Week 9

 

 

Information Arch. Ch. 19 &20 AND Web Theory Ch. 1:

 

IA Chapter 19: “Information Architecture for the Enterprise”-An enterprise is usually a large, physically distributed organization. However, in reality an enterprise is any organization in which “one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing”. It could be a large company with many subdivisions, or it could be a smaller company that is made up of departments that once used to be independent. Whatever the reasons, enterprises can be quite confusing. Often there is a battle between people who are pushing for centralization and those who are pushing for more autonomy for separate departments. This is often seen in websites which have not set a style for the enterprise (separate pages from different departments all look different). There can be a great deal of duplication and findability issues across diverse semi-autonomous pages.

 

Enterprise IA pushes for centralization at least for the website. The ultimate goal is to help users find what they need on a humongous site. If every department has the same template for web pages, the users will be more comfortable. Hopefully a search program can be utilized to help users find diverse information content across the whole enterprise. Much of the tough work is trying to integrate metadata and indexes. Some benefits of centralization include:

  • Increased revenues
  • Reduced costs
  • Clearer communication
  • Shared expertise
  • Reduced likelihood of corporate reorganization
  • Centralization is inevitable anyway

(Morville & Rosenfeld, 2006, pp. 395-396)

 

Centralization isn’t everything, but it usually helps. The real IA goal is to “identify the few most efficient means of connecting users with the information they need most” (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2006, p. 397) whether that is centralizing or offering a content tagging option for employees.

 

IA Chapter 20: “MSWeb: An Enterprise Intranet”-this chapter is a case study of how Microsoft improved their intranet through three taxonomies: indexing vocabulary, schema, and category labels.

 

User challenges: The biggest challenge for users is that MSWeb is huge (more than 3 million pages). The information is from 74 countries and is produced by and for more than 50,000 employees. There are more than 8,000 intranet sites!! Users spend so much of their time searching with difficulty for the needed information amongst all the other bundles of information.

 

  • Users don’t know where to begin
  • Inconsistent navigation systems
  • Different labels used for the same concept
  • Same label used for different concepts

 

IA challenges: Integrating over 8,000 sites is quite difficult. There was no way to force independent sites to register. MSWeb team had to create incentives for those sites to participate in their new model. All of these independent sites with their own IA and labels and vocabulary has to be integrates with all of the others.

 

Taxonomies: MSWeb team came up with 3 taxonomies which would help improve searching, browsing and managing the information:

  • Descriptive vocabularies-controlled vocabularies that describe a specific domain (geography, or products and technologies) and include variant terms for the same concept (much like a thesaurus).
  • Metadata schema-collections of labeled attributes for a document (like a library catalog record).
  • Category labels-sets of terms to be used for the options of navigation systems.

 

Descriptive vocabularies: These would be manually indexed terms which would be supplements to automated indexing. MSWeb team had to decide which would be the most important vocabularies to develop. They chose: geography, languages, proper names, organization and business unit names, subjects, and product, standards, and technology names.

 

Metadata schema: These describe which metadata should be used to describe a content resource. They borrowed from Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (http://dublincore.org) which was stripped down so that the content creators/ owners would be able to describe their own information so it could be found. Their schema has a required core set of fields but also has the ability to add extensions should the need arise in the future. Morville and Rosenfeld (2006, p. 435) list the core fields:

  • URL title-name of resource
  • URL description-brief description of resource
  • URL-address of resource
  • ToolTip-text displayed on mouseover
  • Comment-not seen by user, for administrative management
  • Contact alias-name of person responsible for resource
  • Review date-date resource should be reviewed , default is 6 months
  • Status-default is active (others include deleted, inactive, etc.) for content management

 

Optional extended fields:

  • Strongly recommended-this flags resources which are highly appropriate
  • Products-terms for the product, standards, and technology provides vocabulary to describe the subject matter.
  • Category label-these are terms from the official vocabulary of category labels-ensures resource is listed under appropriate label in the navigation system.
  • Keywords-terms from the descriptive vocabularies which can be used to describe the resource.

 

Category labels: These labels for categories in the navigation system attempt to give the users navigational context. Catalogers can see a list of acceptable labels and then see a description of different nodes. Other intranet site owners asked MSWeb team for help with their navigation and they complied. They offered their user-centered design process as a service for other site owners.

 

Technology and tools: The MSWeb team uses VocabMan, Metadata Registry (MDR) and URL Cataloging Service (UCS) to work their magic.

 

Metadata registry: used to store, manage, and share taxonomies on the MSWeb intranet. VocabMan: provides access to MDR  and allows the creating and editing of taxonomies. URL Cataloging Service: used to create records based on metadata schema, category labels, and descriptive vocabularies.

 

 

Web Theory Chapter 1: “Web of Technology”-in this first chapter Burnett and Marshall (2003) examine the history of the Web and some theories of technology that have been applied to this emerging technology. Theorists such as Howard Rheingold discussed the importance of communication through space and felt that the Internet as a communication tool would engage the public and foster an era of greater democracy.

 

Burnett and Marshall (2003) also focus on the ideology of technology whereby any new technology is seen not only as natural and normal, but as what society needs to make it better. Technology is seen as the savior of what is ailing society. Also discussed is technological determinism in which technology has or is given great power over a culture. This technological determinism has created a utopian and dystopian view of technology in our society. We see this in our science fiction-in some cases technology is everywhere and provides good services and a good life (see some of the world fairs and their look into the future). On the other hand there are many examples in science fiction of technology being the downfall of the human race (Terminator movies etc.).

 

H.A. Innis was a Canadian political economic historian who believed that centre – peripheral economic relations determined the transportation and communication routes (focusing on new Canadian territories). His theory was that each communication technology was biased either toward spatial or temporal concerns and that that bias would shape the nature of society. The medium of communication was either focused on the preservation of information (time-based/ temporal) or focused on the wide distribution of information (space-based/ special). An oral culture maintained and preserved traditions and because of its oral communication the size of its culture was limited. A spaced-based culture used communication technology that allowed for wider dissemination. The development and use of papyrus and then paper allowed a culture to dominate a greater territory. The Web is less centered than TV. If one wants to get an immediate message out to everyone in the country, TV is better than the Web. The TV can be state controlled (all networks can broadcast the same information if needed) and the message doesn’t get lost as it would on the Web. However, the Web can disseminate information farther than TV. TV is state controlled (each country has their own TV stations etc.) whereas the Internet is worldwide. If something big happens in one country, once the news makes it to the Web, it can be spread around the world. As the Internet developed in English speaking countries, the Web has been dominated by English documents and English has been reinforced globally; whether this will continue to be true only time can tell.

 

Technology has become hidden behind its use and function. In the early days of computers and of the Internet, many using the technology understood how computers worked and used their codes and languages. Now, most people using this technology have no clue how the computer they use actually works. Most people never use or see computer code – we have designed all sorts of visuals and metaphors to remove the “tech” out of technology (windows, desktop, files, etc.). As this technology has integrated into our everyday lives, it becomes normal and mundane and loses some of its power to transform. We can see how the technology of the Web has integrated past, present and future. The Web began as part of military research and was connected to universities and their research.  It has also strong links with media as it became a forum to re-broadcast or re-publish news items. The Web has inherited the transformation of space much like the telegraph and telephone have in the past. However, unlike other technology the Web is not defined with only one specific use. A toaster exists solely for the purpose of browning bread. The Web and Internet have many purposes. They are communication channels, news feeds, entertainment, commerce, socialization networks, education and research areas etc. Because of this, the Web has insinuated itself into our everyday lives and seems to be continuing that trend. It has been said that in the future, our Web or Internet identity will be more important than our physical identity. How we are presented online will be seen first, before we are met in person. This has huge ramifications.

 

 

Websites reviewed:

 

Digital Web Magazine http://www.digital-web.com/

InfoCamp http://asistpnw.org/infocamp2007/

Intranet Roadmap http://www.intranetroadmap.com/

Adaptive Path http://www.adaptivepath.com/

Information ArchiTECH http://www.informationarchitech.com/

 

Digital Web Magazine http://www.digital-web.com/

 

Digital Web Magazine is a web based magazine for professional web designers and those who develop websites such as information architects. Most of the published work is contributed by web authors.

 

As expected, Digital Web Magazine has a very user friendly website. Clearly labeled tabs at the top guide users to sections for contributing, subscribing, contacting, and information on various events and about the magazine. On the left side bar one can search for articles by: topic, date, author, title, or type. There is also a search box and highlighted areas for events going on now, and current news.

 

I took a look at an IA article, “Getting The Most Out of Your Library” (Hicks, 2008). Through this article Hicks (2008) steers web developers and information architects to the physical libraries and points out the wonderful things that the brick and mortar libraries can do for these patrons. He paints the analogy of the library as the open source movement pre software. There are suggestions for finding items at university libraries and on asking for interlibrary loans. Hicks (2008) even suggests that these patrons use the LibX Firefox toolbar that many libraries offer (and if they don’t he tells them to suggest to the librarians that they offer it). This toolbar auto-detects ISBNs on web pages and will alert library users on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google etc. that the item may be available at their local library. It offers a direct ISBN search at the home library from an internet site. He does offer renegade suggestions such as going into archives or rare book rooms with a hidden digital camera to illegally take a photo of a rare book, but he is attempting to educate folks who are used to only using the Internet, to see what is available at the library.

 

 

InfoCamp http://asistpnw.org/infocamp2007/

 

InfoCamp is a conference that focuses on user-centered design and information science. IA, user experience design, interaction design, usability, and information science research were all topics and fields covered by this conference. The 2007 conference was held in Seattle and was sponsored by ASIS&T (American Society for Information Science and Technology) among others. The theme was cross-pollinating the information ecosystem and focused on how librarians, information scientists, information architects, usability engineers and interaction designers can enable and the exchange of ideas across these many disciplines and in different industries.

 

One session led by Nick Finck was on mobile web design “The Skinny on the Mobile Web”. The power point slides are available and they provide some insight into how websites need to be designed for multiple viewing platforms.

 

 

Intranet Roadmap http://www.intranetroadmap.com/

 

Intranet Roadmap is a portal and guide designed to help those who need to create or improve a corporate intranet. It provides all sorts of resources such as links to intranet related information, and articles on intranets. It basically acts as a massive filter and focuses all intranet related web sources here rather than having the user use Google or Yahoo or another search engine and then wade through tons of information.  This company has been a consultant for companies developing an intranet and they have put together a tutorial reflecting on what they have learned from their experience. This information can be quite useful for someone just starting to put together an intranet or to give idea on what would be required so a pitch could be made for an intranet. It appears to have been last copyrighted in 2006. I don’t know if it has been updated since, but as technology changes quickly, some of the sources and especially software resources may be out dated.

 

 

Adaptive Path http://www.adaptivepath.com/

 

Adaptive Path is a team that focuses on user experience. They work for clients who want to be responsive to their users and offer experience strategy and design consulting, workshops, in-house training, and ideas. They are publishing a book, Subject to Change, which is supposed to teach companies a new way of thinking to create products and services in a world that is rapidly changing.  Some of their suggestions include thinking of people not as market demographics but as they are-really understanding your user. They are guiding companies to forming an experience strategy and thinking of the experience they provide their customers.

 

Rutter (2008) has an essay on the website about going back to analog tools for visual development. Their team started doing more sketching with pen and paper and found that it provided more visibility for design solutions. When they were in collaborative work sessions there was more engagement with the paper sketches than on print outs designed on a computer. It is quite interesting to see what different things they are doing with the hand sketching (showing people in spaces, mind mapping, showing abstract concepts, etc. It just goes to show you that even in this technological age, sometimes in the act of creativity we need to go to something more basic, and more flexible. If you become adept at quick hand sketching, you can rapidly change a design idea for a client in a workshop and quickly test out different ideas and CHANGES, rather than having to go back to a computer program to redesign something for a client to then look at and think about again.

 

 

Information ArchiTECH http://www.informationarchitech.com/

 

This is the website of a web design company from Louisiana which specializes in findability. Their site seems fairly clear with a global navigation across the top for: home, about us, services, solutions, and contact us. In their left sidebar, they list services they offer: information architecture, web content writing, web site design, category management, search engine optimization, local navigation, case studies, and links/resources.

 

I went to the information architecture section and read their definition of IA: “Information architecture is the art and science of building virtual structures for a new or existing systems, with the aim of minimizing the distance between the user and the information he/she is seeking.”

 

This is all well and good so I tried to look at the IA articles (link on left sidebar). I went to the articles page where I was told that:

The articles listed here cover a wide range of topics related to information architecture, ranging from specific issues such as search engine optimization, category management and site search technology, to broader issues such as the philosophy and ethics of the information architect. Please check back often as these pages are frequently updated.

I am glad they ask their users to check back as there are no articles listed on the page! I am glad they have a section for the articles but a bit mystified that they have not one article listed. I know there are IA articles out there so I am not sure what is going on.

Week 9 references:

Burnett, R., & Marshall, P. D. (2003). Web theory: An introduction. New York: Routledge.

Hicks, W. (2008, August 12). Getting the most out of your library. Digital Web Magazine. Retrieved October 21, 2008, from http://www.digital-web.com/articles/getting_the_most_out_of_your_library/

Morville, P., & Rosenfeld, L. (2006). Information architecture for the world wide web (3rd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

Rutter, K. (2008, September 8). The joy of sketch: Explorations in hand-crafted visuals. In Adaptive Path. Retrieved October 23, 2008, from Adaptive Path Web site: http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/

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