1. What is information? Describe the qualities of information.
Information cannot be defined easily. However, it is not to be mixed up with data — facts and figures, relational databases — highly structured and produce specific answers to specific questions, knowledge — the stuff in people’s heads. Information lies in the middle. Information can be web sites, documents, software applications, images, and more.
2. What is the Dewey Decimal System? Describe how it operates.
The Dewey Decimal System is a tool to organise and provide access to the growing number of books. It is a hierarchical listing that begins with 10 top-level categories and drills down into great detail within each. It is made up of ten classes, each subdivided into ten divisions, each having ten sections.
The classification of books using the Dewey Decimal System in libraries. This image shows the 10 classes indicated in the hundreds starting from 000 and ending with 900, which will be further divided into 10 divisions and 10 sections.
This is an example to show how the 10 classes are divided into its sub-categories in the tens, eg under 100 Philosophy and Psychology, there’s 110 for Metaphysics, 120 for Metaphysical Theories and so on.
3. Explain what Library Science is.
Librarians have a long history of organising and providing access to information and are trained to work with searching, browsing, and indexing technologies.
Library and Information Science (LIS) is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives and tools of management, information technology and education and other areas of libraries. LIS also involves collection, organisation, preservation and dissemination of information resources and the political economy of information.
(Eno Joseph Ottong & Ubong Joseph Ottong, 2013, Teaching and learning for development through collaborative curriculum design: a study of University of Botswana, Botswana and University of Calabar, Nigeria)
4. What is information architecture?
- The structural design of shared information environments.
- The combination of organisation, labeling, search, and navigation systems within web sites and intranets.
- The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability.
- An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
Summarising IA visually.
5. List and describe at least three reasons for why information architecture is important (i.e., the return on investment for hiring an information architect).
- the cost of finding information
- time wasted trying to find out how to use the website or the intranet
- frustration caused to clients using the website
- the cost of maintenance
- the people who maintains your website will work more efficiently as they can find where to put in your new content and remove outdated content
- the value of brand
- having a pretty website but not really useful in finding the information that users want will cause your brand to lose its value in people’s eyes while you are trying very hard to build your brand value.
6. List and describe the four key information architecture concepts that help information architects articulate user needs and behaviours.
- complex systems — understanding the interrelationship between the business context, the content and the users’ needs
- invisible work — allow users to complete tasks and find information without feeling that there is a complex system. What users see is a seamless interface.
- knowledge systems — organising and structuring information in an orderly and logical manner
- information seeking behaviour — understanding the users’ needs
Key IA concepts
7. List and describe the three main information architecture systems that support a web site.
- searching systems — How we search information, e.g., executing a search query against an index.
- navigation systems — How we browse or move through information, e.g., clicking through a hierarchy.
- semantic networks — How we categorize information, e.g., by subject or chronology.
8. List and describe the four main information architecture deliverables.
- wireframes — they depict how an individual page or template should look from an architectural perspective. Wireframes stand at the intersection of the site’s information architecture and its visual and information design.For example, the wireframe forces the architect to consider such issues as where the navigation systems might be located on a page. And now that we see it on an early version of a page, does it seem that there are actually too many ways to navigate? Trying out ideas in the context of a wireframe might force you back to the blueprint’s drawing board, but it’s better to make such changes on paper rather than reengineering the entire site at some point in the future.
Wireframes describe the content and information architecture to be included on the relatively confined two-dimensional spaces known as pages; therefore, wireframes themselves must be constrained in size. These constraints force the information architect to make choices about what components of the architecture should be visible and accessible to users; after all, if the architectural components absorb too much screen real estate, no room will be left for actual content!Developing wireframes also helps the information architect decide how to group content components, how to order them, and which groups of components have priority.Wireframes are typically created for the site’s most important pages—such as main pages, major category pages, and the interfaces to search—and other important applications. They are also used to describe templates that are consistently applied to many pages, such as a site’s content pages. And they can be used for any page that is sufficiently vexing or confusing to merit further visualization during the design process. The goal is not to create wireframes for every page in your site, but only for the ones that are complicated, unique, or set a pattern for other pages (i.e., templates).Wireframes represent a degree of look and feel, and straddle the realms of visual design and interaction design. Wireframes (and page design in general) represent a frontier area where many web design-related disciplines come together and frequently clash. The fact that wireframes are produced by an information architect (i.e., a non-designer) and that they make statements about visual design (despite being quite ugly) often makes graphic designers and other visually oriented people very uncomfortable. For this reason, we suggest that wireframes come with a prominent disclaimer that they are not replacements for “real visual design.” The fonts, colors (or lack thereof), use of whitespace, and other visual characteristics of your wireframes are there only to illustrate how the site’s information architecture will impact and interact with a particular page. Make it clear that you expect to collaborate with a graphic designer to improve the aesthetic nature of the overall site, or with an interaction designer to improve the functionality of the page’s widgets.We also suggest making this point verbally, while also conveying how your wireframe will eliminate some work that visual designers and interaction designers might consider unpleasant or not within their expertise. For example, just as you’d prefer that a designer select colors or placement for a navigation bar, you’ve relieved the designer of the task of determining the labels that will populate that navigation bar.Finally, because wireframes do involve visual design, their development presents a perfect opportunity for collaboration with visual designers, who will have much to add at this point. Avoid treating wireframes as something to be handed off to designers and developers, and instead use them as triggers for generating a healthy bout of interdisciplinary collaboration. Although collaboration slows down the project’s schedule, the end product will be better for it (and besides, it may save you time during the project’s development).
Example of a wireframe
- blueprints — show the relationships between pages and other content components, and can be used to portray organization, navigation, and labeling systems. They are often referred to as “site maps”. Blueprints can help an information architect determine where content should go and how it should be navigated within the context of a site, subsite, or collection of content.
Example of a blueprint
- controlled vocabularies — There are two primary types of work products associated with the development of controlled vocabularies. First, you’ll need metadata matrixes that facilitate discussion about the prioritization of vocabularies (see Table 12-1 for an example). Second, you’ll need an application that enables you to manage the vocabulary terms and relationships. The information architect’s job is to help define which vocabularies should be developed, considering priorities and time and budget constraints.
- metadata schema — walk clients and colleagues through the difficult decision-making process, weighing the value of each vocabulary to the user experience against the costs of development and administration.
A metadata matrix for 3Com
9. Write a brief description for the title, what the key duties are, which potential companies will hire people with those skillsets, and what sort of remuneration is provided.
- description: A web designer creates the look, layout and features of a website. The job involves understanding both graphic design and computer programming. Once a website is created, a designer helps with maintenance and additions to the website. They work with development teams or managers for keeping the site up-to-date and prioritizing needs, among other tasks.
- Writing and editing content
- Designing webpage layout
- Determining technical requirements
- Updating websites
- Creating back up files
- Solving code problems
- hiring companies:
- Software companies
- IT consultancies
- Specialist web design companies
- Large corporate organisations
- Any organisation that uses computer systems.
- remuneration: $60k/year
- creating the look and feel of a specific computer interface
- navigate the functionality of that interface and produce a certain type of human-computer interaction
- applying their skills to a website or computer product, such as a piece of software
- Part of a design process involving research, experimentation, and revision.
- Incorporate usability testing feedback.
- Elicit constructive feedback and capable of interpreting that feedback into design solutions.
- Perform field research to discover and implement important design details that people may not realize they need.
- Collaborate with others and work well with developers and product management.
- Familiar with Agile/Scrum methodology.
- hiring companies:
- remuneration: $70k/year
- Have a thorough knowledge of search ranking factors and critical updates
- Familiar with industry-standard bid management and SEO software
- Have personally built and optimized a $10k+ per month pay-per-click account that met or exceeded specific business rules (such as CPA goals)
- Have managed a team of content writers, link builders, and social media marketers
- Comfortable working with API’s, advanced and integrated reporting
- Day-to-day management of paid and natural search engine marketing campaigns
- Oversight and management of onsite and offsite SEO resources
- Research and strategic planning for paid and natural search campaigns
- Staying abreast of (and sharing) changes in search engine signals and market share
- Improving and enhancing boilerplate project lifecycles based on signal changes
- hiring companies:
- remuneration: $60k/year
Professional Web Content Writer
- description: a person who specializes in providing relevant content for websites. Every website has a specific target audience and requires a different type and level of content. Content should contain words (key words) that attract and retain users on a website. Content written specifically for a website should concentrate on a specific topic. It should further be easy to read, offering the information in easy to understand clusters or laid out in bullet points.
- Succinct, fact-filled content
- An engaging, active tone
- Writing broken up by subheadings
- Use of bulleted lists
- Embedded links throughout the text
- hiring companies:
- remuneration: $80k/year
- An information Architect provides positive user experience by planning and designing the information structure for websites and web applications.
- translate user behavior into media structure
- craft interactive experiences
- produce workflow diagrams and other production materials
- organize information into site maps
- hiring companies:
10. Check out the Information Architecture Institute. Comment on what sort of value you see such an institute being to the community. Place a link on your blog to the institute.
IAI has the vision of educating us (designers, developers, and other professions related to the web) to understand the importance of proper structuring of content and information in the websites and intranet. If everyone understood the concept of IA, we’ll be able to provide a seamless searching and browsing experience for users who are trying to find something in the websites. People can work more efficiently in that way. The institute also serves as a community for people to discuss about IA, be it the changing web scene or challenges that the professionals are facing.
11. Describe what is meant by the term “information ecology”.
Information ecology is a science which studies the laws governing the influence of information summary on the formation and functioning of bio‐systems, including that of individuals, human communities and humanity in general and on the health and psychological, physical and social well‐being of the human being; and which undertakes to develop methodologies to improve the information environment (Eryomin 1998).
“Information ecology” is composed of users, content and context to address the complex dependencies that exist. The three circles illustrate the interdependent nature of users, content and context within a complex, adaptive information ecology. We need to understand the business goals behind the web site and the resources available for design and implementation. We need to be aware of the nature and volume of content that exists today and how that might change a year from now. We must learn about the needs and information-seeking behaviours of our major audiences. Good information architecture design is informed by all three areas.
12. What is content management and how does it relate to information architecture?
IA portrays a “snapshot” or spatial view of an information system, while CM describes a temporal view by showing how information should flow into, around, and out of that same system over time. Content managers deal with issues of content ownership and the integration of policies, processes, and technologies to support a dynamic publishing environment.
13. What is metadata and how is it used in information architecture?
Metadata is a term used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, processes, and organisations.
To what extent has metadata that describes the content and objects within your site already been created? Have documents been tagged manually or automatically? What’s the level of quality and consistency? Is there a controlled vocabulary in place? Or have users been allowed to supply their own “folksonomic” tags to the content? These factors determine how much you’re starting from scratch with respect to both information retrieval and content management.
14. Explain why the “Too-Simple” information model is unrealistic for modelling users’ information seeking behaviours.
“Too-Simple” information model
Fig. 4: “Too-Simple” Information Model
This is a very mechanistic and ultimately dehumanizing model for how users find and use information on web sites. In fact, in this model, the user, like the site itself, is just another system—predictable in behavior, rational in motivation.
Why do we have a problem with this “too-simple” model? Because it rarely happens this way. There are exceptions—for example, when users know what they’re looking for, as in the staff directory scenario. Here, users have a question for which there is a right answer, they know where to find the answer, they know how to state the question, and they know how to use the site to do so. But users don’t always know exactly what they want. Have you ever visited a site just to poke around? By exploring the site, you’re trying to find information of a sort; you just don’t exactly know what you’re looking for. Even when you do, you may not have the language to express it: is it “PDA,” “Palm Pilot,” or “handheld computer”?
Users often complete their efforts at finding information in a state of partial satisfaction or outright frustration. Example: “I was able to find information on synchronizing my Palm Pilot, but nothing specific on syncing to a Macintosh.” Or, during the process of finding, they may learn new information that changes what they’re looking for altogether. Example: “I realized that a Keough retirement plan is ideal for me, even though when I started I was trying to learn about IRAs.”
We also dislike the “too-simple” model because it narrowly focuses on what happens while the user is interacting with the information architecture. The information need’s context—all the related stuff that happens before and after the user ever touches the keyboard—gets left out. It also assumes an ignorant user who brings little, if any, prior knowledge to the table. So the model essentially ignores any context for this scenario.
Finally, by oversimplifying, this model cedes so many great opportunities to understand what goes on in users’ heads and observe the richness of what happens during their interactions with an information architecture.
This model is dangerous because it’s built upon a misconception: that finding information is a straightforward problem that can be addressed by a simple, algorithmic approach. After all, we’ve solved the challenge of retrieving data—which, of course, is facts and figures—with database technologies such as SQL. So, the thinking goes, let’s treat the abstract ideas and concepts embedded in our semi-structured textual documents the same way.
This attitude has led to the wasting of many millions of dollars on search engine software and other technological panaceas that would indeed work if this assumption were true. Many user-centered design techniques carry this misconception forward, assuming that the process of finding is simple enough to be easily measured in a quantifiable way. So we think we can measure the experience of finding by how long it takes, or how many mouse clicks it takes, or how many viewed pages it takes to find the “right” answer, when often there is no right answer.
15. Describe how a web site user typically finds information.
There’s 4 ways that users took to find information in a website.
- The perfect catch — knowing the exact thing to search for and make a precise search
- Lobster trapping — just wanting to search a few good information enough to perform a certain task
- Indiscriminate driftnetting — making sure that every research has been looked into before
- I’ve seen you before, Moby Dick — making bookmarks along the way so you’ll know what you’ve seen before
16. What is known-item seeking? Give two examples.
Sometimes users really are looking for the right answer. Let’s think of that as fishing with a pole, hoping to hook that ideal fish. What is the population of San Marino? You go to the CIA Fact Book or some other useful site that’s jampacked with data, and you hook in that number (it’s 29,251, by the way).
When I want to book a flight back to Singapore and I already know that I’ll definitely book from Flyscoot since it has always been the cheapest air flight that flies me back to Singapore safely.
I want to know the student price for Macbook Pro Retina 17″.
17. What is exploratory seeking? Give two examples.
You don’t really know much about what you’re looking for, and aren’t ready to commit to retrieving anything more than just a few useful items, or suggestions of where to learn more. You’re not hoping to hook the perfect fish, because you wouldn’t know it if you caught it. Instead, you’re setting out the equivalent of a lobster trap—you hope that whatever ambles in will be useful, and if it is, that’s good enough. Perhaps it’s a few candidate restaurants that you’ll investigate further by calling and checking their availability and features. Or maybe it’s a motley assemblage of Lewis and Clark stuff, ranging from book reviews to a digital version of Clark’s diary to information about Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. You might be happy with a few of these items, and toss out the rest.
When I went to Tasmania last summer, I wanted to book an accommodation that’s not too pricey and can hold my family of 6 for 3 days 2 nights, I just did an exploratory search to find somewhere that’s near Freycinet National Park and has a beautiful ocean view.
I wanted to make my favourite Laksa and they give me a Singaporean and Malaysian recipe and I need to decide to go on with the Singaporean version or try out the Malaysian one.
18. What is exhaustive research? Give two examples.
Then there are times when you want to leave no stone unturned in your search for information on a topic. You may be doing research for a doctoral thesis, or performing competitive intelligence analysis, or learning about the medical condition affecting a close friend, or, heck, ego surfing. In these cases, you want to catch every fish in the sea, so you cast your driftnets and drag up everything you can.
When I was researching about Piet Mondrian and his painting Composition No. 10 Pier and Ocean, I want to find all the information that I can search from Google.
Composition No. 10 Pier and Ocean by Piet Mondrian
19. What is re-finding? Give two examples.
There’s some information that you’d prefer to never lose track of, so you’ll tag it so you can find it again. Thanks to social bookmarking services like del.icio.us—which were primarily intended to support refindability—it’s now possible to toss a fish back in the sea with the expectation of finding it again.
Pinterest also serves as a platform of bookmarking by pinning any images or media found on the web and classifying the web findings into various art boards.
20. What is the Berry Picking Model? Give an example of how you might search for a topic using the Berry Picking Model.
Users start with an information need, formulate an information request (a query ), and then move iteratively through an information system along potentially complex paths, picking bits of information (“berries”) along the way. In the process, they modify their information requests as they learn more about what they need and what information is available from the system.
Berry Picking Model
If the berry-picking model is common to your site’s users, you’ll want to look for ways to support moving easily from search to browse and back again. Yahoo! provides one such integrated approach to consider: you can search within the subcategories you find through browsing
I’ll take ebay as an example:
After searching for ‘go pro’, on the left hand side, there’s the category section. From there, I gained more information and start to be more specific in my research.
21. What is the Pearl Growing Model? Give an example of how you might search for a topic using the Pearl Growing Model.
Users start with one or a few good documents that are exactly what they need. They want to get “more like this one.” To meet this need, Google and many other search engines allow users to do just that: Google provides a command called “Similar pages” next to each search result. A similar approach is to allow users to link from a “good” document to documents indexed with the same keywords. In sites that contain scientific papers and other documents that are heavy with citations, you can find other papers that share many of the same citations as yours or that have been co-cited with the one you like. Del.icio.us and Flickr are recent examples of sites that allow users to navigate to items that share something in common; in this case, the same user-supplied tag. All of these architectural approaches help us find “more like this one.”
I’ll take ebay as an example again. I did a keyword research on ‘go pro’ and the ebay search engine searches any items with ‘go pro’. Beneath the search bar, there’s a related searches that suggests more things related to ‘go pro’ such as ‘gopro, gopro hd hero 2, gopro accessories, helmet camera etc’. This helps users to broaden their search.
22. Explain what search analytics is and how it helps you learn more about information needs and information seeking behaviours.
Search analytics involves reviewing the most common search queries on your site (usually stored in your search engine’s logfiles) as a way to diagnose problems with search performance, metadata, navigation, and content. Search analytics provides a sense of what users commonly seek, and can help inform your understanding of their information needs and seeking behaviors (and is handy in other ways, too, such as developing task-analysis exercises). Search analytics is based on a high volume of real user data, it doesn’t provide an opportunity to interact with users and learn more about their needs directly.
23. Explain what contextual inquiry is and how it helps you learn more about information needs and information seeking behaviours.
Contextual inquiry, a user research method with roots in ethnography, is a great complement to search analytics because it allows you to observe how users interact with information in their “natural” settings and, in that context, ask them why they’re doing what they’re doing. Other user research methods you might look to are task analysis, surveys, and, with great care, focus groups.