jibbajabba's blog

Information and its Structuring: Problems and Opportunities

Paul Dourish's Power Point presentation for the Information Architecture: Theory and Practice course at UCLA and other materials from his recent talks.

thanks infodesign

Design Not Found

37signals looks at the best and worst of what they're calling contingency design -- designing for when things go wrong.

Unfortunately, most web site creators do a poor job of designing for when things go wrong. Contingency design is the solution; It is a combination of error messaging, instructive text, information architecture, programming, and graphic design that guides frustrated visitors.

Design Not Found is 37signals' attempt to expose this crucial, yet rarely discussed, facet of web site design. Here we will look at the best and worst of contingency design through our collection of snapshots from around the online world. Our goal is to create a resource for those involved in web site creation and to help improve the state of the web.

Categorization Algorithms: The Efficiency of Technology

ContentWire article about deciphering Quiver's QKS Classifier technical paper to understand how their classification engine works.

A technical paper about a product can also teach a thing or two about the architecture of a classification engine looks like. In case you want to build your own.

Thoughts on the Definition and Community of IA

Peterme goes deeply into the issue of defining the damn thing.

I argue for a more focused definition of information architecture, something of a cross between Argus' "Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully," and Jesse James Garrett's "Stuctural design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content." The Argus definition comes from a library background, and Jesse's from journalism. Both, though, are focused on finding, managing, retrieving, accessing, and understanding content and/or information. And, I think, both implicitly acknowledge the Web/networked/online nature of the practice.


Now, I do think having an umbrella discipline and term is important, because it's clear to everyone that information architecture, as I'm defining it here, is a facet of a much larger activity of designing a complex, information-rich tool/space/whathaveyou for others' use. And I think we've already got that umbrella discipline -- "user experience." A term that's been around since at least 1991, and defined to address the design of all elements that touch a user of a designed system.

I think it's foolhardy to have information architecture == user experience (as many have argued), because then it glosses over the very real problem of designing information spaces to facilitate access and understanding, a problem which clearly deserves its own label.

How to write a functional specification

Allen Smith's functional spec tutorial.

A functional spec is a document detailing the client's requirements for an application. Typically, the client has a high level view of what they want the application to do and it is the job of the Functional Spec to take that high level view and provide the details of what it does, how it is used, and what it looks like. By creating a blueprint of the application first, time and productivity are saved during the development stage.

thanks xblog and eh

Activity Centered Design

In IAWiki. ActivityCenteredDesign focuses on the activities for which the technology will be used in an information ecology. Ethnographic methods are effective for finding out what would be useful technology. Ethnographic methods can be combined, in the iterative design cycle, with experimental usability methods, or even heuristic evaluations, once a good design has been produced, to see if it's working well.


...also known as schematics, page architecture or blueprints.

This is an IAWiki discussion of what wireframe deliverables are or should be.

Auditing MIT classes for free

The Chronicle of Higher Education: MIT Begins Effort to Create Public Web Pages for More Than 2,000 Courses. In the process, officials at MIT are finding that professors' skill levels vary dramatically when it comes to using the Web in their courses -- which could make it difficult to create a system that is flexible enough to meet everyone's needs.

thanks Tomalak's Realm

Why your site should have disabled access

Accessibility article in Computer Weekly.

Have you heard the one about the blind man in Australia who could not read the Olympic Web site? He successfully sued the Olympic Commission for falling to give adequate access.

At the time, the UK press was incredulous that a blind person would even consider surfing the Web but, under the 1995 Disability and Discrimination Act, UK service providers could find that they too are flouting the law.

Responsibility for promoting greater access to the internet also lies with Web designers, design agencies and the colleges where they learn their skills.

Usability and Cost-Cutting

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre.

Investment in usability, and particular the adoption of user-centred design programmes, is really about reducing costs in the long term. And in the current economic climate, that should make user-centred design an even more important element of the product development process.

Converting a controlled vocabulary into an ontology

Paper by Jian Qin & Stephen Paling, School of Information Studies.

The prevalance of digital information raised issues regarding the suitability of conventional library tools for organizing information. The multi-dimensionality of digital resources requires a more versatile and flexible representation to accommodate intelligent information representation and retrieval. Ontologies are used as a solution to such issues in many application domains, mainly due to their ability explicitly to specify the semantics and relations and to express them in a computer understandable language. Conventional knowledge organization tools such as classifications and thesauri resemble ontologies in a way that they define concepts and relationships in a systematic manner, but they are less expressive than ontologies when it comes to machine language. This paper used the controlled vocabulary at the Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) as an example to address the issues in representing digital resources. The theoretical and methodological framework in this paper serves as the rationale and guideline for converting the GEM controlled vocabulary into an ontology. Compared to the original semantic model of GEM controlled vocabulary, the major difference between the two models lies in the values added through deeper semantics in describing digital objects, both conceptually and relationally.

thanks infodesign and victor lombardi

Reading Design

Great article by Dean Allen on typography in A List Apart about being able to render/communicate ideas clearly using type. Includes "An Entirely Incomplete List of Things a Non–Illiterate Designer Should Know Before Being a Designer".

[T]here are talents and hacks on both sides of the [design and editorial] barbed wire and landmines that lie between editors and designers, none of whom benefit from ignorance of what the other side is doing. If you design with editors, study what they know, and have the same reference books at hand. And above all, read what you are designing, and imagine reading it for the first time, like someone who just found it.

He also argues that designers need to be in the thick of design and to avoid specialization. He says this about design in large agencies. Would be interested in hearing peoples opinions on this.

[O]ne thing remains constant: that designers need to be able to render ideas clearly. It’s very nearly impossible to do that in an art–directed environment, of course, which is why most commercial design looks like wispy crap. Committees and org–chart hierarchies never add in the way of improvement, flinging subjective taste and private agendas in the way of clarity at every turn. People sometimes ask me how to improve the design work that comes out of large organizations, and I inevitably answer, “You can’t.”

Web Designers Should Stop Searching

Article in PC World citing UIE report.

To satisfy surfers, online content must be easy to find--without that pesky search engine.. Web-site designers should understand their users' way of thinking, introduce them to content they didn't know they were looking for, and--most of all--keep them from using the search function, according to a report released on Monday by Web research firm User Interface Engineering.


A better practice is to offer explicit and easily navigated categories that deliver users to the content they want--typically, in an average of 4.4 clicks, compared to an average 5.1 clicks via search engines, UIE says, citing its own studies. These links brought users to the content they wanted and often introduced them to related content they weren't looking for but may be interested in. When choosing category links, however, Web designers should be careful to select keywords that easily direct users to the content they seek. To do this, designers have to understand how users think about the site's content, UIE says, and take pains to label the categories in useful ways.

thanksTomalak's Realm

News.Com: Google may let surfers rank search results

News.Com article on new Google relevancy methods. Two weeks ago, Google began quietly testing a Web page voting system that, for the first time on a large scale, could eventually let Web surfers help determine the popularity of sites ranked by the company's search engine.

thanks Tomalak's Realm

Why Are Users Banner-Blind?

Journal of Digital information article on banner ad recognition.

It has been observed that contradictory results have been found regarding the perception of banner advertisements on the Internet. While some studies found that recall and recognition scores for banners were at a satisfactory level, others observed that banners are almost generally overlooked. In this study, it is argued that the opposing results might be explained by differences in navigation style (aimless browsing versus goal directed searching).


It seems that people who are browsing aimlessly are more susceptible to perceiving a Web banner, because the banners' color contrast or animation trigger an orientation reaction that is followed by a bottom-up process of information processing. Subjects who search for information, on the other hand, seem to apply cognitive schemata that suppress a deeper processing of Web banners.

thanks WebWord

How a Librarian Can Live Nine Lives in a Knowledge-Based Economy

Computers in Libraries article. The Web is the universal interface of access to information and nobody doubts anymore that libraries, be they hybrid, virtual, or digital, must have Web interfaces.

thanks WebWord

Managing complex environments with Topic Maps

On drop.org, Kika pointed to this univers imedia paper on topic maps, presented at Knowledge Technologies 2001.

This paper proposes a general methodology for Topic Map building and management in complex information environments involving a great diversity of resources, objects, concepts and actors.

Complexity is the main issue of many information and knowledge environments. ... Managing complexity is in fact what Topic Map technology is all about. The proposed methodology is therefore mainly addressing representation and management of information in such complex environments.

WebCAT category analysis tool

A category analysis tool inspired by IBM's EZ Sort, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Web Category Analysis Tool (WebCAT) allows a web designer/usability engineer to test a proposed or existing categorization scheme of a website to determine how well the categories and items are understood by users.

WebCAT is a variation on traditional card sorting techniques. Its process of categorizing and analyzing information is interactive.

thanks infodesign

CMS/metadata tool: MKDoc

MKDoc is a web site content management system that can produce HTML and RDF qualified Dublin Core metadata for every document. It also supports Dublin Core metadata via the generation of RSS 1.0 syndication feeds.

Categorically speaking

Announcement in KMWorld about LexiQuest, Categorize.

Designed for such information-intense industries as pharmaceuticals, financial services and law firms, LexiQuest has released Categorize, a new product for automated document categorization and taxonomy management.

LexiQuest says Categorize is capable of handling over 250,000 pages of text per hour and can work on almost any text format, including HTML, XML, MS Office, PDF and e-mail.

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