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Information architecture - A 'how to'

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How to do information architecture - user research, content analysis, IA design, page layout design, wireframes and site maps

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Information architecture - A 'how to'

  1. 1. Information architecture: A “how-to” Donna Maurer – Maadmob Interaction Design
  2. 2. About me <ul><li>Freelance information architect/interaction designer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I design structures & interfaces for complex informational & interactive systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>6+ years pro experience, as an innie, outie & freelancer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designed business applications, websites, intranets </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Practice, teach and write about IA and IxD </li></ul><ul><li>Chair for next year's IA Summit </li></ul><ul><li>Board member for the Information Architecture Institute </li></ul><ul><li>Writing a book about card sorting - due Jan 2007 </li></ul>
  3. 3. About this talk <ul><li>How to work through an IA project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Where the core is about organising content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So people can discover what they need </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to think like an IA </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://del.icio.us/donnam/IAworkshopNZ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speaker notes on the slides </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some images have been removed, so the recording may sound strange in a couple of spots </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. A project overview
  5. 5. User research
  6. 6. User research – tips <ul><li>Go to people, don’t have them come to you </li></ul><ul><li>Watch them </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to them </li></ul><ul><li>Audio-record sessions </li></ul><ul><li>Take good notes </li></ul><ul><li>Transcribe sessions </li></ul><ul><li>Use more than one method </li></ul>
  7. 7. User research methods <ul><li>Methods for collecting rich information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Card sorting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contextual enquiry, observation, shadowing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Task analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Probes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Methods for collecting a lot of information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surveys </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Diary studies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>...and then there’s focus groups </li></ul>
  8. 8. Analyse user research
  9. 9. Affinity diagramming example
  10. 10. Dimensional analysis example
  11. 11. Think about information behaviours <ul><li>Information modes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Known-item </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploratory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t know what you need to know </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refinding </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Information behaviours </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviewing summaries of items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examining details </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing multiples </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding contexts and situations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning about people in the environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perceiving trends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Predicting implications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring status or activity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying by criteria </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Establishing similarity </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Card sorting <ul><li>A simple technique to learn about how people perceive content groups </li></ul><ul><li>Content items are written on index cards </li></ul><ul><li>People group the cards in ways that make sense for them </li></ul><ul><li>Results are used as an input into a new IA </li></ul>
  13. 13. Card sorting - planning <ul><li>Planning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Participants - end users, in small groups or individually </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Method - manual or tool-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Place - for groups, room with a large table </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content - select items for the cards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cards - create cards, assemble post-its and pens </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Content selection (the important but tricky part) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Too granular and you may end up with too many cards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Too broad and you may lead the exercise too much </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You do not have to do the whole site at once </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Card sorting - analysis
  15. 15. Analysis spreadsheet
  16. 16. Dendrogram
  17. 17. Content analysis
  18. 18. Content analysis <ul><li>Content analysis is the process of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding content by analysing it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying patterns and content relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focusing not on 'pages' but content elements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Start with a content inventory or wishlist </li></ul>
  19. 19. Content analysis <ul><li>Think about </li></ul><ul><ul><li>format </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>document type (publications, reports, how to, 'stuff’) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>topic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>source </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>structure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>accuracy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>page elements </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Designing information structure
  21. 21. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Date is a natural organisation scheme for anything that happened, or will happen at a point in time. It works best when people are looking at the site frequently. If this is not the case, alternate organisation schemes will be necessary so people can easily find relevant historical content. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>An alphabetical scheme suits content arranged by name (such as author or artist), where the name is clear and it is likely people will look for the content by the name. </li></ul><ul><li>Few sites use alphabetical as the primary organisation scheme. A-Z indexes, as supplemental navigation, provide a terrific alternate method for finding content as long as the index uses labels that are sensible for site readers. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A geographical organisation scheme is perfect for anything relating to physical geography, particularly travel sites. Some sites still make you choose your country before letting you in, but this practice is less common than it once was. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Task-based schemes are an interesting challenge. In order for them to work, the tasks must be clear and unambiguous. I often use them on internal business systems for data processing tasks. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Audience-based schemes are also an interesting challenge. In order for them to work, people must be able to clearly associate with one of the audiences. People are often tempted to implement role-based systems for intranets - these often fail as it is difficult to determine what your role actually is. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Choose classification schemes <ul><li>Date </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetical </li></ul><ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Tag-based </li></ul><ul><li>Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>formal, existing ones - dewey, LOC, commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>informal, developed for the purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The majority of sites have a topic-based organisation scheme, usually determined by the design team. </li></ul><ul><li>Most websites use topic-based schemes </li></ul><ul><li>Content analysis will tell you what types could be used </li></ul><ul><li>User research will give you ideas about how people may like to approach the content </li></ul>
  28. 28. Choose type of structure <ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted </li></ul><ul><li>Organic </li></ul><ul><li>Strict hierarchies are an ideal - they rarely match the real world or content we are trying to organise. It is very common for an item to truly belong in more than one place or for users to look in more than one place for the item. </li></ul><ul><li>Unfortunately, file systems and many content management systems enforce a strict hierarchy. When this is the case, we have to use navigation aids like related links to manage the fact that content can't be in more than one place at a time. </li></ul><ul><li>A site can use more than one complete hierarchy. For example, a site could have a complete topic-based hierarchy, and a document type hierarchy. This allows all content to be accessed by more than one method. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Choose type of structure <ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted </li></ul><ul><li>Organic </li></ul><ul><li>One of the key advantages of using a database structure is so the information can be made available in a number of ways. Each Digital Web article is stored only once in the database, but you can get to it by topic, date, author, title and type. The index pages are generated automatically, so they don't need to be updated whenever an article is added </li></ul>
  30. 30. Choose type of structure <ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted </li></ul><ul><li>Organic </li></ul>
  31. 31. Choose type of structure <ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted </li></ul><ul><li>Organic </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted classification uses a database structure </li></ul><ul><li>Facets are metadata elements </li></ul><ul><li>Using facets in browse: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Start at whatever facet you like </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No keyword necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Never get a null result </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suits - where users may wish to explore from any starting point </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Using facets in search: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Start with a keyword search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refine based on characteristics present in the results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suits - where search returns many results and users want to refine </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Choose type of structure <ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted </li></ul><ul><li>Organic </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>At this point we know a lot about our users, have figured out what classification schemes are appropriate, have chosen the correct structure and know what the business is trying to achieve. </li></ul><ul><li>Now we have to take a creative leap and turn that all into a solution </li></ul>
  34. 34. Design conceptual structure
  35. 35. Design conceptual structure
  36. 36. Design categories, groups or facets <ul><li>Input - user research, business goals, content analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Create draft groupings </li></ul><ul><li>See if it suits the content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Slot content into categories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apply metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Modify until content fits </li></ul><ul><li>Create sub-groups </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it user-focused </li></ul>
  37. 37. Design labels <ul><li>Labeling ideas: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>User research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Card sorting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search terms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Referrer terms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tags </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Good labels </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Match concepts & word usage of readers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are used consistently </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurately describe the destination or content </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Link labels can be long - better trigger words </li></ul>
  38. 38. Characteristics of a good IA <ul><li>Balances business & user goals </li></ul><ul><li>Balances breadth & depth </li></ul><ul><li>Allows people to easily find what they need </li></ul><ul><li>Provides more than one way to content </li></ul><ul><li>Represents the content </li></ul><ul><li>Has a coherent underlying concept </li></ul><ul><li>Exposes information as needed </li></ul>
  39. 39. Design browsing structures & page layouts
  40. 40. Don't design in front of the computer!!!
  41. 41. Many browse methods
  42. 42. Design browsing structures <ul><li>Start at a content page, not the home page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The content page is the hardest working page on the site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Figure out what navigation a representative content page needs (and its readers need) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design browse structures for index pages </li></ul><ul><li>Design the home page last </li></ul>
  43. 43. Good browsing structures <ul><li>Provides more than one method to get to content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Main, supplemental, contextual, search </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exposes relevant other content as needed </li></ul><ul><li>Each step a person takes is clear and result is as anticipated </li></ul><ul><li>Supports the site structure well </li></ul>
  44. 44. Link-rich pages
  45. 45. Link-rich pages
  46. 46. Document it
  47. 47. Site maps
  48. 48. Site maps
  49. 49. Wireframes
  50. 50. Wireframes
  51. 51. Questions & thanks <ul><li>http://maadmob.net/ </li></ul><ul><li>0409-778-693 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>

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