Representation and Perceived Information Architecture

John Rhodes presents a unique approach to measuring the usability of an information architecture by allowing users to diagram how they perceive the site to be structured. In our consulting, we have taken this idea to new levels. In particular, we have developed a very interesting technique that helps us get at how users think about the information architecture of a web site. After conducting a full usability test, with many scenarios, we work with users to develop a Perceived Information Architecture (PIA). We basically have users draw out a map of the site as they perceive it on large sheets of paper. We literally get users to create a diagram of the information architecture. We passively work with them, but they are in control. They use any language they want, any colors, and any concepts. They can use layers, circles, numbers, or anything else. We let them represent the information any way they want. In a semi-structured way, we help them express the architecture of the site from their point of view. To our knowledge, this is a new and innovative technique. It is aimed at capturing the perceived information architecture of a web site. We can compare these representations to the actual information architecture, as the designers developed. We can look for static points, areas of failure, black holes, burning concepts, flow, and much more.  thanks infodesign