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Usability design though information architecture

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This is an area where many website designers go wrong and where Websitecraft excels. In simple terms, there are three things to be considered.

Information to be stored in the website

This entails understanding what information has to be stored in the website, its nature, purpose and how it is processed.

We classify the information using your business terminology and understand how each type of information relates to other types.  We analyse the information in terms of its media type: text, photos, documents, video clips etc.  We identify and analyse any structured data associated with specific website functions such as customer names and addresses in a customer database. Most importantly, we work out (with your help) how to bring all these types of information together across the pages of your website.  So for example, lots of photos may suggest a photo gallery, but should there be one gallery (accessible through a link on the Home page) or should the gallery appear as several unrelated collections, each accessed through a hyperlink within text, as we do in some of the blogs in Devonshire Primary School site such the one for Childen's News.

Design of the filing system

Joomla has a simple two-level filing system of Sections and Categories within Sections.  But some Joomla extensions have more sophisticated schemes.  Websitecraft will map the types of information to the filing system. If done well this makes life easy for the people who have to create and maintain the content. Sometimes the structure maps directly to the visitors' view but not necessarily.

How visitors will navigate the website

The objective it to ensure your website visitors can navigate around and between pages easily finding the information they require. In large websites poor information architecture makes it is easy for visitors to get lost or confused.

There are a number of aids to navigation that can be provided such as clear page titles, extra menus, a site map, human-friendly URLs and possibly breadcrumbs but all this will be of no use if the overall structure is not rational.  Users must be able to form an image in their minds of the website's structure.  This is known as a cognitive map. We design to facilitate the formation of that map making the visitor's experience effective and enjoyable.

One trick is to build a large website out of a number of micro-sites or zones.  This approach is developed by analysing the information architecture at the macro and micro levels and ensuring the micro-sites fit nicely into the macro structure.

Once the overall structure is in place, we turn our attention to the detail, optimising the user interface design for easy and intuative navigation through attention to meaningful titles and hyperlinks, hiding unnecessary detail, designing with screen and windows sizes in mind and so on.

Information architecture

Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 March 2012 20:59 )