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Success looks like…consistency and organization

What does success look like? I’m not sure, so I’m going to ramble for a bit and see what comes out. I’ve looked at the scope and I’ve looked at the requirements. I’ve got a laptop, a digital camera that can make movies, a digital voice recorder, software, and I’ll have plenty of gumption once I am free of my job in a week. So far—nothing scary. Whew!

To relate this to the readings, I think Morville and Rosenfeld’s best bit of advice is “…it is impossible to create a perfect organizational system. One site does not fit all!? (57). I think it’ll be a good thing to remember because sometimes it can be easy to get wrapped up in the little details and forget the overall goal. I guess that’s the project management part…speaking of which, the Brown chapter on PM was an excellent and easy to follow overview of the process. Most of the info was not new to me—I’ve worked in a logistics department, so I am used to seeing project schedules and assumption and requirement lists, but I’m not so familiar with task list generation.

But the main ideas that jumped out at me this week were consistency and organization. I liked that consistency => predictable systems => easier to learn (99). Users come to expect certain things when they click on certain links and if they don’t get the expected result, it’s confusing.

As for an organization system on the bridge site, I see both exact (chronological, 60) and ambiguous (topic, 63) schemes being used. Chronological because the collapse happened on a specific date and events have occurred since then (rubble clearing, examining rubble for structural defects, bidding new bridge, choosing design, building begins, milestones, etc.).(I also chose chronology as my area in the task list.) Topic because someone might just want to use a “serendipitous mode of information seeking? (62).

In terms of structure, I see a hierarchy being used. The example of breadth and depth on page 71 was a good illustration of what seems to be a fine line between too much clicking and topics spread too far. I don’t think the database model has much use here, so if someone disagrees, please chime in.

I liked how the authors used conversation to describe the interaction, or lack thereof, between users and a website (83) and the purpose of labels, “…information architects must try their best to design labels that speak that same language as a site’s users while reflecting its content…Labels should educate users about new concepts and help them quickly identify familiar ones.?

One last thing, when I was reading the chapter on labeling, I had a sudden flashback to when I worked at National Car Rental about 8 or 9 years ago. I remember sitting in an office with a Perot System’s contractor and a res dept supervisor doing content analysis. At the time, I didn’t know she was an information architect, but after reading this book, I guess that's what she was. Perot Systems was converting a paper-based resource to online help, so she would quiz us about how it was used by the different users, what the sections were, what the topics and subtopics were in the chapters, and so on. She also asked what we thought was missing since the new software was rolled out. She was very thorough and detailed in her questioning—so much so that it began to seem tedious because we just sat there while she typed. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how it turned out or if it was ever finished since there was some turmoil and movement with the company.

Comments

Michelle, I agree with your post in that consistency and organization are essential in obtaining success. There have been many times that I have been on a web site that was just overall confusing and did not give me the information that I was looking for. For that reason I would get off that site and look for something that was presented in a more user-friendly way. That is why it is imperative to properly organize a web site so that you don't lose your audience.

Michelle, I noticed that you pointed out that you were not familiar with a task list generation. I am taking Project Design and Development and we are working with Office Project right now, and it is so simple. I am in a collaborative group project designing a website for a restaurant along with promotional cards, brochures, and menus, and each of us has individually produced our own task list on Office Project. It looks similar to excel except for their is a start task, end task, and a duration slot. All you do is guesstimate how long each task will be and modify it as you move forward with your project. I have found it extremely helpful for planning. I am thinking it would be a good idea to use in here since two or more of us will be working on the same categories.

I agree: consistency and good organization = success. That doesn't sound very sexy but the readings this week convinced me that online resources striving to be informative rely on coherent organizational schemes and predictable structure. I also agree that we could use a hybrid structure combining chronology and topics. Time is still a significant issue as events continue to unfold: will the new bridge construction meet project deadlines? How long will the investigations take? Finally, I agree that a hierarchical structure is best for this project. Given the technical, scientific and complex nature of our content, it will be more useful and reliable if organized in a more simple, familiar way. I feel like metaphor or more intuitive structure would be more confusing than anything.

Well, it's consensus, but I'll still throw in mine for Consistency and Organization. These are the two themes I continuously build on and reinforce at every level in my company. At the individual level for someone working on specific research, all the way up to company-wide policy guidelines, these two themes are essential.

The web is no different. You might notice how easy it is to surf unknown online territory most of the time, because you are already used to the few main styles of organization used everywhere. The sites you use most probably pay more attention to consistency in content and user interface. Point is, these are principles we can't forget in the coming weeks.

Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment on my post. You said it on your post!--"Success looks like . . . consistency and organization." That's totally true. If we have an inconsistent site, people would get confused and doubt the accuracy. If we have a disorganized website, people would have a hard time navigating and eventually go to another more organized website, which is more appealing. We definitely don't want to keep people away! Thanks for your post.