Practical Information Architecture: A Hands-On Approach to Structuring Successful Websites

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you how to create an underlying structure so your site communicates your ideas, promotes your services, and sells your goods. In many ways, this structure is like an architectural blueprint - but instead of showing the builders where to put the kitchen, the structure maps out the location of the information you want to share with those who visit your site. The structure is the "blueprint" of the information architect.

"A well-designed structure helps the designer create more effective graphics and navigation. It ...

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Overview

you how to create an underlying structure so your site communicates your ideas, promotes your services, and sells your goods. In many ways, this structure is like an architectural blueprint - but instead of showing the builders where to put the kitchen, the structure maps out the location of the information you want to share with those who visit your site. The structure is the "blueprint" of the information architect.

"A well-designed structure helps the designer create more effective graphics and navigation. It helps the programmer write the code. Most important of all, it keeps your visitors from getting lost, frustrated or bored.

"Unfortunately, most people don't think about the structure; in fact, most people don't even know such a thing exists. Instead, they plunge ahead with the more entertaining parts of a web project, like the graphics and typefaces, and let the structure grow naturally - like weeds in a garden.

"It doesn't have to be that way…"


Practical Information Architecture is a concise, step-by-step guide to this vital but all too often neglected aspect of website creation. Author Eric Reiss draws on his extensive experience in the field to guide you through the information architecture process, from defining your goals to fine-tuning your site. Supported by a wealth of illustrations and examples, Practical Information Architecture is an invaluable source of hands-on advice to help you:

o set meaningful website goals
o determine what information needs to be on the site to achieve these goals
o incorporate useful browser-based features that enhance the user experience
o produceeasily understood diagrams to guide programmers and graphic designers
o define menus that visitors will immediately understand
o segment a site to meet the needs of widely divergent target audiences
o understand the impact of wireless technologies such as WAP.

Practical Information Architecture is written for web marketing professionals, site-owners, designers, webmasters, copywriters, consultants, students, and anyone else involved in building a website.



0201725908B04062001
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Web site usability is profoundly dependent on effective information architecture, but many web designers and developers are clueless about this stuff. Get clued in, with this step-by-step guide to structuring site content. Learn how to define and "chunk" your content, identify the best model for your site, take a first pass at overall site structure, then structure lower levels, add secondary features, and get the most out of hyperlinks. Fine-tune your site, learn effective approaches to building subsites, test usability, even plan information architectures for the wireless Web.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201725902
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 11/6/2000
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 7.15 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Setting the Scene

All of us have discovered websites we think are terrific because they're practical, entertaining, informative, helpful, efficient, friendly, visually pleasing, or have some other quality we appreciate. Then there all those awful sites we surf through once and hope we'll never need to visit again. But what is a bad website? For me, it's one that makes it hard to find the information I need or difficult to carry out the transaction I want to make.

For every outstanding website, there are probably a thousand bad ones; and not just sites put together by enthusiastic amateurs, frequently those of large international corporations are just as poor. Of all these sites, about half fail because of badly designed graphics - forcing visitors to sit through interminable downloads, read illegible typefaces, or cope with distracting visual gimmicks. Many of the remaining 50 percent also suffer from poor visual design, but their basic problem is far greater: visitors leave in frustration because the designers simply didn't organize the content in a very convenient way.

These sites hide useful information under improbable menu headings or, worse still, forget to include important details (sizes, prices, even basic contact information). They waste their visitors' time. They waste their company's money. They damage their company's image. They don't get repeat traffic. They don't communicate their ideas effectively. Most important of all, they fail to promote their goods and services.

Granted, judging the quality of a website is highly subjective, but who really cares whether 50 percent of them feature poor organization or 48.6 percent or 34.8 percent; nomatter how you cut it, the problem is enormous. In fact, the 30 January 2000 issue of the weekly news magazine, Time, had some interesting statistics: during the period July '98 to July '99, 3.2 million people opened online bank accounts in the United States a very impressive result. However, during that same period, 3.1 million Americans closed their e-bank accounts. Half of those who gave up explained that they were unhappy with the customer service or thought the sites were too complicated! Good information architecture is one of the keys to avoiding this kind of business disaster.

1.Defining information architecture

At a conference in Boston in April 2000, arranged by the American Society for Information Science, 400 bright and talented individuals spent anentire weekend trying to do just this: define information architecture. The conference was an enormous success in terms of professional networking, but it failed to agree on a definition.

Part of the problem was that individual "information architects" often perform radically different tasks depending on their specific job and educational experience. For example, experts with a background in library science frequently deal with issues that benefit from their extensive knowledge of indexing and cataloging techniques. On the other hand, someone with a computer science background is more likely to focus on the design and integration of databases. Nevertheless, both are information architects (and yes, I realize that I have generalized with regard to their respective talents).

I'm not sure that any single, all-encompassing definition will ever be found - nor am I convinced that it's necessary to do so ("engineers" gave up years ago). However, for the purposes of this book, "information architecture" deals with the arrangement of browser-based information (more specifically, the internal relationships between individual web pages) so visitors can do whatever they came to do with as little effort (and confusion) as possible.

Unfortunately, the importance of information architecture as it relates to the web is vastly underrated, frequently misunderstood, and usually ignored, as demonstrated by the millions of amateurish sites lurking about cyberspace. It's interesting to note that while hundreds of books have been written on web design, only a handful deal with information architecture. Nevertheless, if you're game, the following pages have been put together so your site can succeed where so many others have failed!

We all learned the basics long ago

Remember when you had to write term papers in school? The chances are, you began by sketching an outline - starting with an introduction and ending with a conclusion. In between, you organized your information in logical sections that helped you build your story and gather your thoughts. This is what information architecture is all about: arranging information in a logical fashion.

Naturally, a term paper is something that is meant to be read in a linear fashion, which is equally true of most other articles and virtually all fiction. On the other hand, encyclopedias, magazines, user manuals, and other multi-author/multi-subject works are designed to let you jump to a specific entry or article rather than forcing you to read the whole publication from end to end. A website is similar, with the added advantage of hypertext, which lets you flip to a new page, chapter, or volume with a single click.

Encyclopedias arrange subjects in alphabetical order. Reference books have a list of chapters and often an index. Magazines usually feature a contents list...

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Table of Contents

About this book
Acknowledgments
1 Setting the scene 1
2 Defining the task 15
3 Measuring your success 26
4 Defining the content 31
5 Providing useful services 41
6 Ensuring successful online sales 58
7 Deciding on the type of site 69
8 Putting together the first structure 83
9 Getting it down on paper 97
10 Calling things by their right name 105
11 Structuring the lower levels 112
12 Getting the most out of hyperlinks 120
13 Adding secondary features 130
14 Refining the first structure 141
15 Building a subsite 145
16 Talking to a specific audience 153
17 Moving on to the production phase 162
18 Testing the usability 165
19 Looking forward 171
App: Sample editorial content forms 181
Glossary 183
Further reading list 186
Index 189
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