>Information Architecture

>Information architecture can sometimes be a difficult topic to explain to other people.  According to the Information Architecture Institute it is defined as:

  • The structural design of shared information environments.
  • The art and science of organizing and labeling web sites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.
  • An emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

So what exactly does that mean?
Since IA can sometimes be difficult to explain, the Information Architecture Institute has a section of their website for “elevator pitches.”  These are essentially a way of defining IA in a way that more people can grasp the concept of it and are worth checking out if you are unsure of what IA really is.   

Examples of IA

  • Content Inventory
  • User Profile
  • Use Case
  • Sitemap
  • Wireframes
  • Paper Prototype
  • Story Board
  • Style Guide

From this list, I found the user profile (persona) to be interesting.  The user profile will help you to understand the target audience.  It will have information such as name, occupation, gender, education, computing and web experience among others.  

So how does a user profile fit in with information architecture?
At first it may seem like it doesn’t.  However, you have to understand your users to be able to structure the information to meet their needs.  Having user profiles created can help the information architect to stay focused on the user and their needs.  These profiles are also important for helping make other decisions related to information architecture.  For example, using the profiles the information architect could get an idea of how high a level of Internet skills that most of the users have.  If most of the uses are not very technically skilled then the information architect can design the structure for the site to be easy to use for a non-skilled user.  In this case, complex navigation would not be a best fit for users less technically inclined.  
 


>Writing Material for the Hurried Web User

>There are many people who feel like they are a good writer. You, reading this blog, are quite possibly one of those people. In school we all learned how to write an essay or do a research paper. Writing for the web is a bit different. Erin Anderson provides some insight into this topic in Chapter 5 of Interact With Web Standards: A holistic approach to web design.

What’s different about web writing compared to print?
The main difference is the content. Web writing goes beyond what is just on the page. Web writers must understand the website inside and out before they can create quality content. Web writers must also consider the audience. People read online material different than print material. Online readers frequently scan material looking for only what they need. Websites are also harder to read for long periods of time when compared to print.

So what does this mean for me, a web writer?
It means you have a lot to think about before you even begin to write content. You need to understand the website you are writing for. You also need to consider ways to keep the website accessible to impaired users. A good web writer will also find the right balance between user goals and business objectives. There are certain skills and traits a good web writer possesses. They are:

  • Solid organizational skills and a knack for understanding information taxonomy techniques
  • An ability to adjust the voice and tone of your writing
  • An interest in making the Web more usable
  • A desire to work with a team
  • A thick skin
  • Ability to spin client feedback into great web content
  • A sense of humor
  • A sense of adventure

What is good Web writing?
Good web writing needs to be useful, usable, engaging and findable. Having content which is findable and readable can be a challenge. Having a findable page means a lot of keywords being used multiple times. If too many of the keywords are repeated this can make the content less readable. Just remember that your goal is not to write for search engines but to write for your users. Some tips for doing this are:

  • Give the user what they want and how they want it
  • Help the user accomplish something
  • Be consistent
  • Anticipate questions and answer them before being asked
  • Write clear navigation
  • Avoid unnecessary text
  • Be descriptive with headings
  • Make your users feel smart
  • Be personable
  • Be authentic
  • Avoid “marketing speak”
  • Place keywords early
  • Use synonyms to avoid overusing a word
  • Never sacrifice readability

So I hope I leave you with a better understanding of writing for the Web and its challenges. Writing for the Web is not an easy task and requires a high level of dedication by you to your users, team members and to your overall goals or writing good web content and making the web more usable and accessible for all.


>Communication and Collaboration in Real Time

>So, you may be thinking based on the title that this is nothing new. We already have the capability through instant message and collaboration tools such as Google Docs so what else could this be about? Well the new part to this post is about Google Wave is currently only available on an invitation only basis. You can receive an invitation from someone already on Google Wave or you can request an invitation from Google.


What exactly is Google Wave?
Google Wave is simply a tool for online communication and collaboration. You could think of it as combining instant messaging and Google Docs together into one tool…and it’s better than that. The collaboration part of Google Wave offers much more than is available in Google Docs.

How does it work?
Google Wave operates through what is called a wave. A wave is a means of both communication and collaboration. Users on a wave can discuss and work together in real time through the use of rich text, photos, videos, maps and many more. The wave is both shared and live. What this means is that as soon as someone makes a comment in within a wave, any of the other users in the wave can see the comment right away. Although the wave does allow for real time collaboration, it does not require that a user be online at the same time as other users to be able to participate. When you are offline the updates made to the wave are saved and you will see them next time you log in, just like you haven’t missed a thing!

Some possible uses for Google Wave could be, organizing events, group projects, brainstorming, or even games. The possibilities could be endless with Google Wave!


>Net Neutrality

>Net Neutrality is a proposed principal which will aid in preserving the free and open Internet. In short, this would prevent Internet providers from controlling the content that is available on the Internet through their connection. It will prevent the providers from being able to speed up/slow down, or block content. Therefore making Internet providers simply a pathway with no control over the content which travels through it.

Who doesn’t want it?
The answer to this one is the obvious…cable and telephone companies want to have control over the Internet content to be sure that it caters to their search engines and products and limits or even blocks content from other providers. The opponents of Net Neutrality see Net Neutrality as “a solution in search of a problem.” They also argue that restriction on content which is aimed to increase quality of service is desirable.

Who will it benefit?
Having Net Neutrality will largely benefit benefit everyone (except for the Internet providers that is). It will allow for innovation and for further development regarding the Internet. Supporters of Net Neutrality include leading technology companies such as Amazon.com, Ebay, Google, Intel, Microsoft and many others. The FCC and Obama have also voiced their support of Net Neutrality.


>Findability

>“Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the web. You can’t use what you can’t find.”
– Peter Morville

Findability and SEO
On Peter Morville’s blog, there can be found a lot of useful information regarding the term findability. He defines findability as the quality of being locatable or navigable. Based on this definition it can easily be seen how this term can relate to search engine optimization (SEO). If a web site has a high level of findability then the search engines can locate it much easier making it search engine friendly. A findability/SEO cheat sheet can be found on Aaron Walter’s blog. This checklist goes through several items that should be addressed in a web site that will increase the level of findability.

Findability vs. Usability
These two terms differ in the meaning. Just as the quote by Peter Morville mentioned above, “you can’t use something you can’t find.” Usability is defined as a quality attribute which assesses how easy an interface is to use. Usability has five components:

  • Learnability
  • Efficiency
  • Memorability
  • Errors
  • Satisfaction

Information Architecture and Findability
Information architecture is the structural design of shared information environments. Having a good information architecture allows a web site to have a higher level of findability.

Findability and Accessibility
Accessibility on the web addresses the ability of individuals with restrictions to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web. Web accessibility can also benefit individuals without disabilities as well as organizations. Accessibility and findability go hand in hand with one another. If a web site is findable but not accessible then it is no good to the user. The opposite is true as well, if a web site is accessible but can’t be found then it is no good either.


>Best Practices in Devloping for the iPhone

>
General iPhone Web page best practices

Working with the viewport

CSS for good iPhone Web pages

The WebKit and using it’s features for iPhone Web apps

the iUI


>Being Search Engine Friendly

>
We have all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, with web design the opposite can sometimes be true. When designing a web site, let us assume this is for an online book store, being a ‘pretty’ web site will not help to gain traffic and consequently income and profits. So for this scenario, having the right words in the right places can mean significantly more to success than to have a great looking web site. There are several important factors to keep in mind when creating a good web site that will be search engine friendly. First, the title tag should be short and to the point. The body of the page should contain a high density of keywords, especially in the beginning. Another point is to use the <strong> tags in HTML. Keywords should also be used in the URL, filenames, images and links. These are only a few of the factors to keep in mind when creating a web site that will be search engine friendly. A good quality web site cannot be created quickly. It takes time and patience to be able to create a web site that can be successful and meet your needs or the needs of your client, but by taking the time to do it right both you and your client will be happy in the end and have a great web site to show for it (and hopefully some profits too!).