The BarbLog

Design, front-end dev and other random thoughts

information architecture

All of the posts under the "information architecture" tag.

Barbara February 3, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

Website makeover – (Part 1: Planning)

[To avoid potential misunderstandings: this project is for educational purposes only, not a real commission]

The site

To start off with, I looked at the existing homepage and its content and thought about how I could group/lay it out more effectively, as at the moment it’s largely just plain text which is too much to read for a front page and is not at all visually stimulating for the user. Marked up a couple of things for reference.


Home page

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Barbara December 27, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

The importance of good UX and planning

‘Name the top three factors that make a good website’ – this was the task we tackled in groups on our first proper day of teaching, and the one that every group included, that is arguably the most important of all, is the user experience (UX). No fancy design or witty content will make your website successful if the user can’t find what they’re looking for, or has trouble accessing your content even if they do know where to look.  I’m a project manager and the first line of client support at a company that develops websites on their bespoke CMS platform, and this task made me think about times when I came across examples of this problem in my job (we don’t do design, only implementation, so we are presented with the signed-off templates already). Often, planning is not carried out as extensively as it should and design seems to become more important than making sure a site presents its otherwise relevant and useful content in a clear and user-friendly way.

The most recent example happened only last week, when I had to amend something on one of our clients’ sites I rarely need to access. I wasn’t familiar with it and when I had to find a certain feature I struggled; we can probably safely say a new potential customer would as well. I was working on the pages jointly with a colleague and he also said he found the site a bit difficult to use – and he’s used it a lot more than I have! This is a client that sells luxury products and the website is beautiful in terms of colours, graphics and typography, but perhaps in their quest to create something beautiful the designers forgot about making it usable as well.

The other important aspect related to UX to consider when creating a website is information architecture hand in hand with planning. If your information isn’t structured properly then the UX will be poor however well-designed the user interface itself might be, and good information architecture obviously involves meticulous planning. I am at times baffled by websites that don’t appear to have had sufficient thought going into them in the planning stage; this is where a project manager should come into the picture and set out the processes the team and client should adhere to before doing any visuals. The excellent Web Style Guide by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton dedicates its whole first chapter to processes and planning; I strongly recommend reading it as it may highlight things to consider that you might not have thought of before – I learned a lot from it despite having experience in managing web projects. It’s a great read otherwise as well, by the way.

As an example I can again offer two of our clients who had a site built relatively recently and had had plans to incorporate lots of extra information after some time but this doesn’t appear to have been considered during the design process.  Now we have to make do with the available layout and try adding bits and pieces without changing too much; it would have been much more straightforward to make the design flexible enough to accommodate the changes in information that would come up and plan the UI and UX accordingly instead of trying to squeeze it into the existing setup. To have another example here, I personally find the HMRC website somewhat confusing to use as well; I have tried and failed on multiple occasions to find a definitive answer to some questions I had about self-employment and NI contributions as there are so many links directing you to different areas of the website and suggesting conflicting solutions… I ended up having to call their support helpline. Anyone else with this problem or am I just HMRC-ically challenged?

Barbara September 21, 2013 2 Comments Permalink

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