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Organization schemes and structures

As I have been delving further into “Information Architecture,” I have had the happy coincidence of being able to apply some of the concepts that the authors are talking about in my work. We are in the midst of a unit-wide Web revamp. The actual design work will be done by the Web group on campus, but they have asked the divisions to provide them first with what we would like to see rather than them providing us with a structure and us giving feedback. My boss had already charged me with taking one of the key positions in the management of the Web site. Because of this, we both felt that it would be a good idea for me to be involved in the structuring as well.

Perhaps it would be a good time to point out that the old Web site, though it needed to be oriented towards the user, was not. The leadership of the unit recognized the need to resolve this and commissioned the building of the new site. Since I am not familiar with all of the needs of the users, it has been important for me to rely on others within the unit to help coordinate the information. As of tomorrow, I will have a 4th version site map rendered.

The first question I have had to ask representatives is what the users are looking for when they come to our site. It has been important to emphasize that we are interested in why the USER visits, not why WE would like them to visit. This question is fundamental in structuring the information.

As the different areas are identified, the most logical way to divide the pages up has been in a taxonomy or hierarchy. In doing this, we have removed jargon and non-descript unit names from the pages and have tried to focus on user friendly terms. For example: Now if a user would like to make a donation, they will click “Giving” in the main navigation. What appears are several options including information on giving, types of gifts, etc. But more importantly, we have made the first available link read “Give Now.” This might not seem like rocket science, but it was a very desirable link to bring to the front. A potential donor who just wants to give should not have to work hard or mentally exhaust themselves giving a gift. They click it an they are on the page to give. This element is task oriented. Items such as “Types of Gift” produce task oriented menus where the user can select a method of giving and learn all about it.

I would describe the taxonomy as broad and shallow as special emphasis has been given to bringing items to the top and making them easy to find. There are also additions to the main navigation that centralizes information for the users and allows them to (hopefully) easily find the information they want.

Most of the links withing the navigation are organized by the types that users would like to find easily. However for the majority of the about section, which is filled with numerous staff resources, the links have been placed under an appropriate heading and alphabetized. The alphabetic organization structure works best as when staff are searching for one of these resources, they will likely already know what exactly they are looking for.

More later.

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January 15, 2009 Posted by | Information Architecture | Leave a comment