Posts filed under ‘information architecture’

A shout out for findability

A colleague pointed out Aarron Walter’s piece at A List Apart:
Findability, Orphan of the Web Design Industry

Findability does feel a little slippery – it can be misunderstood or ignored, and responsibility rarely lies in a champion. So I liked Walter’s simple definition that findability helps people:

  • find websites they seek
  • find content within websites
  • rediscover valuable content they’d found

and his focus on findability’s fundamental goal “to persistently connect your audience with the stuff you write, design and build”. All of this helps build a strong business case.

So Walter puts out a challenge to advocate findability by working with roles across digital teams to support it.

  • Project managers need to understand findability and embed it into the project life-cycle
  • Information architects to focus on content organisation, using labels and structure that makes sense to users
  • Editors to focus on great content that connects with keywords that meet users’ needs
  • Designers to provide the best cues
  • Developers to use web standards, semantic markup and accessible design
  • Usability experts to evaluate navigability and evaluate how easy the site and content is to find in search engines

All good stuff, but I found Walter dismissive of the role of search professionals (both externally facing and managing site search) and information professionals beyond IAs. Although, in an agency setting, these roles may not exist.


10 March 2010 at 22:32 Leave a comment

Good practice with URLs

A brief summary of the importance of paying attention to URL design, drawing on:

Make URLs persistent


  • Other sites link to them
  • People bookmark them
  • Search engines index them

The core content for a URL should be reasonably static (home and hub pages excluded of course)

Make URLs readable by humans

  • They’re not just in web address bar
  • People can remember them if they’re well designed
  • People can understands them if they’re well designed
  • They are more meaningful
  • If they are well constructed they benefit search engine optimisation

Make URLs hackable

  • They expose a logical structure to the site
  • Supports navigation:
    • Help users orientate in the site
    • Let’s people move up the hierarchy
  • Helps people guess the address of similar resources on the site
  • So:
    • Label consistently
    • Put similar resources at the same level
    • Provide meaningful content at each level of the hierarchy

6 January 2009 at 22:18 1 comment

The case for strong narratives

A former colleague, Silver Oliver, makes the case for web-scalable narratives. Music to my ears:

“As we build larger and larger websites it becomes increasingly difficult to scale meaningful user journeys.  Success is dependent on indentifying your key user journeys (narrative structures) and ensuring these can be dynamically populated as the site grows.”

He argues that, in contrast to tags which “help to open up new user journeys but are weak in narrative, taking the form ‘this content is about this tag’”; there is a need to think about the right primary narrative structures and to encode these user journeys into the very core of the site.

Oliver cites well known examples:

  • Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought – noun (book) verb (also bought) noun (book)
  • Buy it now – noun (user) verb (buy) noun (item)
  • Such and such wrote on your Wall – noun (friend) verb (wrote on) noun (wall)

and goes on to suggest they can be scalable to the semantic web using ontologies and domain models.

30 November 2008 at 20:59 Leave a comment


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