Information Architecture

Book Notes: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Cognitive friction: the resistance encountered by a human intellect when it engages with a complex system of rules that change as the problem changes. “#1 goal of all computer users is to not feel stupid.” Larry Keeley’s three qualities for high tech products: Capability: what can be done? Supplied by technologists. Viability: what can we sell? Supplied by business people. Desirability: what do people want? Supplied by designers. Need and desire are not the same. Desire leads to loyalty. Designing for a minority of users leads to success rather than attempting to accommodate all users. Specificity is key. Find a…

Mastering Difficult Situations

Aside from the ever present issue that decks aren’t nearly as good without the accompanying audio, this is still great advice. And since the audio is missing, I like to add audio in my head as I read the slides. For this one, I chose Marlon Brando’s slow and deliberate pacing that feels nonchalant yet wise and worth your attention. Your mileage may vary on that choice.

Gerry McGovern & Audience Based Navigation

Gerry McGovern nails it again. In his latest post, he laments audience based navigation. Not always, mind you, but often. One of McGovern’s main examples is from the educational world where audience based navigation is rampant and, in my humble opinion, replete with the problems he cites. The main thing to ensure is mutual exclusivity among audience segments. Otherwise, people don’t know where to go if they find that they fall into multiple categories. I’ve covered this topic in the past and I’m glad McGovern has given it airtime. It’s long overdue for higher ed to, at minimum, treat audience based navigation…

Thoughts on Higher Ed in the Mobile Space

Mobile is on everyone’s mind these days. Many schools have already launched some kind of iteration to meet and compete in the mobile space. But I’m finding the early versions lacking. That’s not meant as a criticism though. All early attempts will be rough around the edges as novelty wears off and best practices begin to form. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on where things stand. Don’t conflate audience segments with use cases I see this all the time in higher ed. A mobile site offers links to content aimed at prospects and also throws in…

Google Maps Frustration

If you search for our university on Google maps you’ll find a listing for a liquor store right in the middle of campus (which isn’t correct, of course). So, what’s a person to do? Report the problem to Google, right? Right. Well, good luck. I didn’t see an obvious way to submit an issue, so I went to the help link and did a search. I ended up a Google help article describing how to report a problem. Let’s count the problems with this process, shall we? Most obvious, is that there is no obvious way to report a problem…

Where Higher Ed Sites Need To Go

The single most important thing higher ed websites can do is change the fundamental organizing principle away from the org chart (content organized via department) and toward people. This means organizing content via degree programs which represents the fundamental connection point between student and school. User tests show that students have consistent informational needs when deciding which university to attend: Do you have a program of study that interests me? Can I afford that program? Does the school’s culture/vibe feel right (will I fit in)? Grad level students’s needs will lean more towards faculty, their interests and research opportunities away…

Tension Between Marketing and Usability: Part 2

In my previous post about the push and pull between marketing a site and making it usable, I try to make the case that the DU site leans too heavily toward marketing when all available data suggests usability is more important. However, on second glance, I believe I need to clarify my stance and I’ll use the home pages from Google and Apple’s developer conferences as an example. My bias is toward a balance between marketing and usability, but the bias gives more initial credence to usability than to marketing. Why? Because you can market the hell out of a…

Tension Between Marketing and Usability: Part 1

Nick Denardis of EDU Checkup critiqued the University of Denver’s redesign and gave it a 94%. Pretty good. He liked the strong visual impact of the homepage, that content was geared toward addressing student needs and that the underlying code was done with SEO and accessibility in mind. What Nick didn’t know, couldn’t know, was the drama and politics that culminated in this particular design. One aspect of this hidden world is what I’d like to discuss today- the tension between the marketing and usability camps. While I’d like to think that both can (should) co-exist to support one another, its…

Use link titles as a check on your architecture decisions

Recently at work, there was a discussion about link titles, their utility, when to use them, when not to and so forth. Link titles are those attributes you insert into a link tag that helps set expectations for users of where a link will take them. Conceptually, they’re easy to understand and rationalize. The hard part is actually writing them. I’m certainly guilty of writing banal descriptions that would make you wonder why I included one at all. But since no one ever calls you on them, it’s easy to let them slide. But over the years, I’ve come to…

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