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Steve Toub <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 25 Aug 1998 11:01:01 -0400
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>My question is this: How does one evaluate the logical organization of
>information? How does one make users focus on issues of structure and not
>the temporary visual design of the structure (the structure of information
>is presented on a test site available for the public/the users)? Does
>have experience with participatory design of information architecture
>is a step further than user centered design as I see it - since we are
>trying to engage targeted users to take active part in commenting and
>suggesting changes for the information architecture)?? And what's the
>relevant literature on the subject?

At Argus, we rely largely on paper to develop initial architectural
approaches.  Typically we'll sketch the logical organization of a Web site
on "blueprints" and then move on to paper mockups from there. We get
feedback from each other our clients on the iterations of these blueprints
and mockups, often by running through task scenarios.  We are only beginning
to investigate how to best incorporate users (and user advocates and
surrogates) into the design process.

The traditional card-sorting exercise is helpful at early stages of design.
I've also read about a variation of this technique in which after users
complete a few tasks on the site (or prototype), participants are handed
cards that have screen shots of selected pages and told to lay out the cards
in the way they felt the site was structured.  This shows how well users
understand the logical organization of the site.

Regarding literature: I did a pretty thorough literature review on
information architecture earlier this summer and found that there is not
much empirical assessment of information architecture.  Once I get a moment
(ha!), I'd like to dig into the HCI literature on user-centered design,
participatory design, as well as techniques such as "concept mapping"  and
"cognitive mapping."  I'll share citations with this list...

One particularly good case study that is definitely worth a look is "A User-
Centered Approach to Designing a New Top-Level Site Structure for a Large
and Diverse Corporate Web Site" by Jack J. Yu, Prasad V. Prabhu, and Wayne
C. Neale at Kodak.  The paper, from 4th Conference on Human Factors & the
Web, is available at:


Steve Toub
Argus Associates
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