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Creating abstract information architecture

From: Foundations of UX: Information Architecture

Video: Creating abstract information architecture

Before we roll our sleeves up and design our site's menus and other components, we need the abstract information architecture. To make this abstract information architecture, we take all of our observations, along with a cluster analysis information and create our best impression of the ideal structure for that information, regardless of how it will be used. Items that participants grouped most clearly will form the basic lower level structure. For instance, one grouping consisted of minimal impact flower borders, native landscaping, yard plants, and plants that would require no extra water.

Creating abstract information architecture

Before we roll our sleeves up and design our site's menus and other components, we need the abstract information architecture. To make this abstract information architecture, we take all of our observations, along with a cluster analysis information and create our best impression of the ideal structure for that information, regardless of how it will be used. Items that participants grouped most clearly will form the basic lower level structure. For instance, one grouping consisted of minimal impact flower borders, native landscaping, yard plants, and plants that would require no extra water.

We'll form several search groupings. Then, the lower level groupings that have the most in common, in participants minds, form the categories above this lower level structure. Names that participants gave to the groupings might suggest category headings. You probably won't choose to use the exact names that participants wrote down, but their terminology and the thinking behind their choices will inform your final decisions. If you created standardized names, those might be closer to the final names you'll plan on using. Names that people gave to this group were outdoor plants or live plants, but all of these items describe ecologically sound outdoor plants which is probably a more descriptive category.

Your abstract information architecture hierarchy should emerge from this data. I have to say there's as much art to this as there is science. Luckily, because we'll be verifying our assumptions by running a reserve card sort later, it's okay that this isn't the most rigorous process. So long as you make sure you're always working form the data that you have from your analysis tools or spreadsheet you should be fine. A good information architecture structure will provide a balance between breadth and depth.

Too many top level categories might make it hard for customers to pick the right option. Too few might require them to drill down through too many levels. It will also provide good sign posts so that people know where they are at each point in the architecture based on the category and sub-category labels. The right information architecture also means showing items in the correct order. That means making sure that sub-category items are arranged in the order that people expect or that information can be sorted and filtered based on a set of criteria you've derived from user research.

The arrangement will depend upon the type of data being displayed and how your users think about it. There are several options. Importance based puts the most important items first. Frequency or recency based are the most common or recent items. Topic based is used to describe content. Task based to show available actions. And time based, depending upon when an event occurred, for instance, in your web history. Product based arrangements are split by feature set.

This is a special type of topic based classification. Location based could be geographic location, by stockroom shelf, or by office number. Audience based could be categorized by employee information or customer information. Series based are things such as shoe or clothing sizes. And alpha, or numerical, are based on the quality of the label of the item, like, book authors. Across your site you might use several different orders. The order of top level menus might be frequency based so that the most common appear first or they might be a built-in arrangement dictated by the type of task being performed on the site.

Lower level menus could be sorted pretty much any way. Again, depending upon the type of data they contain. Homepage content might show the most popular items, which is based on frequency of purchase. Often these days, footer areas contain the list of product categories and on corporate sites, they might also have content for different audiences, such as the press, investors, and job seekers. So you can see how your categorizatoin decisions are driven not just by the groupings the particpants choose, but also the types of use that you expect them to have for the items in those gropuings.

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Foundations of UX: Information Architecture

41 video lessons · 7446 viewers

Chris Nodder
Author

 
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  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the exercise files
      26s
  2. 3m 10s
    1. What is information architecture?
      1m 47s
    2. Creating good information architecture
      1m 23s
  3. 4m 55s
    1. Why do information architecture research?
      2m 26s
    2. Card sorting to determine information architecture
      2m 29s
  4. 18m 19s
    1. Finding the information to use in a card sort
      3m 13s
    2. Deciding what goes on the cards
      3m 8s
    3. Making the cards
      2m 51s
    4. Recruiting participants
      1m 44s
    5. Running the session
      5m 47s
    6. Recording participants' answers
      1m 36s
  5. 9m 30s
    1. Getting from cards to knowledge
      5m 6s
    2. Eyeball analysis of your data
      4m 24s
  6. 24m 25s
    1. Accessing remote users with online sorts
      3m 51s
    2. Setting up a card sort using OptimalSort
      6m 58s
    3. Running an online OptimalSort card sort
      2m 59s
    4. Reviewing what participants see
      1m 52s
    5. Checking your data
      3m 11s
    6. Using the built-in analysis tools
      5m 34s
  7. 11m 33s
    1. Starting with an abstract structure
      2m 5s
    2. Creating abstract information architecture
      4m 15s
    3. Knowing the problems you might face
      3m 5s
    4. Understanding that card sorting isn't a precise technique
      2m 8s
  8. 9m 6s
    1. Making sure your hierarchical structure is correct
      1m 46s
    2. Creating and running a paper-based reverse sort
      3m 5s
    3. Analyzing a paper-based reverse sort
      1m 49s
    4. Interpreting the results
      2m 26s
  9. 15m 25s
    1. Exploring computer-based reverse sorting
      1m 56s
    2. Using Treejack for reverse sorting
      5m 11s
    3. Running an online reverse sort with Treejack
      3m 26s
    4. Reviewing what the participants see
      1m 18s
    5. Analyzing a Treejack reverse sort
      3m 34s
  10. 10m 58s
    1. Getting to navigation
      1m 45s
    2. Standard page elements
      2m 57s
    3. Content-based navigation
      3m 27s
    4. Going from information architecture to site layout
      2m 49s
  11. 2m 47s
    1. There's no substitute for usability testing
      1m 12s
    2. Watch your server logs after you go live
      1m 35s
  12. 5m 36s
    1. The right information architecture is crucial to your site
      3m 17s
    2. Next steps
      2m 19s

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