Monday, January 22, 2007

Information Architecture Models Information - Not Relationships

The problem is that IA models information, not relationships. Many of the artifacts that IAs create: site maps, navigation systems, taxonomies, are information models built on the assumption that a single way to organize things can suit all users…one IA to rule them all, so to speak.

Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture

I could not agree more with the first sentence. Not enough thought is placed on the user's wants. We understand why this is so. We, the Information Architects, are surrounded by the business users, they are the ones that provide us with work; they are the ones that provide the goals and we, for better or worse, work off their understanding of what the customer needs.

Too often the business users have distinct wants that clash with IA goals. Ultimately the business users, who are writing the checks, make the final decision. An example would be users who want to go to your site for a quick piece of information and then leave. The business users on the other hand want to make their site "sticky"; or they want more page views so an unnecessary landing page is put in. These impediments help the business user meet his goals but often time hinders the user.

I have to disagree sharply with the following sentence that "information models [are] built on the assumption that a single way to organize things can suit all users." No Information Architect that I have ever met thinks this way.

The problem stems, not from IA in the abstract, but that IA is part-and-parcel of the business world. It's not that business is opposed to IA goals, only that IA is part of a whole and therefore, there are times, for good reasons or not, that other rationals trump usability.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

When Do You Use a Table versus Divs?

When do you use a table versus divs? Some developers hate tables so much that they waste their time and effort creating divs when tables would do. It's simple - if you need to match up cells in a row across the columns then you need a table. If not, then divs would probably do.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Browser - Backward Compatibility

In designing a site - which browsers should one design for? At what point does a website owner stop sinking funds developing and testing for out-of-date browsers? I don't have a clear cut answer for this. Is it solely market share? No. A browser may have a tiny market share but be web standards compliant. This means that it takes relatively little effort (read money) to make certain that nothing is broken and the site renders well.

It used to be that browsers ignored standards trying to create proprietary standards. Those days are gone forever but the browsers remain and some, such as IE6, are still running strong. This allows us to rephrase the question. At what point should site owners and developers stop validating non-web standard compliant browsers?

It is simply a matter of math. How much are you willing to spend validating a browser for 0.1%, 1%, 10% of your market? I would say that when the browser has declined to under 10% of your site usage that it would make sense to ignore minor visual inconsistencies and focus resources only on issues that prevent visitors from using your site.

EDIT 9/7/2010: