7. november 2007

Introduction to Information Architecture (IA)

by Are Halland
One definition: Organizing, Navigating and labelling content to enable usability and availability.

Organizing
Time:
Typical stock charts, financial information.
The Alphabet:
i.e. phonebook
Value, Value over time.
Position, Location, geographic
Maps, etc

The above examples are called excact information.

Ambigious information is another organizing method wich are less defined, but can sort information that are not absolute or excact.

Tasks --> Websites that gives you infomation based on what you need to do in that context.
Situations --> Depending on your situation you get the relevant information.
Topic --> Web stores sorted by e.g. sport categories.
Audience
Metaphor
Hybrids (Combinations of the above)

Structures
Hierarchy
Facet
Organic
Hybrids

Good IA is allowing people accessing information in different but suitable ways.


Crash course in navigation
These are the questions to answer:
Where am i?
Where can i go?
How to get there?

Commonly you have a global navigation on a website, but the contextual navigation is the most important one. I.e. the navigation that are directly connected to the content on the screen. People don't want to navigate ("Don't make me think").

Balancing

Context
Strategy --> Sets an direction for the work
Technology --> Usually sets constraints
Organisation -->

Users
Demography
Goals
Tasks

Content
Formats (Pdf's, xml's txt's etc)
Terminology (Selecting the right terminology for the organisation in question)
Responsibility (Connct users with content in the riht context)

A basic duality:
web as software interface
web as hypertext system

Process
From Abstract to Real:

Strategy
Typically business strategy, benchmarking, strategy development, target group definitions, creative concept. Doing research in user requirements. ("3B analyse")
Problems in the strategy ususally involve conflicting goals, the user vs. the business.

Who are the user and what are their goals? Organising users by their level of knowledge about the goal could be one deliverable. Making personas.

Scope
Mapping the content that are required for the job. What is the content how can the content be modeled.

Top-down vs bottom-up modeling. Working with the global sturcture vs looking at how to directly accsess and sort the content it self. Too much analyizng of the content can ruin the creative spark, but if the volume are big then it is required.

Sorting cards (Post-its) is an effective way of sorting a selection of the information into categories. Can or should be done by the user (in cooperation with at least)

Structure
This is the bulk of IA work. Finding conceptual models, application flows, error handling and interaction principles. Then organizing information into this. Making a sitemap is a typical IA deliverable (documentation of process). Conceptual sitemaps, workflow charts.

Skeleton
Information design, Navigation design. Make an empty site with organisation of active elements. No visual refinement only functionality.

Surface
Visual design: Using emotions and storytelling elements to guide people to the right places.

"Real beauty comes from within"


links:
http://www.iainstitute.org/
www.metafilter.com


Books
Don't make me think

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