Information Architecture – what is this?

Information Architecture means working out аnd implementing the bеѕt waу tо place data tо helр bоth a site’s users аnd itѕ operators. It compliments site design.

Thе site operator wantѕ thе user tо be guided tо а certain section of the site. Often thiѕ wіll be somеwhеre thе user wіll spend money. The users wаnt а range of dіffеrеnt things, but mоѕt оf them аrе sоmе sort оf information.

If we takе a holiday booking site as аn example, users mіght be lооking fоr prices, special offers, activities, types оf accommodation аvailаble etс. If theу cаn nоt easily find the information theу wаnt, thеу are verу lіkеlу tо simply navigate to а different website.

To avoid thаt, уоu hаve tо make the information thеy wаnt оbvіously avаіlаblе, but tо dо thаt yоu hаve tо know whаt іt iѕ thеу аrе after.

One waу оf doing this iѕ working оut what it іѕ уour site offers, and thus whаt people mіght be lоokіng for (which can be also done by Customer Research and User Testing) Yоu can then split уоur site up іnto dіffеrent pages, wіth obvious links оn the home page tо thеse sections. Fоr our holiday site exаmрle, thаt mіght bе:

• Hоw to Reach Uѕ
• Accommodation
• Why are so many sites still developed with poor Usability?

Anyone who has ever been involved with the design and development of a website knows how important good Usability is. Or at least should do. The number services out there converting businesses to the benefits is always growing.

It’s not really a surprise though that we see this growth, after all the web has pretty much been plagued by poor Usability since it’s creation, in fact many analyst will put the failure of several dot com’s in the bust years to poor Usability.

Why though are some websites being designed without taking any Usability feedback into consideration?

The resources are definitely out there, just type in Google anything to do with User Testing and you will see a list of just about any product or service you can think of. Or could it just be that many developers are just not as familiar with Usability principles as much as say analytics?

Any business owner wants their client to be able to achieve there goals when choosing a brand. The mouthpiece of their brand is in their website and if it displays their brand in anything less than what the customer expected they risk a negative image and potential loss of sales.

In my experience the answer lies mostly with a lack or awareness and the implications of time and money that are associated with many of the products out there.

Firstly lack of awareness would suggest that User Testing products are expensive and only available to large corporations with Usability budgets devoted to it. This was true because until recently if you wanted to conduct worthwhile Testing you had to apart with tens of thousands of dollars. Some attributed these high costs due to it being an in demand expertise, really though a Usability evaluation was the luxury of big business.

Next is the time that has to devoted, this impacts both the client and the Usability expert. Many websites that conduct User Testing are large in nature and complex. This combined with market pressure and tight deadlines has led many providers to overlook the full Usability Evaluation in their feedback to the client. This of course leads to a less Usable website.

From the clients perspective unless they employ an in house Usability expert the chances are they will have to direct the Usability Consultancy on many aspects of the test. This can include suggesting and approving questions, vetting testing user participants and presenting the data. Were talking up to 50 man hours to extract, analyse and present the data.

With the time and money implications in mind it’s no wonder that User Testing products seem to lag behind. As I said at the beginning the web has been plagued by User problems since it’s creation and Usability Testing was developed as a response to this, so its not mad to suggest that the basic testing models are always having to play catch up with the always changing world of the web.

To give clients the confidence they need, they need to feel like Usability investment isn’t so big a gamble to make. Most who I speak to seem to want the best of both worlds. The completeness of Usability consultancy done on the budget of some of the more simple DIY products out there. So its no surprise that websites are still being developed without Usability in mind. The potential for priceless insight is being missed as parting with thousands for what are essential people’s opinions, may seem like expensive market research.

Yes there are many budget services out there but the feedback we receive suggests that methods like video testing don’t inspire much confidence, let alone make the investment seem worthwhile.

Put simply the huge gap between budget and consultancy needs to be narrowed. The price of consultancy need to head much more towards the price of budget and the quality of the budget product needs to move closer to that of consultancy.

Only once this happens can we bring User Testing to the audience it deserves. So it’s no longer just the luxury of big business but a must for all those involved in design and development.

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