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Lesson 3Evaluating the information architecture of a Web site
ObjectiveDescribe the Characteristics of an effective Information Architecture

Evaluating Information Architecture of a Website

The information architecture of a web site defines the general pattern of how information on the site should be organized. It sets forth a top-level conceptual map of the site. For example, a Web site about sports could have an information architecture that organizes the sports by category (water, land, snow, air) . Alternatively, the sports may be organized geographically, or following any other pattern that makes sense within the context.

Evaluating the information architecture

To assess the effectiveness of the information architecture, you can analyze various server logs and other logs. For example, if an analysis of the search engine log reveals that users often receive error messages when searching the site, it may be that the search indices are inadequate. On the other hand, a server log that shows a high frequency of use of the search feature may indicate that information on the site is difficult to find using the site map or other navigational elements.
Task analysis can help you determine whether the information architecture helps users accomplish the tasks associated with the site (e.g., registration, purchasing, making bids).

What is information architecture

  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems within web sites and intranets.
  3. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability.
  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
The reason we cannot serve up a single, all-purpose definition is a clue to understanding why it is so hard to design good web sites. We are talking about the challenges inherent in language and representation. No document fully and accurately represents the intended meaning of its author. No label or definition totally captures the meaning of a document. And no two readers experience or understand a particular document or definition or label in quite the same way. The relationship between words and meaning is tricky at best.

The future of information architecture

In the future, information architecture will involve users to a much greater extent than before. The increasing use of approaches such as permission marketing, in which visitors to a site are told about the marketing aspects of the site and asked whether they agree to participate in them, indicate that users expect to be treated respectfully and that they want to be involved actively in their interactions with a site.
People's desire to be more involved suggests that the future of information architecture will require the development of customizable and personalized views of the Internet in ways that may drastically alter current business and social models.
In the next lesson you will learn how to evaluate the signs and metaphors of a Web site.