STORAG – Information Ecology & User Behavior

There are many books available in Amazon.com that tackles information architecture, but my personal favorites are Steve Krug’s Law of Usability and Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of User Experience. They’re pretty straightforward and fun to read. Both, of course, start off with “User Needs.”

Garrett’s Elements are made up of five planes:

  1. Strategy – Site Objectives & User Needs
  2. Scope – Functional Specifications & Content Requirements
  3. Structure – Interaction Design & Information Architecture
  4. Skeleton – Interface Design, Navigation Design & Information Design
  5. Surface – Visual Design

I believe that the first plane is very important because it lays out the foundation for a highly effective website. Before you can even study your user behavior, you should also be able to set what kind of information you want to glean from the users. This is done by defining your site goals, which would snowball into strategies, ideas and eventually results.

Basically, the Strategy Plane asks two questions:
– What do we want to get out of this site? (Site Objectives)
– What do our users want to get out of it? (User Needs)

Site objectives cover business goals, brand identity and site metrics. User Needs Analysis would involve studies in user segmentation (demographic and psychographic), usability and user research (market research methods, contextual inquiries and task analysis, user testing, card sorting), and team role processing.

Krug’s rule, on the other hand, is pretty simple. His basic law: Don’t make me think. If you think about it, this really makes sense. While we can’t exactly make everything self-evident, we can take the burden off our users if we organized our content.

How do we really use the web? Krug’s summary:

  1. We don’t read pages. We scan them.
  2. We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.
  3. We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.

There are so many things about Krug’s book that I’d like to delve into, specifically about organizing content and navigation, as well as hitting goals by getting messages across, but that’d take an entire session to cover.

In any case, O’Reilly’s Polar Bear book seems to contain nearly the same line of thought. James Kalbach’s article on the subject, on the other hand, covers additional scenarios. There’s just that bit off difference when it comes to users who are really hell-bent on looking for information despite awful navigability (Kalbach’s target) and your regular joe (Krug’s).

The History of Information Architecture (by Alan Gilchrist and Barry Mahon) reading given for STORAG seems quite interesting as well. I think I’ve mentioned before that I only realized I was an IA last year and it was only because I was doing the exact same things written on IA books.

Related Blog Entries:
MIMNGT – The Tangible Intangibles

From the recent publishings that I’ve read, I’ve come to believe that IA is a fairly new field. So you can imagine how surprised I was to find out that, according to the article, Information Architecture was coined by Richard Saul Wurman in 1975. I wasn’t even born yet! Of course, what he defined as IA then is not exactly what IAs are now. It was fun reading history like that. It puts a perspective on familiar things.

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