Reading Materials: UxB Chapter 11; Conceptual Design: Information Architecture
The first article on Blackboard is about information architecture. The author articulates what information architecture is, how people navigate, how to develop an architecture, and some labels and orientation cues. The article is clear and concise and addresses the main aspects of the topic which allows me to grasp concepts quickly.
As the author mentions, information architecture means the structure or organization of the web site, how we design and label complex elements in practice. This area contains many issues such as navigation, searching, planning and organization. No matter what you use to organize information, the most important principle is that we should satisfy users’ needs and help them achieve their task. With this in mind, our web design is effective and creative.
When developing the information architecture, I think card sorting is a user-centered technique. Because card sorting is to involve perspective users to collect suggestions for the web site, it is a very useful approach to examine what people think and how they form concepts and categories. The open card sort method is quite common and the steps are very clear and easy to follow.
- Label the cards
- Brief the users
- Let the users group the items and label the groups
- Listen to other comments about the content
- Group the groups, or subdivide the groups
- Write down the hierarchy the users created, and repeat with more users
- Combine the results
Often, we have a large number of materials to know and need to organize information into a coherent and complete form. In other words, we use different pages to convey information and different pages should be linked together. The way how they are linked is topology. There are various website topologies, as is show below:
Hierarchy topology: It divides information into different level and subgroups. The pattern is a symmetrical pattern where each level is connected to the next higher level. The top-down hierarchy topology is most commonly used.
Linear Topology: When moving through ordered list of similar items, an ordered sequence can be used which is linear topology. The disadvantage of this topology is that it may be time-consuming and tedious.
Matrix or Grid: Appropriate for two-dimensional organization. Not a very common use.
Full Mesh: More useful for small web site where every page is linked to every other page. It allows rapid navigation.
Arbitrary Network: Sites link back and forth with other sites with no dominant structure. It can help users find information when no central authority can determine the organization.
Hybrid: Information is complicated and topologies are not pure. Hybrid is a combination of these various topologies. Use it carefully and avoid confusing user or conveying vague information.
After reading UX Book Chapter 11 which discusses prototypes, I get an increasingly clearer picture of the different types and prototypes and how to choose the appropriate one.
Different types: Horizontal and Vertical Prototypes. Horizontal means broad and vertical means deeply. When we start with prototyping, horizontal prototype is a good choice as it can explore more concepts from a broad overview. While we need to give some details, it is better to use a vertical prototype which can show task sequences or associated user actions in depth.
Different fidelity levels of prototypes:
- Low-Fidelity Prototype: Sketches, fast and disposable mockups, ultralow fidelity. They are used in the situation where few details are needed to flesh out or they may be quickly changed later. For ideation and sketching, we use low-fidelity prototype to support brainstorming and discussion.
- Medium-Fidelity Prototypes: Evolution from low-fidelity prototypes. It includes wireframes, pixel-perfect interactive mockups and computer-printed paper. Sometimes we want a bit more fidelity in our procedure and medium-fidelity is a good choice. It often occurs when we undertake interaction design and early detailed design.
- High-Fidelity Prototypes: Programmed Prototype. When our project is almost done, we can use high-fidelity prototypes to evaluate details in order to refine and modify the system. It is very effective to find many UX problems.
Additionally, prototyping has some pitfalls and drawbacks. The book has mentioned three pitfalls That is,
- Get cooperation, buy-in, and understanding
- Be honest about limitations and do not overpromise
- Do not overwork your prototype
In my opinion, I should pay more attention to the third one which means do not “fall in love” with your prototype. Sometimes, after finally accomplishing our prototype, we are so excited and treasure our work so much. People all tend to be on a continuum of perfectionism. We modify and polish our work again again and again. It is totally wrong for prototyping because it is just some early things to realize design alternatives and evaluate interaction design. The fast you go, the sooner you know. So keep in mind that do not fall in love with your prototype and focus on something more important.