Information Architecture Research Paper

Pages: 10 (2876 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

¶ … Architecture

2A brief history of Information Architecture

The creation of content management systems (CMS)

The creation of semantic systems

The creation of user navigation systems

Creation of interaction designs

Information Architecture Techniques

Card sorting

Focus groups

Scenarios

Usability testing

Vertical Markets

Digital Libraries

Semantic Web

The future of information architecture

Information Architecture (AI) is an important aspect of information science that is quickly gaining importance. Information architecture is defined by Bidigare and Argus (2000) as the art and science of structuring as well as organizing a given information environment in order to aid people in achieving their goals. A website's information architecture depends largely on clear organization, navigation, labeling as well as appropriate searching systems (Steve & Argus,2000, p1).The concept of Information architecture can therefore be used in the expression of a model or concept of a given information system utilized in the activities that demand explicit details of a rather complex system. Some of these activities include the library systems, database development, software design, technical writing, user interactions, content management system (CMS) and software design systems.

A brief history of Information Architecture

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The term "information architect" is historically traced to Richard Saul Wurman who described architecture as the creation of a rather structural and systemic processes using orderly principle to enable a given system to work (Wurman & Bradford,1996). Wurman observed the problem and efforts needed to gather, organize and present information to be analogous to the main problems that are faced by architects in order to design a certain building that is to serve the occupant's needs. According to him, the architect must ensure that;

TOPIC: Research Paper on Information Architecture Assignment

The needs of the occupants are ascertained through the gathering of the necessary information

The needs are organized into a coherent pattern aimed at clarifying the nature as well as the interactions that are involved

The building is designed to meet the needs of the occupants.

In a nutshell, Wurman observes the process involved in an effort to gather, organize and present information so as to serve a specific purpose as being an architectural task.

Tasks performed by information architects

Dillon & Turnbull (2005) state the following as the tasks that information architects execute;

1. Illustration of key concepts as well as steps via graphics

2. Site maps design

3. Creation of metaphors to be used in branding as well as promoting navigation

4. User analysis

5. Scenario and storyboard creation

6. Creation of indices and taxonomies

7. User experience testing.

The tasks of Information Architecture (IA) are concentrated around four main areas. The initial area is the process of comprehending information as content as well as the shaping of information organization and its access. The second don is involved with the creation of the abstract association the units of information content. The third effort is concerned with the development of the browsing as well as search functions. The final one involves the design of graphics, user interfaces as well as the techniques of interactions to be used in allowing the users to easily access the information.

The creation of content management systems (CMS)

Browning & Lowndes (2001) refers to content management systems (CMS) as a generic term that is generally used to define a spectrum of processes that mark the foundations of the "next-generation" of medium as well as large-scale websites. Michelinakis (2004) points out that a content management process helps in the creation, storage, modification, retrieval and display of data content. A content inventory is therefore concerned with the identification, collection and the cataloging of the content of a given project in order to effectively identify the scope of the materials that are involved in the projects. Usually, this require planning of the project tasks through the meeting of the project stakeholders. The initial step is the creation of information taxonomy (hierarchy) through the sorting of the information into special derived sets alphabetically, chronologically, geographically or topically. From the taxonomy, a special set of names and labels are derived and established so as to provide consistency in the naming. This is important for the description as well as the representation of topics. Dillon & Turnbull (2005) also points out the need of classifying content type as well as format in order to establish a basis for making a presentation standards (markup).This is necessary for ensuring that the content is consistent and organized for the purpose of user consumption.

The creation of semantic systems

There is a growing interest in semantic systems in today's online environment. A semantic web which is defined as data web that enables computers to understand meanings (semantics) of the information contained on the internet (W3C, 2008) is of great importance of internet experts and users alike. A semantic or rather logical organization of information is developed in order to represent a rather complex relationship that can be fathomable after the inventory of project content. The process involves the coding of datasets containing overlapping conceptual schemes like the ones needed for searching and browsing. This conceptual organization is often mapped out in a specific content directory. The semantic organization can then be used in the access of information through the search function and also in the suggestion of alternate searches. The underlying relationship is effectively coded with special metadata (organizes information by data of creation, author, use, location and author). This is via schemas for conveying structure and syntax to be used by computers, users an authors in the promotion of information access. Some of the most popular metadata schemas are the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) which employs the Resource Description Framework (RDF) syntax in the representation of metadata on the internet (Weibel,1997; Beckett & McBride,2004).There are other Information Architecture conceptual frameworks that include the thesauri and indices that provide the end-users with browsing paths or possible keywords to be utilized in refining the search.

The creation of user navigation systems

The view of the system users is heavily dependent on the nature of the navigational system that acts as the primary access points for information access. The navigation system is made up of hyperlinks, animated graphics, dynamic menus and lists and functional menus.

Creation of interaction designs

It is part of the information architect's job description to ensure that the visual appearance and the primary interface of any software that is designed are created perfectly. The process usually begins with the use of simple wire frames of the information to be processed and accessed. The interactive design includes text flow, buttons and menus.

Information Architecture Techniques

Sun Microsystems (2002) pointed out the following techniques as well as best practices that can be employed in the development and enhancement of information architecture.

Card sorting

This is a technique that entails the employment of users in the process of grouping information from the internet. A group of users may be provided with a set of index cards within which there are content topics for a given portal. There is one topic per card. The users are then involved in the building of hierarchies that are a reflection of the categories that are required as well as how the information is grouped within the categories. This technique can also be used for the determination of the structure to be used for content taxonomies.

Focus groups

A focus group is a quantitative research technique that involves people being asked their opinions, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions towards a given product, service, idea, packaging, concept or an advertisement (Henderson,2009). The focus group must be mediated by a facilitator. This therefore makes it a mediated discussion group. The importance of focus groups is to provide user reactions on a prototype.

Surveys

Surveys can be employed in the gathering of information from users. They may be based online or offline and could be administered in combination with interviews. It is important that the surveys be kept short and both closed and open-ended questions are included. The objectives of the survey must be clear and the questions must be carefully tailored to meet the set objectives.

Scenarios

Scenarios refer to stories that explore user's experiences on a certain site. They may be important for the purpose of visualizing a project portal, its application as well as users. The scenarios are useful in the validation of a given web site design upon its completion. The actual design should match with the site design for the site to be right.

Usability testing

The usability tests are important in the finding out of what is preferred or not preferred by the users. The effectiveness of a given service or portal can be determined through observation, subjective evaluation or scientific analysis (Sun Microsystems,2002). The usability tests are quite different from the focus groups in terms of functionality. The best usability test must be iterative in nature in order to give time for refinement.

Vertical Markets

Various Information architectures (IAs) are directed to exact vertical markets or industries. These areas may consist of manufacturing, healthcare, government, finance, education and retail. Every area is having individual features for organization,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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