Basic principles of information architecture

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Information Architecture: Part II – Basic Principles

Hans Fredrik Nordhaug © 2006

Objectives
The anatomy of IA Organizations Systems Labelling Systems Navigation Systems Search Systems Thesauri, Controlled Vocabularies and Metadata

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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The Anatomy of an IA
Visualizing IA
• Look for the IA systems/components – organization, labeling,navigation and search. • Examples:
• Select any site on the web

• Problems: What’s the difference between organization and labeling?

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Alternative categorization of IA
Browsing aids
• Organization systems, site-wide and local navigation, sitemaps/TOCs, site indexes, guides and wizards, contextual links.

Search aids
• Search interface,query language, retrieval algorithm, search zones and results,

Content and task
• Headings, embedded links and metadata, chunks, lists, sequential aids, identifiers

“Invisible” components
• Controlled vocabularies, thesauri, rule sets.
Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Organization systems
Challenges of organizing information
• • • • • Information growth AmbiguityHeterogeneity Differences in perspective Internal politics

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Organizing Web Sites and Intranets
Organization systems consists of organization schemes and structures. Organization is strongly connected to navigation, labeling and indexing. Even so, working with organization separately is useful, (possibly) making a fundament for navigation andlabeling.

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Organization schemes
Exact schemes
• Alphabetical • Chronological • Geographical

Ambiguous schemes
• Much harder, but useful – we don’t always no the label, related items are grouped together… • By topic, task or audience • Metaphors • Hybrids are common, but troublesome.

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

7 Organization structures
The structure defines the primary way users can navigate. Hierarchy - top-down approach (taxonomy)
• Take care when designing them – narrow and deep, or broad and shallow.

Database – bottom-up approach
• Really the use of metadata, enabling (powerful) searching and browsing

Hypertext
• Not useful as primary structure

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - HansNordhaug

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Labeling Systems
Labeling is a from of representation. Some (random) problems with labels:
• • • • They aren’t representative and don’t differentiate They aren’t user-centric They waste money They don’t give a good impression

Labels do matter!

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Varieties of Labels
Labels as
• Contextual links – very easily misused (clickhere) • Headings – often depending on hierarchy • Navigation system choices – should adhere to some “standards” • Index terms

Iconic labels – any good?

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Designing Labels
Narrow scope whenever possible Develop consistent labeling systems, not labels. Consistency is affected by:
• • • • • • Style Presentation Syntax GranularityComprehensiveness Audience

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Source of Labeling Systems
Your own site – use the existing labels as a starting point Comparable and competitive sites Controlled vocabularies and thesauri

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Creating New Labeling Systems
Content analysis Content authors Advanced users and subject matter expertsUsers (Open or closed card sort is very common.)

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Navigation Systems
Embedded navigation systems
• Global • Local • Contextual

Supplemental navigation systems
• Sitemap • Indexes • Guides

Browser navigation features

Basic principles of IA, 2006 - Hans Nordhaug

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Navigation cont.
Building context
• Your users should know...
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