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Michael Albers wrote (1/30/99):

> Now comes the big question.  How do we determine the important information
> needs and core content?  Having a search engine to find the stuff is one
> thing, but someone needs to figure out what goes on the site and HOW it
> goes on the site in the first place.

[stuff from Mike deleted]

One helpful concept gleaned from librarianship is the collection development
policy, which guides an acquisitions librarian in what items should be
purchased given budgetary, space, and other considerations.  (The American
Library Association references some recommended collection
development-related publications at
http://www.ala.org/alcts/organization/cmds/publicat.html).  I don't suggest
porting traditional library concepts of collection development literally to
the Web venue, but it might be helpful to understand that discipline's
perspective on how to assess patrons' (i.e. users') information needs, what
content to acquire to meet those needs, how to evaluate content quality, and
how to maintain and weed a collection.  (Regarding content evaluation for
quality, you might check out Hope Tillman's article "Evaluating Quality on
the Net" (http://www.tiac.net/users/hope/findqual.html).

At Argus, we try to learn which specific classes of information needs
represent the majority of all users' information needs.  It's hard to do
this quantitatively; a lot has to do with having the experience to ask the
right questions and ask them the right way.  For example, we often try to
ask not what information a site should provide, but what information do
users need in general.  We leave off the technology-specific stuff (e.g.,
mention of the site) because users often don't know what the technology can
offer; also their answers will often mirror what they've already seen from
sites in general.  So they tend to leave out eye-opening answers that could
lead to revolutionary improvements to the site.  In any case, we often find
that major information needs can be accommodated by a subset of possible
content (the 80/20 rule strikes again).  To address which content should or
shouldn't be included, we essentially need to "interview" the content much
like we interview users:  we need to determine its breadth, format (e.g.,
structured text vs. unstructured full text vs. applications), its
topicality, and so forth.


Louis Rosenfeld / [log in to unmask]
Argus Associates / http://argus-inc.com / 734.913.0010
Information Architecture for the WWW /
http://www.ora.com/catalog/infotecture/