80. 80. 80 Books to read, videos to watch • Practical Information Architecture by Donna Spencer 
 http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Practical-Guide-Information-Architecture- ebook/dp/B004WH4OF4 • How to make sense of any mess by Abbey Covert 
 http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Make-Sense-Any-Mess/dp/1500615994 • Everything First: Structured UX Thinking by Jon Fisher
 https://www.slideshare.net/Nomensa/collaborate-bristol-2015-jon-fisher • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (3rd edition) 
 by Peter Morville and Lou Rosenfeld 
 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Information-Architecture-World-Wide-Web/dp/ 0596527349 • Designing the search experience: The information architecture 
 of discovery
 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0123969816/ref=as_li_ss_tl? ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=0123969816&linkCode= as2&tag=dtse-21 Essential Reading Essential Reading Wider Reading Wider Reading Wider Reading
  81. 81. 81 Blog and websites to read • Boxes and Arrows (The original IA bible)
 http://boxesandarrows.com/ • Optimal Sort: Treejack
 http://www.optimalworkshop.com/treejack.htm • A List Apart: Information Architecture
 http://alistapart.com/topic/information-architecture • The IA Institute
 http://iainstitute.org/ Essential Reading Essential for validating Wider interesting Wider interesting
  82. 82. 82 Foundations of IA Checklist ✓ The web is effectively self service therefore users bring their own bias, expectations and language ✓ Information Architecture is about structure, language and context in order to make content usable, findable and searchable ✓ Do you understand what content you have to work with (“Content First”)? ✓ Do you understand what audiences you are dealing with? ✓ Do you understand what tasks each audience group is trying to do? ✓ Have you considered / do you need to make a task matrix? ✓ Have you made a content model to help understand the objects in the system? ✓ What type of information structure could your digital product use? ✓ Remember the seven organisational schemes for grouping information ✓ Remember the role of Information Scent! ✓ What Trigger words can you use to aid in the retrieval of information? ✓ What Base Level Categories can you define? ✓ How will you validate your new IA?
  83. 83. Thank you Q&A