Navigate on the right? The jury is still out.

Lucian pointed to the short Syntagm article by William Hudson on right-side navigation. Hudson, responding to Bob Bailey's HFI newsletter article on the topic believes that we need more data before we can know that moving navigation to the right will be a real improvement.

Interview: Maryam Mohit, Amazon.com

Mark Hurst interviews Maryam Mohit, V.P. of Site Development at Amazon.com to find out what makes that company one of the leaders in customer experience online and off.

    For us, it's a combination of listening really hard to customers, and innovating on their behalf.
I never knew about Amazon's butterfly ballot joke.

IA should get under the UX tent

That's what Sean Coon is saying at apperceptive's uxDesign. I agree with his contention that vocal IA's should be spending effort cross pollenating and talking big IA. Lou has been doing a lot of that lately as do some Adaptive Path who do IA as one component of their work. But even with the fiery debates that have been going on, I still feel there is a need for something like AIfIA, if only to support IA's that don't have a steady and constant lifeline of IA peers -- I suspect that isolated IA's, like those that have moved into in-house positions with small IA groups will feel this. I also feel that evangelism can make the people holding the purse strings see the light and spend money on IA where it's needed.

Apparently some people also believe that IA needs an egomaniacal figurehead. I agree with Thomas Alison on that one. I've said that a few times in the past few weeks to people I've spoken to about getting business decision makers to understand IA. When I say business decision makers, I mean in the big and maybe boring brick and mortar corporations who need in house IA's to work on stuff like enterprise IA.

Don't know where Sean's rockstar theory comes from. I never wanted to be a rockstar and I never really worked in a traditional library.

International Children's Digital Library: Facet browsing ZUI

Peter V. pointed to the IDCL browser, a Java application that offers an interface for browsing an ebook catalog. What's unique about the catalog is that it offers a type of zoomable interface for browing categories such as About (Subject), Genre, Setting, Characters, etc. Clicking one facet drills you deeper into that facet tree, that is to say, reveals the sub-facets/categories and/or reveals the items within that node in a tiny thumbnail results window at top that you can expand to review hits. Each term you pick -- terms are the end-points, the buttons that don't have further sub-division -- is added to your collection (on top of the worm graphic) to show that you've combined terms in your search. You can click on one of the terms in that area to remove it from your search. The results window shows how your search terms have narrowed your results.

You have to have the Java Virtual Machine plug in installed to use this application. To start browsing by facet, click "Find books in category".

Lou on enterprise IA and search log analysis

Lou posted two presentations on his site for speaking engagements he had at the London AIGA-ED group and at ASIS&T 2002 in Philadelphia. The first is on enterprise IA presentation and the second on search log analysis. Ann Light summarizes the enterprise IA presentation at usabilitynews.com.

Nathan Shedroff: The V-2 Interview 1/2
    If IAs (and others) want to be taken seriously and gain back some of the stature they've lost in the last three years, they should start with turning down the volume on the entitlement and righteous indignation, and opening their eyes to a lot of other people who know a piece of the evolving puzzle that is called the customer marketplace.
Adam Greenfield interviews Nathan Shedroff to talk very candidly about Experience Design and Information Architecture. It's part 1 in a 2 part series that's turned out to be a lively debate with significant clashes occurring between the concepts of experience design and information architecture. Shedroff offers some succinct definitions that characterize ED as an umbrella encompassing a lot of smaller roles. I've tended to accept this classification to some extent, but found Shedroff's perceptions of the smaller roles (and the people who inhabit those roles) to be rather unclear at times (IA is not Information Design in my opinion) and condescending at others. It is interesting to read his perceptions of IA, however, particularly with regard to the growth of the field, the ability of IA's to view projects within a broader context. I disagree with those opinions as well.

At one point Shedroff also mentions Information Theory, stating that more IAs should be conversant in it. I found that amusing. I know that many of us come from LIS backgrounds, so there is no doubt that many IAs have some knowledge of that literature, but am wondering how they factor that into the work they do. For me, the experience of studying and working on Information Retrieval is informed by a lot of IR literature, but as a generalist, I rarely point to specific theories in order to make decisions. Shedroff also mentions Wurman, but I have no idea what Wurman has to do with Information Theory. Maybe this has to do with the fact that he lumps information architecture with information design.

In any case, it was a very open conversation -- with opinions that should be aired in the public in this manner. Looking forward to part 2.

BBC adaptive boxes

In Auntie's facelift, Matt points to the innovative re-working of the bbc.co.uk home page. When you click a link in one of the blue boxes on the home page and then return to the homepage, that blue box will be a shade darker. The idea is that over time the boxes will adapt to show you which areas you work with most, which seems like a form of personalization to me, adapting to user behavior. Nice.

Eric Miller on the Semantic Web

Peter V. pointed to this interview on New Breed Librarian with Eric Miller, which provides a concise definition of the Semantic Web and examples of how it would be realized in applications.

Thanks, Peter. I found the examples helpful as I still attempt to grok how this will be used in the real world. Thanks Eric for reminding me to link to it. Duh.

Way finding/losing in a digital library

I am in a discussion with a programmer about ways to offer navigation using a poly-hierarchical arrangement of nodes. He brought up the concept of directed acyclic graphs (DAG), which is from Mathematics. I learned from the Free Online Dictionary of Computing that the idea is that a directed graph would contain no cycles, i.e. if there is a route from node A to node B then there is no way to cycle or loop back. I can see some applications benefitting from this algorithm, such as in forward citation searching. I think I may not understand the concept entirely, but I am guessing that in an information environment, this means that you'd lose context the deeper you find yourself in a directed path. Or perhaps it simply means you navigate forward to point A from point B and has nothing to do with providing backward movement.

The problem we're experiencing is that we have been dealing with a legacy of organizing by collections/products/services, which is reinforced in our site navigation. Oddly, we don't have problems post-coordinately displaying term combinations in database search results. Rather, in search results we display other terms from the subject taxonomy to narrow results by subject. The problem we have is with the legacy of hierarchical arrangements of access points organized by: collections, services, topics (this uses slices of the subject taxonomy). It's a very library-centric view that we've been dealing with changing, and if you ever worked in a library (corporate, private, special or public) you might know how difficult it is create this type of change.

I've pointed out that the concept of surfacing more facets of index terms would be helpful for browsing. Jim Anderson at Rutgers helped me to buy into this idea while I was in library school, and before I knew much about the web, I advocated this idea in an image index I proposed in 1997. That naive and over-ambitious Filemaker Pro screen shows how I envisioned it. It's funny. Today, I'm wondering how we can support the display of polyhierachical classifications such as our subject taxonomy and other database fields. We have some ideas floating around, but I feel like a toddler trying to topple an elephant.

...

Some follow-up. We're kicking around the idea of a) showing multiple breadcrumbs, and b) showing local navigation for one of the hierarches where the node exists. With the local navigation, we're going to check where the user came from in order to determine which tree to show. If they came from a bookmark or an email (most of our pages are also lined to from email alerts) we will show nothing, unless the node only has one parent, then we will show that tree. This is the theory. We need to test, but interested in opinions. Have you done something like this in a better way?

Information Architecture is not Usability

Jeff Lash tells us why Usability is not IA in the November, 2002 IAnthything goes column of Digital Web.

    The distinction between information architecture and usability may seem like semantics, but there are significant differences between the two disciplines. Though they are often discussed interchangeably, and practitioners are often well-versed in both, information architecture and usability differ in their scope and areas of focus.
Moving beyond the Web as a single-user system

There are some instances of Web sites that begin to have interaction that extends beyond the client/server model. Tag Board for weblogs is a subtle example of it. However, the Web itself remains a single-user system. Arguably, the Web becomes more valuable as a greater number of people use and contribute to it. We see the same in Web sites. And yet, the very same Web sites lack the ability to have direct discourse with other people who are looking at the same book at an e-commerce site at the same moment.

A Visit with a Digital Architect

Online Journalism Review interviews Matt Jones.

FacetMap of iaslash

Seems FacetMap works now with links to XML feeds rather than uploaded files. Updated iaslash FacetMap is up. Guess I should clean up and index some of those earlier blog entries. Maybe.

Defining Feature Sets Through Prototyping

by Laura S. Quinn, in Boxes and Arrows.

    Defining requirements and features can be a daunting task under the best of circumstances. The Vision Prototype allows the user-centered vision to be seen and discussed by all team members and then easily translated into a set of functional requirements.
Introducing Interaction Design

by Bob Baxley in Boxes and Arrows.

    Well-designed interactive products allow people and technology to carry on a complex and elegant dance relying on multiple, simultaneous forms of communication. A new 12-part series will discuss the activity of interaction design as it relates to the Web, and the relative advantages and disadvantages of the Web as an interactive medium.
Internet users impatient with search results

Recent NUA Internet Survey with search statistics.

    According to a recent study from iProspect, three-quarters of Internet users use search engines. However, 16 percent of Internet users only look at the first few search results, while 32 percent will read through to the bottom of the first page. Only 23 percent of searchers go beyond the second page, and the numbers drop for every page thereafter. Only 10.3 percent of Internet users will look through the first three pages of results, while just 8.7 percent will look through more than three pages.
GetContentSize

Not sure what I learn from using Holovaty's GetContentSize application, but it sure is interesting. The application strips out all of the non-text data in a page (tags, images, etc.) and gives the weight/value of characters devoted to viewable text (size of page divided by size of viewable text).

Bottoms Up: Designing complex, adaptive systems

In the December 2002 issue of New Architect, Peter Morville discusses how you can use bottom-up IA methods while still keeping a view of the bigger picture. In the article, Peter discusses the dangers of severing the ties to larger business or project goals when fragmenting system components in order to manage growth. He suggests how to use bottom-up methodologies to support top-down ideas.

The Definition of Information Architecture

Peter discusses why there is a need for the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture.

    If nothing else, AIfIA presents an opportunity for us to join forces and speak out. We must focus our message. We must carefully select our target audiences. And then we must speak loudly and clearly.

    But we hope to go much further than that. If we listen carefully to people's reactions, if we involve outsiders in the discussion, if we make connections to other communities and disciplines, then we can learn how to improve the practice of information architecture.

I wholeheartedly agree with what Peter has to say and am not surprised by the amount of feedback along the lines of "what the hell is IA?". In my mind, there is a great need to evangelize the value that IA brings to businesses. I see business decision makers -- the people who pay for IA -- as a very important target for this organization. For a lot of people out there, there is a great need to establish the IA meme in the heads of the people holding the purse strings in corporations. If we can collectively educate these kinds of people, we may help to sustain and develop the growing body of IA knowledge.

IA has not garnered the attention of the business world as Usability has. We have not had a provocative figure head that instill fear in business decision makers that if you don't consider IA, you will lose money -- not that I think this is a good idea. We do have some provocative people out there, but they haven't had as long a history as Jakob and haven't been as prolific in the mainstream business/management rags. This is where we have to make some great inroads. We generally tend not to be as loud individually (unless your name is Zia) so the collective voice of the AIfIA will hopefully help to get our message out there better.

One Source taxonomy for company information

One Source has announced that they've started offering for sale their offering their Global Business Taxonomy, a business information classification system. I've used the One Source Business Browser in the past and have been impressed with how they index company information and present company profiles. If you've ever compared Factiva's (nee Dow Jones Interactive) company profiles to One Source you'll know what I mean.