Blog 3

1. Why is it difficult for people to reward good IA?

Most Information Architecture goes on behind the scenes meaning that most good IA is never even noticed.

2. Explain what is meant by “Top-Down IA”.

Top-Down IA attempts to anticipate the users’ major information needs, essentially knowing what users will be searching for before they even get to the site.

3. What are some common questions a user has upon landing on a page on a web site?

Where am I?

How do I search for what I need?

How do I navigate this site?

What’s available on the site?

What’s important/unique about this organisation?

How do I contact a human?

4. Explain what is meant by “Bottom-Up IA”. Why is Bottom-Up IA becoming increasingly important?

Bottom-Up IA means embedding the IA within the content itself, often through the use of metadata, and supports browsing and searching. Bottom-Up IA is becoming increasingly important because users are becoming more and more likely to bypass Top-Down IA by using tools like Google.

5. What is an organisation system?

Organisation systems are the main way of categorising or grouping a sites content.

6. What is a site-wide navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

A site-wide navigation system is a system that aids the user in understanding exactly where they are in a site and where they can go. A common example of a site-wide navigation system is a side bar with links to the various pages of the site.


7. What is a local navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

A local navigation system lets users know where they are and where they can go within a particular portion of a site.


8. What is a sitemap/table of contents? Provide a screenshot of an example.

A sitemap/table of contents provides a condensed overview of and links to major content areas and sub-sites.


9. What are site indices? Provide a screenshot of an example.

Site indices are supplementary navigation systems that provide an alphebatised list of links to the contents of the site.


10. What are site guides? Provide a screenshot of an example.

Site guides are supplementary navigation systems that provide specialised information on a specific topic, as well as links to a related subset of the sites content.

11. What are site wizards? Provide a screenshot of an example.

Site wizards are supplementary navigation systems that lead users through a sequential set of steps and may also link to a related subset of the sites content.


12. What is a contextual navigation system? Provide a screenshot of an example.

Contextual navigation systems are consistently presented links to related content. Often embedded in text, and generally used to connect highly specialised content within a site.


13. What is a search interface? Provide a screenshot of an example.

A search interface is the means of entering a search query.


14. What is a query language? List some Boolean operators and provide examples of queries using these operators.

A query language is the grammar of a search query. Boolean operators can be used to further refine the results of a search.

Boolean operators:

AND – eg. Java AND Oracle AND SQL

NOT – eg. .Net AND NOT Java

OR – eg. apache OR weblogic OR websphere

Examples provided by Boolean Black Belt

15. What is a query builder?

Query builders are ways of enhancing a query’s performance. Spell checkers, stemming and synonyms are all examples of query builders.

16. What is the purpose of a retrieval algorithm?

Retrieval algorithms are the part of a search engine that determines what content matches the users query.

17. What are search zones?

Search zones are subsets of site content that have been separately indexed to support narrower searching.

18. What are search results?

Search results are the presentation of content that matches the users search query.

19. In terms of content, why are headings important?

Headings are an important way of signifying the main focus of the proceeding content and letting users know if they have found what they are looking for.

20. What are embedded links?

Embedded links are links to other sites, or pages within a site, that are embedded in the content of a page. Embedded links are commonly seen embedded in text.

21. What is embedded metadata?

Embedded metadata is information that can be used as metadata but must first be extracted.

22. In terms of content, what are chunks?

Chunks are logical units of content.

23. What are sequential aids?

Sequential aids are clues that suggest where the user is in a process or task and how far he/she has to go before completing it.

24. What are identifiers?

Identifiers are clues that suggest where the user is in an information system, or a breadcrumb explaining where in the site he/she is.

25. What is meant by “invisible components” in IA?

Invisible components are the components of an IA system that are manifested entirely in the background. Users are rarely required to interact with these components.

26. What are controlled vocabularies and thesauri?

Controlled vocabularies and thesauri are predetermined vocabularies of preferred terms that describe a specific domain. For example, a controlled vocabulary would allow a retrieval algorithm to take into account that “Email”, “e-mail” and “electronic mail” are all the same thing.

27. What is best bets?

Best bets are the preferred search results that are manually coupled with a search query. Editors and subject matter experts determine which queries should retrieve best bets and which documents merit best bet status.

28. List some of the difficulties with organising information.



Differences in perspective

Internal politics

29. What is meant by the term “taxonomy”?

Taxonomy is the process of grouping and categorising information.

30. What is hierarchy a natural way for humans to organise information?

31. List some design rules when designing a hierarchical organisation scheme.

Keep a balance between the breadth and depth

Obey the 7+/- rule

There should be no more than 5 levels vertically

Cross-link ambiguous items if it is really necessary to do so

Try to keep new sites shallow

32. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of a hypertextual organisation structure.

A hypertextual organisation structure allows each page to link to a large number of other pages. However, this also means that there is very little in the way of organised structure and can make it quite difficult for users to find a specific page. Because of this, sites with a hypertextual organisation structure greatly benefit from an effective search engine.

33. What is social classification?

Social classification involves the use of tagging and folksonomy to classify information. When a large number of people get involved new organisation and navigation patterns emerge and make social classification easier.

34. What is meant by the term “folksonomy”?

Folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and translating tags to annotate and categorise content.

35. Arrange the list.

Albany, New York

El Paso, Texas

The Hague, Netherlands

H20: The Beauty of Water

Lord of the Rings, The

New York, New York

Newark, New Jersey

Plzen, Czech Republic

St. Louis, Missouri

Saint Nicholas, Belgium

XVIIme siècle

1001 Arabian Nights

1-2-3 of Magic, The

.38 Special

$35 a Day Through Europe

#!%&: Creating Comic Books

a. Did you put ‘The Hague’ under T or H? Why?

I placed it under H. Despite starting with “The” the focus of the term is in fact “Hague” and as such I consider the “The” to be a secondary concern when classifying.

b. Did you put ‘El Paso’ under E or P? Why?

This was placed under E. Even though “El” does mean “The” (and my method of classifying “the” was explained previously) I alphabetise foreign words according to their English spelling regardless of their meaning. Otherwise the term “El Paso”  would actually need to be placed under S as “paso” in Spanish means “step” and that would only serve to confuse readers.

c. Which came first in your list, ‘Newark’ or ‘New York’? Why?

In my list New York was placed first as I believe that when alphabetising an list empty space should always be shown before filled space.

d. Does ‘St. Louis’ come before or after ‘Saint Nicholas’? Why?

St. Louis comes first as “St.” is simply an abbreviation for “Saint” and should be placed according to its proper elongated spelling rather than its more informal shortened version.

e. How did you handle numbers, punctuation, and special characters? (Justify your answer.)

In this list items beginning with numbers were listed directly after any beginning with letters and were placed in ascending order. Those beginning with special characters were difficult to place but in the end I decided upon placing them according to how often the characters are used in general. For example, “#” is rarely used in everyday life (with the obvious exception of Twitter hashtags but that was not the context of this list) and for that reason it was placed last in the list preceded by the fairly common “$” and constantly used “.”.

f. Assuming the italicised terms are book titles, what might be a more useful way to organise this list? (Justify your answer.)

If that is the case then the most logical thing to do would be to not have these items listed together at all as book and locations have no logical reason to be listed together. Instead there should be two separate organised list; one for book titles and one for locations.

g. If the cities represent places you’ve visited and the book titles are ones you’ve read, how could chronology be used to order the list in a more meaningful way? (Justify your answer.)

If each item in the list was given a date and time (when you visited a place or when you finished a book) the list could be organised chronologically from least to most recent. This would also allow you easily view any new additions at first glance and better decide which place you would like to go or which book to read should you want to experience it again.

36. Seek out and provide screen shots of web sites that are examples for each of the following organisation schemes:

a. Topic/Subject

Consumer Reports

Screenshot (8)

Consumer Reports handles a very large amount of content and because of this the content is organised according to different subject matter such as Cars, Money, and Health.

b. Task


Screenshot (9)

Amazon is used specifically for the task of buying and selling various products.

c. Audience


Screenshot (10)

The OverAPI site provides cheat sheets for numerous programming languages. It was created specifically for coders and would not be used by anyone else for any other purpose.

d. Metaphor

The Invoice Machine

Screenshot (11)

The tabs on this page were designed to look like the tabs of physical folders providing a more organised and professional look.

e. Hybrid


Screenshot (12)

The CBeebies Australia homepage provides both show-based topical links and audience-based links for the parents using the site.


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