Information Architecture

220 – 8/28/17

IA is a part of Content & Navigation

Definition – the design and organization of the content. The structural design of shared information environments. The combination of organization, labeling, search and navigation within websites and intranets. Create findability. It is NOT: content management, graphic design; data visualization.

Over a product life, IxD will change very slowly, IA changes slow/moderate, and content constantly changes (inventory, news articles, etc.).

IA breaks down operationally into the user’s browse experience and search experience (or if these two get combined mentally).

Why does this matter? User not finding information is high cost (product failure). Even the most attractive and engaging design can  be undone by a badly defined IA.

Deliverables by the architect: wire frames, site maps, taxonomy, metadata

Taxonomy – scheme of classification, naming of things. “class” or “course”?
Ontology – scheme of relationships (biology)

Overall IA Goal: Make the content semantics clear and compelling. Must be interesting to explore and relate to their needs or else users leave. Help people see the invisible.

Design Goals

Common Information Seeking Patterns

1) The perfect catch
–I generally know what I want (e.g. a portable HD projector)

2) Seen it before
–The exact item is known to exist in some location, but I can’t describe it precisely.

3) Pearl Growing
–“Show me more like this one”. seeing references in papers.

4) Indiscriminant drifting
–Complete search for 100% coverage (thesis literature review articles)

5) Lobster trapping
–More than a single answer acceptable (Chinese restaurant)

IA Organization Systems

  • Exact schemes – alphabetical, chronological, geographical, for ex
  • Ambiguous schemes – topic, task, audience, metaphor
  • Social schemes – folksonomy, like rank, ratings, tags
  • Network schemes – hypertext


Types of Labeling Systems

You need to figure out how you will label:

• Contextual links
• Headings for the pages, tables, field names
• Navigation system choices
• Index terms
• Call to Action
• Process markers (e.g. wizard steps) “Enter here” “Confirm” “Apply” “Go”


Label Design
Labels have:
• Syntax (text, icon, or both)
• Granularity
– Wine Region = France or Bordeaux?
• Comprehensiveness
– Department store that does not sell shoes?
• Intended Audience
– Professional or consumer?

• Controls sets of consistent words to use
– “shopper” versus “customer” versus “guest” in Nordstrom
• How we represent information
– Scientific/industry insider or layman’s language
• Metadata designs
– Media type: text, video, photos, audio

Voice of the Point of View should be a conscious design decision.

Voice POV matters
• All user experiences express a point of view
• Tone of voice plays an important part
– silly, serious, direct, formal, etc., etc.
• Make a conscious design decision
• Then hire a professional writer
• Poor selection of “voice” can  kill a good UX framework

“Browse” Provides the Navigation System

Visualization of Navigation Elements:
– Global
– Local (to page or task)
– Contextual
– Embedded (roll overs, pop ups)
– Supplemental
• Index, sitemap, guides or a filter panel

Info Seek Patterns – questions to ask – What goals do they support? What scheme? What labeling? Any notes on the label design? Voice, Vocabulary

The Search Experience Design Contains:
• Zones within the data
• Requires many design decisions related to:
– What are you going to return? (explicit and implicit content)
– How are you going to display it? (grouping, default sort, results/page, etc)
• Results…..user experience types
– Destination page (many facets to navigate from). leads to a URL
– Object in place (within current page or table)
– Semantic (find and replace text in Word)
– Automated (products you might like)

Navigation versus Destination
• Browse pages are used to navigate
• Search results pages list potential destinations
• Facetted Search often puts both on the same


Search UX Guidelines
• Repeat search criteria in results page (top)
• Explain where the results come from
• Make the default sort order obvious
• Easy way to revise the search criteria (in
context of the result)
• Integrate searching with browsing
– Make the search box a global UX element


Final Point
What makes IA into a really Wicked Problem is supporting multiple form
factors with different interaction models and different functional scopes


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