Archive for the ‘Information Architecture’ Category

NNG Information architecture: navigation design

May 26, 2009

I recently attended the NNG Information architecture 2: navigation design seminar in London. It was very informative and particularly useful in getting you to think about those crucial questions when deciding on how to implement a navigation system. For example; is it appropriate, intuitive, accessible, coordinated, and consistent etc, what are the benefits of using this type of navigation and what will be the issues?

Here are just a few of the high-level points that came out of the seminar:

The navigation system does not exist in a vacuum; it is a system that supports the objectives and tasks of users of the site

Ok, this may seem pretty obvious but it is easy to get caught up in new design trends and then try to shoehorn your navigation into those designs. You need to make sure that the navigation model you choose is appropriate and fit for purpose.

For example, the carousel/film strip type navigation works for Disney’s website because the purpose of the site allows for a bit of fun, however deciding to use the filmstrip for a banking website perhaps wouldn’t be the most appropriate choice.

Consider the bigger picture

You may select a navigation system that will make your site more usable but will negatively impact on your SEO, consider which one is losing your company more revenue. The obvious choice for me would be one that has high usability and a positive impact on your SEO, but if this is not possible then of course you need to go for the option that is going to do less damage.

Less is more

Too many navigation options will impair interface usability. It is easy to think that it is more helpful to give the user a number of ways to find the same piece of information or product, but this is actually more confusing. The user has to analyse each option and can be bit overwhelmed by all the options;  just a give a clear and simple way in.


Why we should take care when using image icons for menu items

April 25, 2007 my web host provides a useful online ftp capability. However, their use of icons as… well I’m not sure exactly what their purpose is, which is exactly the problem.

Take a look at them below.

It is not immediately obvious what each of them does. What does the heart mean? The use of alt tags told me it was to add the site in your favourites menu. Ok, now I get the connection, but why should I have to think about it I just want to use it. Furthermore, the use of alt tags is not sufficient to convey information as it took me a few attempts in rolling my mouse over the icon for it to appear.

The standby button at the end I assume is to log out, but I’m not completely sure. I don’t want to click on it just to find out where it takes me, in case it does log me out. I’ll then have to log back in gain which will be really frustrating, so instead I ignore it completely. How do I log out? When I’ve finished I’ll just close down my browser session, rendering the icon useless.

Ultimately, it is confusing to me and a waste of design and development time as they are not achieving their purpose.


October 24, 2006

I’ve just read the article on boxes and arrows ‘Real Wireframes Get Real Results’. I have to agree with the point that all too often you show a wireframe to a group of people who will ask, “So, is the new website going to be black and white too?”. It is a fact that people are confused by wireframes, however the point about making it more real using a bit of colour and real form elements etc is not ideal either. In fact we used this approach, which started a huge argument about who has signed these colours off, why has it been done like this. In fact they misunderstood the point more by using this approach.

card sorting

October 9, 2006

I guess I’m looking for some debate here, but how effective is card sorting in helping you to develop an IA.

Personally, I don’t find it that useful. Not as much as all the books and guidance would have you believe. Why? Because: 

  • we rely on using small groups, which are not representative enough.
  • an open card sort does not address any of the issues associated with seeking behaviours such as ‘I don’t know what I’m looking for?’
  • if using this method for an Intranet, staff that took part expect their suggestions used and can affect their expectation when they’re not.

I think that Donna Maurer’s card-based validation technique is far more useful and works well.

September 29, 2006

It’s the weekend and all I can think is at long last! So my apologies, no in depth posting today, but I will leave you with something to think about.

In terms of design and layout, how far should we go with consistency? Is it just the navigational elements and terminology or should we be looking at much more?

Have a good weekend!

Honest Eds

September 28, 2006

I recently visited Honest Eds in Toronto while I was on holiday.

‘We feel shopping should be an entertaining experience’

An entertaining experience it was and somewhere to get you thinking about Information Architecture.

As soon as I entered the shop I felt lost, which I guess is their intention – get lost amongst all the bargains and buy. The sign up to the next level said something like ‘this way for more great bargains you lucky people!’ I was curious, so I went up to the next level. It worked well in this type of shop as you kind of knew what to expect and I was on holiday so browsing for the sake of it was not a problem. However, if my local supermarket adopted this approach I would definitely go somewhere else. In my local supermarket I like to know where to find things as I want to get it over and done with as quick as possible. I find it annoying when they change the order of things to get you to notice different things and so you buy more. This is the same for the web. Tell me the train times now, whereas I don’t mind clicking for the sake of it on my favourite comedy site. I guess the information architecture should suit the purpose of the site – not just follow conventions for the sake of following conventions.