A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Information Design

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Information design (also known as 'information architecture') is the study of the details of complex systems. Among these are websites, user interactions, databases, technical writing documentation, and human-computer interfaces.



The Importance of Being Categorized (Correctly)

Categories are only useful if they meets the needs of the user. I can’t imagine that the variations of what I think of as “Science Fiction books” that were listed in the category are of any use to anyone.

Rockley, Ann. Rockley Blog (2010). Articles>Information Design>Metadata>Taxonomy


The Importance of Chunking for Sorting

If you want to be able to sort information by various classification schemes, such as by most popular, or by role, or by problem, your content has to be chunked in a granular enough way to facilitate the various means of sorting.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Information Design>Databases


Improving Relationships in Relationship Tables

While topic relationships can be stored in the topics themselves, as products evolve and user interfaces change, a topic that was required for release 1.0 of a product may no longer be needed in release 2.3. If related topics are maintained at the topic level, removing a topic that is no longer part of the system may involve modifying the related topics of a dozen different DITA files.

Binder, Zachary. XML.org (2008). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


Improving Usability with a Website Index

Indexes are important information-finding tools that can enhance usability. Site indexes provide direct, easily scannable links to meaningful, yet highly granular, chunks of content. But there’s more to them than people often assume.

Leise, Fred. Boxes and Arrows (2002). Design>Web Design>Information Design


Improving Web Page Revisitation: Analysis, Design and Evaluation

In this paper, we distill several years of our research on understanding and improving how people return to their previously visited web pages. Our motivation is that web page revisitation is one of the most frequent actions in computer use, and consequently any interface improvements in this area - no matter how small - can have a very large effect. We report our findings across five categories of revisitation research: characterisations of user behaviour; system models of navigation and their impact on the user's understanding; interface methods for increasing the efficiency of the Back button; alternative system models for navigation; and alternative methods for presenting web navigation histories. The behaviour characterisation shows that revisitation is a dominant activity, with an average of four out of five page visits being to previously seen pages. It also shows that the Back button is heavily used, but poorly understood. Three interface strategies for improving web page revisitation are described. The first, a gesture-based mechanism for issuing the frequent Back and Forward commands, addresses low-level interface issues, and is shown to be both popular and effective. The second, a ‘temporal' behaviour for the Back and Forward buttons, aims to overcome the problems associated with poor understanding of the current behaviour of Back. Although the results do not conclusively show advantages for the temporal behaviour of Back, they strongly suggest that revisitation can be improved by providing temporally ordered lists of previously visited pages. The third interface scheme investigates how next-generation browsers could integrate the current tools for revisitation into a single utility, and how simple visualisation methods can be used to aid users in identifying target pages displayed in miniature.

Cockburn, A., Greenberg, S., Jones, S., McKenzie, B. and Moyle, M. University of Calgary (2003). Articles>Web Design>Information Design


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


Inconsistencies in Information Architecture Deliverables

In my work as a web designer/IA I have come across many inconsistencies in the way IA's and other Web professionals refer to Web information architecture deliverables. In speaking with various Web design companies I have come across multiple terms for the same deliverables. Information architecture is a relatively new field which has yet to develop a consistent and universal set of deliverables, and terminology to refer to those deliverables. I also haven't come across a central repository of IA deliverables. This document is an attempt to fill that void.

Doss, Glen. GDoss.com. Design>Information Design>Professionalism


Incorporating Navigation Research into a Design Method   (PDF)

A presentation about whether an underlying spatial metaphor aids information design usability.

Lombardi, Victor. Information Architecture Summit (2004). Presentations>Information Design>Usability


Index Pages: Unsuspected Project-Profitability Killers

Organizing and classifying a Web sites’ content when you’re developing its information architecture (IA) is one of the key activities you must undertake to deliver a usable site. Designing an information architecture to ensure users can reliably reach the information they want—and in less time—is the main focus of an information architect’s work. To accomplish this goal, information architects employ user-centered design methods, keeping users at a project’s center. Over the years, the design and development of user interfaces for products and services has evolved, resulting in design conventions and best practices that we follow when designing a user interface. However, following common practice can occasionally lead us astray. This article cautions you against following a common information-architecture practice that can have negative consequences in terms of costs: the creation of index pages that correspond to a single item in a category.

Rovetta, Nicola. UXmatters (2010). Articles>Information Design>Web Design>Taxonomy


Indexing Effectively in DITA

DITA is useful for helping writers create small units of organized information that can be used in multiple contexts. Of course, the reader's problem then becomes locating the information they want in a quick, reasonable timeframe. Although DITA provides enough metadata to simplify searching, or even to present information the reader needs based on a profile, there are some media that cannot make use of those facilities. To bridge that gap, you can use the tried and true index.

Vazquez, Julio J. SDI Global Solutions (2009). Articles>Information Design>Indexing>DITA


Indexing the Web—It’s Not Just Google’s Business

Web databases do much more than passively store information. Part of their power comes from indexing records efficiently. An index serves as a map, identifying the precise location of a small piece of data in a much larger pile. For example, when I search for “web development,” Google identifies two hundred million results and displays the first ten—in a quarter of a second. But Google isn’t loading every one of those pages and scanning their contents when I perform my search: they’ve analyzed the pages ahead of time and matched my search terms against an index that only references the original content.

Mullican, Lyle. List Apart, A (2009). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Search Engine Optimization


Indexing Web Pages: Maybe Books Aren't Such a Bad Model After All!

One of our favorite cliches is that you can't use the printed book as a model for online information. Web-based information, which is following the same evolutionary progress as online help systems, has inherited this 'books are bad' philosophy. However, any statement we've begun to take for granted bears some re-examination, because unquestioningly accepting dogma undermines our efforts to improve communication.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Geoff-Hart.com (1999). Articles>Information Design>Indexing>Web Design


An Infinite Number of Niches: A Model for Delivering Information Services to Small Businesses   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article argues the importance of considering the unique information requirements of different business niches within the small business sector. It explains how an information management platform, OneIS, overcame the challenge of providing information services to small businesses with a highly-tailored, yet cost-effective, information service. The article is based on the author’s experience of working with various small businesses over the past two years, and in particular comparing and contrasting the information requirements in two very different small businesses: a specialist business consultancy and a private medical practice.

Smith, Jennifer. Business Information Review (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Information Design


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


The Influence of Semantics and Syntax on What Readers Remember   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The objectives of the study presented here are to help writers and editors better allocate their efforts, increase the discipline’s knowledge about reader performance with technical documents, and examine many text variables in one study. For this study, participants read and recalled one of two technical texts. Results reveal that readers are more likely to recall more important versus less important information. Additionally, readers are more likely to recall information in clauses, in independent clauses, and in the first paragraphs of documents. The implication of these results for writers and editors is discussed.

Isakson, Carol S. and Jan H. Spyridakis. Technical Communication Online (1999). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Information Design


Influence of Training and Exposure on the Usage of Breadcrumb Navigation

Recent studies have shown that while the use of breadcrumb trails to navigate a website can be helpful, few users choose to utilize this method of navigation. This study investigates the effects of 'mere exposure' and training on breadcrumb usage. Findings indicate that brief training on the benefits of breadcrumb usage resulted in more efficient search behavior.

Hull, Spring S. Usability News (2004). Design>Web Design>Information Design>Usability



InfoDesign serves as a forum for moderated discussions about information design issues. Information design is the art and the science of presenting information so that it is understandable and easy to use: effective, efficient and attractive. Information design involves knowledge and skills in various areas, such as graphic design, psychology, language, typography, diagramming, and user-testing.

Infodesign. Resources>Mailing Lists>Information Design>Typography



The Café serves as a forum for unmoderated discussions of information design issues. Information design involves knowledge and skills in various areas, such as graphic design, psychology, language, typography, diagramming, and user-testing.

Infodesign. Resources>Mailing Lists>Information Design


InfoDesign: News Flashes

This site provides information designers with up-to-date information and communication facilities on aspects of the growing field of Information Design. Its main objective is to collect, structure and disclose relevant resources.

Bogaards, Peter J. Bogieland. Resources>Information Design>Journalism>Blogs


Infographics in Technical Writing and Communication

Infographics seem to be the “in thing” in information design these days, and more technical writing instructors are beginning to include them as assignments in their classes. I first became interested in infographics when I started to see how the genre of graphs and charts had shifted from simplistic representations to ones embellished with graphics (as those originally shown in USA Today). I then saw this trend move to even more complex visual and verbal presentations of quantitative and qualitative information in newspapers, websites, and books.

Brasseur, Lee. ATTW (2013). Articles>Graphic Design>Information Design>Charts and Graphs


The Information Architect as Change Agent

Argues that IAs can do their jobs better if they understand organizational change management, even if they don't need to be change management specialists. I'll also suggest a variety of concepts and practices that can (hopefully) help IAs in their change agent role, and I promise to throw in something entertaining as well.

Clarke, Matthew C. Boxes and Arrows (2007). Articles>Information Design


An Information Architect's Manifesto

Information architects of the world, unite! The environment has changed. Now, so must we!

Morville, Peter. Argus Center (2001). Articles>Information Design


Information Architects and Their Central Role in Content Management

The process of content management begins when an organization comes to the realization that it needs a system to manage content. While the interpretation of the term content management (CM) can be as simple as a set of guidelines for organizing and maintaining content, more typically today it means a sophisticated software-based system. A full-featured content management system (CMS) takes content from inception to publication and does so in a way that provides for maximum content accessibility and reuse and easy, timely, accurate maintenance of the content base.

Warren, Rita. ASIST (2001). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>Content Strategy


Information Architecture

This lesson from the University of Texas at Austin discusses ideas associated with the phrase 'information architecture' and relates them to aspects of the library- and information-science (LIS) professions.

Wyllys, R.E. University of Texas (2000). Articles>Information Design


Information Architecture

In this course we'll be talking about and working on the architecture of 'information spaces.' An 'information space' could be a virtual space like a Web site or a database, or it could be a library, a town hall, a workplace, etc. Basically, it's any place that is designed to help people interact with information, and our goal will be learning about better, more sophisticated ways of helping people interact effectively.

Clark, Dave. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2003). Academic>Courses>Information Design>Wisconsin



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