Thursday, April 20, 2006

Information architecture summit

Boxes and arrows has published a great write-up and breakdown of the recent IA summit held in Vancouver.

Lots of interesting insights into what is happening in the world of IA and related areas.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The 'F pattern' for online content

Jakon Nielsen has written an article on his recent eye-tracking research involving tracking users eye patterns.

The 'heat map' patterns that occurred while eye-tracking users, revealed that users followed a basic 'F-shaped pattern' when 'reading' a site.

The research can equally be applied to an intranet or external web site.

Jakob says the research confirms some basic conventions of online content :

  • Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won't.

  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There's some hope that users will actually read this material, though they'll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.

  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.

Basically this reinforces the idea of short, scannable, well broken up content following the 'information triangle' or 'reverse pyramid' content model.

Excellent research and conclusions which are relatively simple to implement on your site
with some solid content guidelines and training.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Intranet blog list

James Robertson has published a list of intranet blogs on the Intranet Review Toolkit site.

The IRT site is really starting to come together with a lot of resources for intranet related topics.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Web navigation - free choice or force?

An interesting article by Gerry McGovern on web navigation.

I must say that I disagree with his position that:

"Forward-looking navigation options should dominate"

Basically this position is based on the premise that a website/intranet is a linear system and that users only use it as a linear system. His example using notebook computers negates the fact that most users don't know if they want an 'ultralight' or a 'multimedia' one or what the differences are. So offering several selections would be the best way to help the user.

Forwards, backwards, sideways does it matter?

Content in a variety of locations of a site can also be linked and that it is logical that users be given the opportunity to navigate to a new page or section without following a specific 'direction'.
I agree that avoiding cluttered websites should be a key goal for all online environments but we need to understand that not all users navigate in the same way and that sometimes going backwards or sideways is just as important as going 'forwards'.

Where am I?

Basic navigation aids as 'where you are' in a site or at least some pointer to it is simple usability necessity and should definitely be part of whatever primary purpose your navigation has.

Let users choose their direction

It is important to think that as online developers or designers we shouldn't need to force users in a direction but provide them the options to support their purposes. Maybe they are just after some information, maybe they want to purchase or perhaps they are just looking around.

All these users would therefore require different options and it is our job to help understand and support them, not to force them.

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