The Politics of Doing IA for HighEd #heweb11
IA is really all about controlling the things that surround your .edu
IA exists in the boundaries between web design and web development.
- what to name a link
- what links you have on your homepage
- you make IA decisions all the time.
- take this tacit experience and make it explicit
- it will help minimize conflict
Recommended reading: IA book by Morville and Rosenfeld – how to structure and organize information on large websites.
We aren’t often dealing with a monetized model – that isn’t what drives our decisions. Our academically inclined individuals are driving our content decisions.
What is IA?
- organization, labeling and navigation
- structural design to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content
- structure and classify websites to help people find info
- bringing principles of design and architecture to digital landscape
IA is the convergence of Users + Content + Context
- Users – audience, tasks, needs, nor,action seeking behavior, experience
- Content – document or data types, content objects, existing structure
- Context – institutional goals, funding, politics, culture, technology, resources, and constraints
While we would all like to think about throwing the entire web presence sea and starting over – its never going to happen. Many of us are working at universities that have been around for hundreds of years. You can’t change everything! Just realize that and move forward.
- navigation (think about how users feels she they have to make a choice)
- search (so thankful we have a google search appliance at VU – it allows us to customize the search experience for our users!)
- controlled vocabulary
Managing the IA of a higher Ed website is like planning and maintaining the perfect kitchen for everyone to use. You can find everything … It’s exactly where you think it should be. But this has to make sense to EVERYONE – not just you. It has to be intuitive… For all users.
Things that we use all the time – put on the counter (in the main navigation). That fondue pot we only use occasionally? Those might go in the lower cabinets (subpage or sub navigation).
Audience based navigation – expected to have it, but it doesn’t really work well. Users have to be able to self-identify in order to use it.
Bargaining chips – when people want to be in your main navigation – do you have other options to give them — since that isn’t going to happen.
- a defined subset of natural language
- metadata and thesauri
- equivalent, related or sibling terms
- holds systems together
We have to get a handle on what terms are and what they mean – CAMPUSWIDE. It is detrimental to students when terms mean different things from department to department.
- research (user testing, focus groups, personas – billy and Betty both need info)
- strategy (dream best possible scenario, ideal web space, ideal homepage)
In each step:
- communicate ( write it down, share it with people)
What about politics?
None of this could possibly be political, right?!?
- your internal organizational structure should NOT be reflected on your website (see Jakob Nielsen for more on that)
- even the concept of a college within a school, can be confusing for students
- Bursars office – students have no idea what that word means
- mathematics v math
- research – can’t link to nonexistent content
- libraries – getting administrative approval about larger political issues is KEY
- understand existing political climate
- have a web policy that explicitly states which person or process determines IA
- Be transparent about your IA process: bit.ly/ularnav
Stop. look. Listen.
- recognize when political conflicts are headed your way
- take a neutral position and engage everyone involved
- don’t be afraid to try it both ways, and measure the difference
- do more research
Information architecture is not about YOU.
It’s too late for that.
- when conflicts arise, and you’re in the middle of them, find resolution quickly.
- if necessary, reframe the larger issue and take the decision to the next level.
- whatever the outcome, measure it.