Reading Reflection: Information Organization and Prototype

Information Architecture Reading from Brinck, Gergle, & Wood :

1. What is information architecture?

Information architecture refers to the structure or organization of the website, especially how each page relates to each other. This involves content analysis and planning. Information architecture is rooted from database design and information retrieval, and strongly influenced by HCI, library science, and  the psychology of how human beings navigate and organize information.

2. What are some user-centered techniques for creating the information architecture?

Information architecture can be created based on the strict logic of the content, but this is rarely the case. Most of the time, there is no single logical organization of the content, even if there is, this may not be the best for the users. Because users are not always completely logical, neither are they always very clear about their specific goals of navigating the website. This reminds me the MEMEX machine by Vannevar Bush we discussed at the beginning of this semester which reminds us that human beings organize information based on associations rather than hierarchy. User-centered information architecture design takes human beings’ perception and cognition into consideration. There are roughly top-town and bottom-up approaches to create information architecture. When designers encounter uncertainty in information architecture design, a useful method is to let the users do cart sorting activities.

3. What are various website topologies (ways of organizing information)?

The topology is the primary way that pages are linked together. The most popular one is hierarchy or tree. Other website topologies include linear, matrix (or Grid), full mesh, arbitrary network, and hybrid topology. It is important to consider the breadth (7) and depth (3) of the hierarchy. Typically, the breadth of the tree should be less than seven branches (though the authors of this book do not think this number is justified), and the depth of the tree should not exceed three levels. Semantics is a task-based and more user-friendly method of organizing information.

The Two Research Articles on Information Organization:

What navigation topologies and structures are better in what kind of situations?

How users navigate information depends on whether they are clear about what they are looking for. When the task is more specific, the users tend to use the traditional search interface; when the task is more general, tag cloud is preferred. Usage-oriented hierarchy is preferred compared with subject-oriented hierarchy under all circumstances. To sum it up, how users navigate information depends on their tasks, so that the design of information architecture should match all levels of users’ tasks.

UX Book Chapter 11 On Prototyping:

1. How do you choose between the different types and fidelity levels of prototypes?

How to choose the fidelity levels of the prototypes depends on the stage of progress of the overall project and the design perspective that is prototyped. The UX book mentions the horizontal and vertical prototyping. I feel I’m not very clear about the differences between features and functionality. What is feature? What is functionality? Why feature is horizontal, while functionality is vertical?

2. What are some pitfalls to avoid when prototyping?

Prototypes need to match the perspectives of the products. Viewers of the prototypes need to be chosen carefully. Low-fidelity prototyping needs to be carefully explained to the viewers if they are outside of the design team. Get organizational understanding that prototyping can reduce risks both on software engineering and the UX sides. Be honest about limitations of the prototyping and do not overwork the prototypes.

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