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The Age of Information Architecture

For the most part, information architects are communicators and strategists. While others merely tolerated the mishmash of responsibilities, they relished it. Designers often put up with having to write HTML but jumped at the chance to 'just do design.' Programmers were forced to meet with clients and work on strategy, but all along probably wanted to just write code. When these two ends of the spectrum split off, the empty middle was a perfect place to be. At the same time, there was an increased (but still hidden) need for information architecture. As the average web project process matured, more problems arose. Formal documentation was needed, business objectives were taking on increased importance, and, as the size increased exponentially, information organization became a much more important role. (The fact that this evolution took place during the 'dot.com fallout' is not insignificant, as this led to the placement of web projects under the same microscope as other business endeavors.) Some of these positions could be filled by existing disciplines; project managers, business analysts, and usability specialists transitioned from 'traditional' work and were added to web teams. Still, there was something missing. The connection between 'the big picture' (business strategy, high-level user tasks, basic structural architecture) and the nitty-gritty (categorization, labeling, bottom-up information hierarchies) often wasn't being made. This is where information architects fit in.

Lash, Jeff. Digital Web Magazine (2002). Articles>Information Design>Usability


Alphabetical Sorting Must (Mostly) Die

Ordinal sequences, logical structuring, time lines, or prioritization by importance or frequency are usually better than A–Z listings for presenting options to users.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2010). Articles>Information Design>Web Design>Usability


Bridging the Gap: From Raw Usability Testing Data to Design Implementation   (PDF)

Learn practical ways to influence members of your company’s product engineering group with usability testing data. Putting the authors’ tips into practice will help you improve the design of your company’s products.

Leritz-Higgins, Sarah E. and Catherine J. Yaspo. Intercom (2006). Articles>Usability>Information Design


Card Sorting

Card sorting is a way to involve users in grouping information for a Web site. Participants in a card sorting session are asked to organize the content from your Web site in a way that makes sense to them. Participants review items from your Web site and then group these items into categories. Participants may even help you label these groups. Card sorting helps you build the structure for your Web site, decide what to put on the home page, and label the home page categories. It also helps to ensure that you organize information on your site in a way that is logical to your users.

Usability.gov. Articles>Usability>Information Design>Card Sorting


'Click Here': Needless Words

The words 'click here for...' and 'click here to...' serve no purpose within links. Unfortunately, many news sites still use them. According to Google, 'click here' is on about 8,970 pages at sptimes.com alone.

Ashby-Kuhlman, Nathan. ashbykuhlman.net (2002). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


Considering Product Usability Along with Information Usability   (PDF)

In this progression we will examine ways that technical communicators can improve both information usability and product usability. The presentation will center around two major points.

Grice, Roger A. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Usability>Information Design


Essential Navigation Checklists for Web Design

These checklists pull together best practice in the disciplines of information design, usability and accessibility, into an easy to apply format. If you are already familiar with those topics, the checklists serve as a handy reminder that is easy to refer to and apply when planning navigation. If unfamiliar it's also a fast-track lesson - providing you with a head-start in getting it right and enables you to make better informed choices / compromises.

Eleniak, Marta. SitePoint (2003). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


The Essentials of a Database Quality Process   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Many steps are involved in the process of turning an initial concept for a database into a finished product that meets the needs of its user community. In this paper, we describe those steps in the context of a four-phase process with particular emphasis on the quality-related issues that need to be addressed in each phase to ensure that the final product is a high quality database. The basic requirements for a successful database quality process are presented with specific examples drawn from experience gained in the Standard Reference Data Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Blakeslee, Dorothy M. and John Rumble, Jr. Data Science Journal (2003). Articles>Information Design>Databases>Usability


From Data Drought to Factoid Flood: Reinforcing the Banks of the River of Communication   (PDF)   (members only)

Information, once rare and valuable, is now as plentiful as it is meaningless. The constant accessibility rendered by various 'networking' technologies has led to a veritable glut of information. Deluged with data and flooded with facts, we are drowning in a river of communication with no clear direction or purpose. Media-mesmerized and stimuli-saturated, we are caught up in the murky current, making it increasingly more difficult to keep our heads above water. Whether we sink or swim will depend on how effective we are at controlling and managing the flow, how efficient we are at fishing for essence and meaning, and how adept we are at preserving the ecology between man and this digital morass.

Dahm, Rea Etta M. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Information Design>Usability


Getting Your Web Site’s Structure Right

Most people who create site structures are not trained practitioners of information architecture. Our natural human capacity to organize and relate things gives many people who aren’t IA professionals basic, but useful site structuring skills. But don’t be fooled. Creating and maintaining a site structure can be highly complex. Since complexity tends to increase in an active domain, know when to call in an expert such as an information architect.

Davis, Nathaniel. UXmatters (2013). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


How Google Manages its Home Page

An average person can deal with only 7-10 choices on a web page, according to Google research. That's why it's so hard to get a link on the Google home page.

McGovern, Gerry. New Thinking (2005). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


In Search of Salience: A Response-Time and Eye-Movement Analysis of Bookmark Recognition

Describes the effect of bookmark naming on bookmark recognition. The purpose is to provide empirically-determined guidelines for web producers on how to title pages in order to optimise the recognition of bookmarks by users, and increase the rate of revisitation to their websites.

Poole, Alex. Alex Poole (2005). Articles>Information Design>Usability>Web Browsers


Infinite Scrolling is Not for Every Website

Endless scrolling saves people from having to attend to the mechanics of pagination in browsing tasks, but is not a good choice for websites that support goal-oriented finding tasks.

Loranger, Hoa. Nielsen Norman Group (2014). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


Information Architecture is Not Usability

The distinction between information architecture and usability may seem like semantics, but there are significant differences between the two disciplines. Though they are often discussed interchangeably, and practitioners are often well-versed in both, information architecture and usability differ in their scope and areas of focus.

Lash, Jeff. Digital Web Magazine (2002). Articles>Information Design>Usability>Semantic


Information Architecture Task Failures Remain Costly

Task success is up substantially compared with usability statistics from 2004. Bad information architecture causes most of the remaining user failures.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2009). Articles>Information Design>Usability>Assessment


Information Engineering for the 21st Century   (PDF)

Bowie urges technical communicators to spend less time creating documentation and more time designing products that people can use intuitively.

Bowie, John S. Intercom (2003). Articles>Information Design>User Centered Design>Usability


Information, Architecture, and Usability

What is the relationship between information architecture design and usability engineering? This is a loaded question, and I wade into dangerous waters by addressing it, but the answer has significant implications for a variety of audiences.

Morville, Peter. Semantic Studios (1999). Articles>Information Design>Usability


Learning from Games: Seven Principles of Effective Design   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Why do players of computer games seem to approach those applications without fear, eagerly exploring and learning as they go, while users of business applications will go out of their way to keep from using the tools? Why do business applications require volumes of documentation when the most complex games come with a brief tutorial and a strategy guide for exploration? Why can games teach pilots to fly multi-million-dollar jets better than books and classroom training? These questions have led us to ask another question: Why can’t business applications be more like games? In this article, we attempt to lay the ground work for future research by defining seven design principles found in games that we believe contribute to the creation of more usable applications.

Houser, Rob and Scott Deloach. Technical Communication Online (1998). Articles>Usability>Information Design>Games


Making the Right Constraints for Usable and Accessible User Interfaces

This paper focuses on managing constraints in a way that enables developers to create an accessible and usable user interface (UI). The constraining processes presented in this paper comprise of a language to describe a logical web page in an application, a basic bottom-up repository management system and the processing required for compiling pages.

Cornelius, Gary and John J. Chelsom. IDEAlliance (2005). Articles>Information Design>User Interface>Usability


Mega Drop-Down Navigation Menus Work Well

Given that regular drop-down menus are rife with usability problems, it takes a lot for me to recommend a new form of drop-down. But, as our testing videos show, mega drop-downs overcome the downsides of regular drop-downs. Thus, I can recommend one while warning against the other.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2009). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Usability


The Myth of the Page Fold: Evidence from User Testing

As web professionals, we all know that the concept of the page fold being an impenetrable barrier for users is a myth. Over the last 6 years we’ve watched over 800 user testing sessions between us and on only 3 occasions have we seen the page fold as a barrier to users getting to the content they want. In this article we’re going to break down the page fold myth and give some tips to ensure content below the fold gets seen.

Leech, Joe. CX Partners (2009). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Information Design


On Beyond Help: Meeting User Needs for Useful Online Information   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

It is well accepted that understanding the users and a thorough analysis of their goals and tasks is a prerequisite for usability. To produce a document, online information, or knowledge base that is truly usable, the designer and writer must also consider different user approaches to the information to create it in a form that meets those needs. The underlying technology must also be considered, as it affects the presentation of the information as well as the functionality available to users. To meet user needs for useful online information, all these elements must be factored into the design—and technical communicators must master the skills necessary to make the right choices.

Quesenbery, Whitney. Technical Communication Online (2001). Articles>Usability>Information Design


Organizing Content 8: Second-Level Faceted Navigation

Peter Morville and Jeffery Callendar, two information architects, call faceted navigation “arguably the most significant search innovation of the past decade.” Because of its importance in content findability, one aspect I want to now explore further is a second-level faceted browsing system.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Information Design>Usability>Documentation


PDF Link Usability

Das kennt man: ein ahnungsloser Klick und plötzlich öffnet sich eine mega-lange PDF-Datei. Seitengestalter sind deshalb angehalten Links auf PDF-Dateien zu kennzeichnen. Selbstverständlich macht das inzwischen auch (fast) jeder.

Lennartz, Sven. Dr. Web (2007). (German) Articles>Usability>Information Design>Adobe Acrobat



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