Information Architecture and Findability
Published: April 14, 2006
Peter Morville, co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web with Lou Rosenfeld and author of Ambient Findability, presented a very informative day-long lecture on the subject of information architecture (IA). He discussed many basic concepts as well as best practices, so his presentation would appeal to both beginner and intermediate IAs.
- Simply stated, an information architect’s goal is to help people find what they are looking for.
- The line between information architecture (IA) and interaction design (IxD) is fuzzy.
- Standards are established from the top down, while conventions are established from the bottom up.
- In general, provide multiple ways to get to the same information. Depending on the user or the task, one scheme might work better than another.
- Topic is often the best way of organizing information.
- You have to balance depth with breadth. Every time you add a hierarchical level, you introduce the possibility of users getting lost.
- Searching is the way we learn. In most situations, it’s best to have a balance between searching and browsing.
- Hierarchy is fundamental to the way we understand our world. It aids us in forming mental models of what we are trying to understand.
- There are two basic types of organizational schemes: exact, or objective—for example, white pages—and ambiguous, or subjective—for example, yellow pages.
- Bubbling up the most common subcategories to display them directly beneath the main category is one of the most effective ways of helping people to develop the scent of information.
- The goals of navigation are to
- support task flow
- provide context and flexibility
- avoid drowning content
- The results of a usability study conducted by the University of Maryland indicated that breadcrumbs—a form of structural navigation—are very important and have a measureable impact on ease of use.
- The paradox of the active user—We all want to have a sense of forward motion without regard for actual progress. Search provides the illusion of forward motion, playing to a basic human need.
- One idea for user research—Ask users ahead of time what they would expect to be in a product—what functionality and capabilities—then have them try to use the product to accomplish the goals they’ve listed, if possible.
For more information about this seminar, see Pabini Gabriel-Petit’s review.