A Practical Guide to Information Architecture.pdf

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Contents About information architecture What is information architecture? ia in a project Who does ia? ia for non Web before you start 1 3 9 19 31 37 51 53 75 85 97 113 Understanding people Learning about your users anaLysing user research communicating about users hoW peopLe Look for info hoW peopLe think about categories Part 1 Part 2 viii Designing an information architecture ia patterns LabeLs and Language hoW to create ia testing ia communicating ia Designing navigation navigation core navigation extras designing navigation testing navigation communicating navigation Understanding content content you have content you need communicating about content content pLanning cLassification schemes Part 4 Part 5 Part 3 121 123 133 137 143 155 255 257 271 283 289 295
A Practical guide to information architecture ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This book didn't come from nowhere-it came from teaching information architecture in workshop form for many years-at loads of conferences and in-house for clients So the first thank you goes to everyone who has been in one of those workshops and asked good questions and shared good stories. I dont figure things out until I have to do them or answer questions about them, so a lot of my thoughts are a direct result of questions people ask me. Thanks to all my clients who have let me play with their content, and paid me to do it. How cool is it to be paid to de something so fun! I sent a really rubbish draft out to a pile of smart people to see what they thought. Thanks to the following folks for reading the draft and sending me comments -they really did help make is book better. In first name order(yes, I am an IA): Arun Martin, Brian Hoffman, Christopher Frost, Daniel Souza, gai Barber, Kirsten Hall, Kushal Pisavadia, Margaret Hanley, Marianne Colwell, Mike Pauley, Nathan Wall, Rachel Peters, Rowan Peter Ruth ellison, Patrick Foster and Steph beath. And thanks to everyone who shared stories that helped to emphasise points in various chapters My editor Bill Harper was amazing. I looked at the first hapters he sent back and thought he hadn't done anything-I couldnt see any differences But he had done tons of work -he'd managed to improve my writing out of sight and still keep it sounding just like me. Bill, I hope you can edit for me for every other book i write(and I'm glad you're my friend) To my lovely kid who has just spent months watching TV and reading books while I work evenings and weekends-thanks for putting up with me as your mum. I promise to spend more time with you until the book bug bites again And to Steve who has only known me in writing mode thanks for saying I understand"and meaning it IV A Practical guide to information architecture FOREWORD Derek featherstone Long before i was a web developer or an accessibility specialist, I was a high school teacher. one of the things i miss the most about that time was ongoing discussion about education, teaching and learning with my peers. We tried to do as much as we could to understand what our students were saying, doing, and thinking it was the only way to truly assess their progress. We were trying to get inside their head, so to speak, to uncover their existing knowledge about a subject and how that framed what we were currently learning in class. Why? So that we could teach, and they could learn, more effectively. In teaching, we used many of the types of exercises we use in user research: card sorts, think aloud activities probing for existing knowledge and more. It was all about understanding people I learned those techniques from some of the best teachers I could have hoped for Many of the discussions we had about education left a lasting impression. My time learning to teach was the first time that i truly understood the meaning of the ancient Chinese proverb Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime This proverb doesnt mention one critical aspect of success: the balance between fish and fishing yes, i need to be able to fish for myself, but in the short term, if you don't feed me some fish, I'm going to starve. When I was learning to teach, I had support from friends, peers and my professors both in terms of helping me learn to fish, ANd feeding me some fish so that I didn't starve while i was still learning I left teaching in I999 and started my own company That change of context left me with nobody to help me learn to fish, and, suddenly, I had no fish to eat. Oh, I struggled through making things up, learning along the way, picking up every bit of knowledge I could from books, articles, and anything else I could find. Sure that information helped me learn the things I needed to build web sites and applications and to understand people. But what they lacked at least for me, was the relationship to the whole I needed something to connect those nitty-gritty tactics I was learning to the big picture strategy. Having read through Donna's book, it just feels like the right balance between fish and fishing. She gives you some fish techniques you can use right away to I)understand the mindset and motivations of people using your sites, 2) implement and test a draft of your work and 3) iterate to a more complete solution. At the same time, she beautifully connects those techniques to the big picture of user experience and Information Architecture As you read this book, you'll find it will work for you in different ways, at different times in your careers. If you're just getting started out as an IA, or are a web designer/developer team of one that is responsible for iA as part of your job, this book gives you the fish you so desperately need when you're hungry. And you'll feel like Donna is right there guiding and supporting you with insight from her years working in the field. Shell tell you not to expect perfection in your work(that's why we iterate, after all She'll tell you to just get on with it and try something. And shell always tie it back to the big picture to give you enough context to make sense of your work. She'll feed you some fish, but teach you how to fish for yourself along the way I' m not just saying this because Donna and i have grown to be good friends over the course of our careers. I'm saying this because I really mean it: this is the book that I needed Io years ago Contents PART 1 About information architecture WHAT IS INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE? IA IN A PROJECT 9 WHO DOES IA? 9 IA FOR NON WEB BEFORE YOU START 37 PART 2 Understanding people 51 LEARNING ABOUT YOUR USERS ANALYSING USER RESEARCH COMMUNICATING ABOUT USERS 85 HOW PEOPLE LOOK FOR INFO HOW PEOPLE THINK ABOUT CATEGORIES 13 PART 3 Understanding content 121 CONTENT YOU HAVE CONTENT YOU NEED COMMUNICATING ABOUT CONTENT 137 CONTENT PLANNING CLASSIFICATION SCHEMES PART 4 Designing an information architecture 177 LA PATTERNS 179 LABELS AND LANGUAGE 209 HOW TO CREATE IA TESTING IA 229 COMMUNICATING IA 245 PART 5 Designing navigation 255 NAVIGATION CORE 257 NAVIGATION EXTRAS DESIGNING NAVIGATION 283 TESTING NAVIGATION 289 COMMUNICATING NAVIGATION 295 A Practical guide to information architecture INTRODUCTION I'll tell you a secret. One that my friends and family mostly know about, and many people who meet me eventually figure out. But it is one of those slightly embarrassing secrets-one that I don't usually just tell people when I meet them for the first time. But you're going to be my friend for the next 300 pages, so you may as well know this I really like organising stuff Like, really. There are few things I enjoy more than having a day off and tidying the pantry, re organising all my yarn(I'm a weaver and have crates and crates of yarn or pulling all my wine off my wine rack and putting it back in a different order. Well, that would be if i actually had time to do any of those things. But when i do, I get into the zone and organise and tidy It's bliss So knowing that, can you imagine how I feel when someone calls me up and says"Our intranet/website is in a total mess. No one can find anything and there s stuff hidden in there that has been out of date for years. We need help! "Yep, you know where I'm going with this-I love it. And I love that people pay me to do it But there is actually one thing i like even better than organising things. I love teaching other people how to do it. I've been teaching information architecture workshops at conferences and in-house for about 8 years now It's been cool to watch how things have changed, and how people's general awareness of IA has increased over that time. It's been cool to spend a day with people and hear them say"Wow, I actually knew a whole lot of that, I just didnt know I knew it'"and go away feeling more confident about their messy projects Now I've written down some of what i know about ia. now you too can read this book and say Wow, I actually knew a whole lot of that"(I do hope you learn some new things too of course and can go away feeling more confident about your messy projects At least that's the plan- I hope it works out for you Happy organising

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