Thursday, October 04, 2007

Information architecture

Greetings from the Eleventh Canberra WSG meeting which just finished here at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Donna Maurer, from Maadmob Interaction Design talked on Information architecture - Beyond the hierarchy.

She said how strict and polyhierarchies are common for government web site designs, but there are alternatives, such as metadata-driven database, faceted classifications (sorted by attributes of entities), organic structures and tagging. Wikipedia is an example of a hypertext structure (which really is not a structure at all). She pointed out that organisation web pages need not be structured by the structure of the organisation, but by the subject area the organisation deals with.

What occurred to me that perhaps Information Architects could have a future as management consultants. They could first design the web site to match what the customer needs and then restructure the organisation to match. An advantage of this is that management consultants get paid a lot more than web designers. ;-)

Andrew Boyd, SMS Management & Technology, on prototyping as part of the web design process:

This was a detailed examination of something mentioned in a previous presentation. He described prototypes and their benefits. He demonstrated a web interface prototype tool AXURE. To me this looked like any of a number of user interface design tools and I wonder if it may be better if the designer used whatever the developers were using. However, as pointed out, the prototype tool can simulate complex AJAX applications. Another buzzword used was "wire framing". The example he showed was of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme schedule on a PDA. This would be a good use for a prototype tool as it would need a difference interface to the average web page.

One worry I have is that much of what web designers are doing is reinventing software development techniques, by trial and error. It would be of advantage if they studied the tools and techniques for software engineering which have been developed over several decades. Also software developers could learn about being more responsive to client needs from web designers.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

I think that the skills required for use of Axure are simpler than those you'd need for software development tools. So, I think operational separation makes sense for the time being.

Of course, an enterprising corporation could make a product that did both.