Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

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Some web sites "work" and some don't. Good web site consultants know that you can't just jump in and start writing HTML, the same way you can't build a house by just pouring a foundation and putting up some walls. You need to know who will be using the site, and what they'll be using it for. You need some idea of what you'd like to draw their attention to during their visit. Overall, you need a strong, cohesive vision for the site that makes it both distinctive and usable.Information Architecture for the World ...

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Some web sites "work" and some don't. Good web site consultants know that you can't just jump in and start writing HTML, the same way you can't build a house by just pouring a foundation and putting up some walls. You need to know who will be using the site, and what they'll be using it for. You need some idea of what you'd like to draw their attention to during their visit. Overall, you need a strong, cohesive vision for the site that makes it both distinctive and usable.Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is about applying the principles of architecture and library science to web site design. Each web site is like a public building, available for tourists and regulars alike to breeze through at their leisure. The job of the architect is to set up the framework for the site to make it comfortable and inviting for people to visit, relax in, and perhaps even return to someday.Most books on web development concentrate either on the aesthetics or the mechanics of the site. This book is about the framework that holds the two together. With this book, you learn how to design web sites and intranets that support growth, management, and ease of use. Special attention is given to:

  • The process behind architecting a large, complex site
  • Web site hierarchy design and organization
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is for webmasters, designers, and anyone else involved in building a web site. It's for novice web designers who, from the start, want to avoid the traps that result in poorly designed sites. It's for experienced web designers who have already created sites but realize that something "is missing" from their sites and want to improve them. It's for programmers and administrators who are comfortable with HTML, CGI, and Java but want to understand how to organize their web pages into a cohesive site.The authors are two of the principals of Argus Associates, a web consulting firm. At Argus, they have created information architectures for web sites and intranets of some of the largest companies in the United States, including Chrysler Corporation, Barron's, and Dow Chemical.

How do you balance organizational needs and audience needs? What determines Web content and functionality? How will users find information? How will your Web site change and grow? This book answers these questions and shows how the latest Web architecture can benefit your business enterprise. The authors help you determine whether your Web site should be a corporate intranet or an Internet flagship. They begin with a "...walk in the shoes of site users," and guide you through web principles, information organization, navigation design and good search systems. Then, they demonstrate site research and planning, including factors on site mission, budget, timeline, audiences and content. Content is considered the downfall of many sites. The book also focuses on conceptual design, site production and operation. You learn to create an appealing, comprehensive and succinct Web site.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
You know you need to pay close attention to information architecture. But are you really comfortable with your level of expertise on the subject? It’s time to stop talking a good game about information architecture, learn what works, and start leveraging the field’s best practices. One book can help: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition.

You’ll start with the fundamentals: what information architecture consists of, whose responsibility it is, and how to incorporate it into your already complex development process. Through practical examples, the authors show how to bring cohesion to even the most complex sites and intranets.

Next, they walk through every key component of information architecture: categorization (often “ambiguous” approaches are better than “precise” ones); labeling; navigation; and search. You’ll learn how to maximize flexibility in navigation without excess clutter; how to improve your search engine’s results (tip: don’t leave all the decisions to IT); even how to write effective link descriptions.

Perhaps most valuable, the coverage of process: researching your audience and content; brainstorming; creating blueprints, page mockups, style guides… then actually implementing your site and responding to feedback from -- can it be? -- actual users. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

Library Journal
Saul Wurman first used the term Information Architecture in his book of the same name. His book was mostly lots of really pretty pictures of media and webs compiled from a graphic design perspective; they were beautiful but never really dealt with the information end of things. Rosenfeld and Morville get it right. They show how to design manageable sites right the first time, sites built for growth. They discuss ideas of organization, navigation, labeling, searching, research, and conceptual design. This is almost common sense, which is often overlooked in the rush for cascading style sheets and XML. Essential reading for librarians and information managers who deal with the World Wide Web in any parts of their jobs.
Teaches the skills necessary to become a succesful information architect (IA). Covers the importance of recognizing the site user's perspective, the IA's role in developing web sites, the various ways that sites can be made browsable, creating effective and descriptive content labels, search interfaces, architecture blueprints, and a case study that demonstrates the evolution of an information architecture for a real client. Intended for webmasters, designers, and regular users. Avoids technical jargon in order to be accessible to anyone interested in creating a web site. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
John S. Rhodes

Stop Designing Web Pages, Start Developing Web Sites

In my early days as a cognitive scientist, I came across a bit of research that explained how the neurons in your brain produce a surplus of electrical activity when you encounter novel information. My interest in this area has waned over the last few years, but I do bring it up from time to time with friends and family. I'll avoid replaying the long-winded and dramatic explanation I give them -- in a nutshell, the light bulbs that kids draw over peoples' heads are based on a scientific reality.

When I read Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, I was satisfied to feel the bulb burning brightly above my head. Since I am a human factors engineer and usability professional, most of the concepts in the book were not new to me. However, I repeatedly observed that this book is one of the only resources that brings the eclectic ideas of web site information architecture together.

Rosenfeld and Morville bring to light some theoretically powerful material regarding the planning, design, testing, and maintenance of large scale web sites. Their approach, as the title suggests, is information architecture. The authors explain that people tend to design web pages rather than web sites, and they show how this is detrimental. When web pages are not developed within a well-conceived information architecture framework, the web site will suffer: Customers will complain, users will not revisit the site, and products will not sell. The big picture is crucial.

Human Factors and Usability

From a human factors and usability point of view, I was relieved to see that Information Architecture for the World Wide Web described web site development from two important angles -- the needs of the users and overall site planning. Knowing and understanding the users of your web site is crucial. Also, the planning behind a web site (e.g., developing content, planning for growth, creating an outline) can make or break it. Content development and navigation were given great attention by the authors also. Not surprisingly, the best web sites pay attention to all of these things.

I was pleased to see that the book runs contrary to the glut of graphic-design-oriented web-development books available that tend to focus on issues like graphics, HTML, and page layout. I admit that these issues are important, even critical, but only after your users are considered, planning takes place, and the content for the site is generated.

Not The Holy Grail

You would be wrong to think that this book is the answer to all of your web site problems. While the book is well written and insightful, it seems to be more of an introduction to a broad set of user-centered, site-planning heuristics. I feel that Rosenfeld and Morville are so intent on the big picture that readers will be unhappy with the lack of tools. I was left wanting more details and how-to's. Unlike most O'Reilly books, which can be a bit hefty, Information Architecture is only around 200 pages. The authors could have easily provided more examples, tools, and techniques to help the reader utilize their provocative approach. There are some great pointers, but not enough to satisfy. For example, Chapter 10, "Information Architecture in Action," was a case study meant to bring many of the book's ideas together, but it fell short for the reasons just mentioned. Similarly, the selected bibliography is a great resource, but it doesn't compensate for the lack of details throughout the book.

The book is certain to be an eye opener for many web site developers. If you have not utilized human factors and usability analysis, user-centered design, or information architecture in your web site development, I strongly recommend this book. But beware, the book is primarily laden with theory, not tools. I think you might be disappointed if you are looking for a hands-on formula for creating a great web site.--Dr. Dobb's Electronic Review of Computer Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565922822
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/1/1998
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.05 (w) x 9.15 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Morville is President and Founder of Semantic Studios, a leading information architecture and knowledge management consulting firm. From 1994 to 2001, Peter was Chief Executive Officer and a co-owner of Argus Associates, a pioneering information architecture design firm with world-class clients including 3Com, AT&T, Compaq, Ernst & Young, Ford, IBM, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and the Weather Channel. He also served as Executive Director of the ACIA. Over the past 8 years, Peter has written and spoken extensively about information architecture, business strategy, and knowledge management. He has been interviewed by Business Week, Knowledge Management magazine, MSNBC, and the Wall Street Journal.

Lou Rosenfeld is an independent information architecture consultant. He has been instrumental in helping establish the field of information architecture, and in articulating the role and value of librarianship within the field. Lou played a leading role in organizing and programming the first three information architecture conferences (both ASIS&T Summits and IA 2000). He also presents and moderates at such venues as CHI, COMDEX, Intranets, and the web design conferences produced by Miller Freeman, C|net and Thunder Lizard. He teaches tutorials as part of the Nielsen Norman Group User Experience Conference.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1: What Makes a Web Site Work

Chapter 2: Introduction to Information Architecture

Chapter 3: Organizing Information

Chapter 4: Designing Navigation Systems

Chapter 5: Labeling Systems

Chapter 6: Searching Systems

Chapter 7: Research

Chapter 8: Conceptual Design

Chapter 9: Production and Operations

Chapter 10: Information Architecture in Action

Chapter 11: Selected Bibliography


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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2001

    Very Informative

    Too often I've visited web sites that looked great on the surface, but quickly became nightmares to navigate through. As a part-time web designer I try to make sure that doesn't happen, but after reading this book, I can see I still have a few things to learn. The authors are actually librarians themselves, so who better to write a book about organizing web information? They bring up many good points in this book, for example pointing out that designing a good information system on a web site requires careful planning, not just of the information but also your audience, what your audience will be looking for in the site, what kind of information, how you want them to navigate the site, etc. Also, the book's chapters covers topics like doing research on how the site should be set up, what types of search engines you should use for it, keeping the 'look and feel' of your site while using a search engine, types of information 'system' that work best for you, the process of planning and finally creating it, and then maintaining it after it is up and running. This book offers a good introduction to a part of web design that isn't terribly glamorous but still necessary.

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